Buon appetito! Everyone loves Italian food. But how did the Italians come to eat so well? The answer lies amid the vibrant beauty of Italy's historic cities. For a thousand years, they have been magnets for everything that makes for great eating: ingredients, talent, money, and power. Italian food is city food. From the bustle of medieval Milan's marketplace to the banqueting halls of Renaissance Ferrara; from street stalls in the putrid alleyways of nineteenth-century Naples to the noisy trattorie of postwar Rome: in rich slices of urban life, historian and master storyteller John Dickie shows how taste, creativity, and civic pride blended with princely arrogance, political violence, and dark intrigue to create the world's favorite cuisine. Delizia! is much more than a history of Italian food. It is a history of Italy told through the flavors and character of its cities. A dynamic chronicle that is full of surprises, Delizia! draws back the curtain on much that was unknown about Italian food and exposes the long-held canards. It interprets the ancient Arabic map that tells of pasta's true origins, and shows that Marco Polo did not introduce spaghetti to the Italians, as is often thought, but did have a big influence on making pasta a part of the American diet. It seeks out the medieval recipes that reveal Italy's long love affair with exotic spices, and introduces the great Renaissance cookery writer who plotted to murder the Pope even as he detailed the aphrodisiac qualities of his ingredients. It moves from the opulent theater of a Renaissance wedding banquet, with its gargantuan ten-course menu comprising hundreds of separate dishes, to the thin soups and bland polentas that would eventually force millions to emigrate to the New World. It shows how early pizzas were disgusting and why Mussolini championed risotto. Most important, it explains the origins and growth of the world's greatest urban food culture.
Brand: Free Press
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a splendid book that surveys a big, broad sweep of culinary history. It's eminently readable. Dickie employs an interesting device in this regard: each of the chronologicall ordered chapters is set in a particular place at a particular time. The most compelling sections, for me, were those that dealt with the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when nationalist projects impacted heavily on Italian foodways. An essential book to be placed alongside such classics as Waverly Root's The Food of Italy and Marlena De Blasi's volumes on regional Italian cuisine.
This is one of those books that is ideally read when you need a break from heavy thinking, but still want to feel that you are not reading junk. It would probably be a perfect introduction to a trip to Italy (or a book to bring with you on the same trip).
First things first, although you will find a number of fun historical facts and myth-busting nuggets regarding Italian food, this is not really a history of the food itself. You will not find recipes or useful tips to use in your own kitchen. Dickie is a historian, among other talents, and approaches this book from the point of view of the relationship of the country to their food.
The book moves from the Medieval Table to The Land of Plenty (modern Italy) as chapter organization. If there is a unifying theme or point, it is that Dickie makes it clear that food in Italy has been an urban and not a peasant business, directly intertwined with currents in culture and politics.
This is a delightful and excellently written book, essential if you want to probe into Italian food. It is not a history, though, epic or otherwise; it's a series of stories that bring out key moments in Italian food history. Dickie is a superb storyteller. The tales range from really crucial--especially the tale of how Pellegrino Artusi created the Great Italian Cookbook--to fascinating byways. There are almost no recipes, and the most ambitious one is wildly impractical: how to make 100 pounds of baloney (correctly "mortadelle"). Not what I will do this weekend. A few random notes: p. 48, on Marco Polo: "Why does he never mention the Great Wall or acupuncture?" Well, maybe because the Great Wall wasn't built till about 200 years after his time, and acupuncture didn't reach its modern form and popularity for even longer. On p. 227 Dickie gives one of the fictional origin points of the modern and ridiculous story that Marco introduced pasta to Italy. 53 and...
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