Taste: my life through food
October 16, 2022
I am not a book critic and other than business books, I never read much, however, in the last few years I started reading all sort of books and the more I read the more I want to read and move away from familiar subjects, it has become an obsession similar to wine. And it was in one of my recent wine trips that, at the airport, I came across the Stanley Tucci’s book, “Taste, my life through food”, I wasn’t even aware he had written a book, but having watched and loved his TV series about Italian food, I had to buy it.
I started watching “Searching for Italy” by pure chance. It was one of those evening where you keep zapping back and forth, looking for something to watch, when I saw something familiar: a plate of carbonara and Rome, a city I spent my university years, a city I love. I stopped, not only I watched the whole episode, but I watched the whole series and loved it.
I loved the series so much so that I tweeted Stanley Tucci to congratulate him thinking that he would read my tweet and maybe respond. For once, a program about food, not about chefs cooking and raving about their own food…. “Searching for Italy” wasn’t about proving one recipe is better than another, one chef’s version or another, but was about explaining that there isn’t “una veritas” regarding Italian food, there is no right or wrong, that each chef has his own way of making carbonara and they are all delicious. Yes, all of them use guanciale and not pancetta but other than that, there are plenty of differences.
I was born in a small village in Abruzzo but I lived and eaten all over Italy and noticed from a very early age that my mum’s recipe wasn’t the only one, I learned that lasagna is made differently depending on where you are in Italy and I love every single version, as long as it is made with love and passion and good ingredients.
And I immediately started reading the book, then and there, sat on the airport lounge whilst waiting for the flight to be announced. However, page after page, chapter after chapter, I started to feel disappointed, not only it wasn’t anything I had seen on TV but it looked like a celebration of one version of Italian food, Stanley Tucci’s mother Italian food, that no one else had tasted other than himself, similar to the chef on tv when they rave about their own food; not even Italian according to the recipes published in the book. Recipes that reminded me something I have tasted and experienced personally having family living not far from where Tucci was living when young, emigrated like his father and mother just after the second war world: an American version of Italian recipes.
I managed to finish the book, but the excitement had become pain, I wasn’t enjoying the story anymore and wanted to give up in more than one occasion. We all need food to live and a way or another, our taste changes, often evolves, but food for Italians is much more than a recipe. I was hoping the book would have not only followed his series, letting “Italians” doing the cooking and telling their stories, but also showed the other side of food for Italians. Food for Italian is celebration, feelings, family, friends, business, is cooking all together, it is setting the table up when someone else is cooking, is course after course, it is hours sat on the table. The real Italian food is about local and seasonal ingredients, is about extra virgin olive oil and wine, no meal is to be served without wine and each and every important moment, is accompanied by a great Italian meal. This is food for Italian and this would have been my life through food.
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