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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Beautiful Book
Chef, author, artist, and healer Jessica Theroux traveled all throughout Italy, apprenticing to wise grandmother cooks during her year-and-a-half adventure. This book is a set of stories, recipes, and photography from the journey.

The recipes are absolutely fantastic, the photography is luscious, and the documentation of vanishing traditional Italian food...
Published on September 30, 2010 by Edward West

versus
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely stories, involved directions
This is an enchanting rendition of this womans trip to Italy, and the stories about the trip are wonderful. The explanations of the homes and atmospheres are great. My problem is the involved recipes. There seems to be a lot of ingredients and many steps to each of them. Having an Italian background dispite my last name, I do remember it taking days to make Ravioli for...
Published on January 18, 2011 by Merri Ann Gonzalez


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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Beautiful Book, September 30, 2010
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This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
Chef, author, artist, and healer Jessica Theroux traveled all throughout Italy, apprenticing to wise grandmother cooks during her year-and-a-half adventure. This book is a set of stories, recipes, and photography from the journey.

The recipes are absolutely fantastic, the photography is luscious, and the documentation of vanishing traditional Italian food culture is important. But what really makes the book stand out is the quality of the writing.

The language is evocative, and the tales of the women embody such beautiful wisdom. The prose is poetic and rich; the writer has a gift for telling the tales of these extraordinary women. And Jessica's journey was not just physical; you can feel the author grow wiser throughout the progression of the book. The challenges of the trip, the exposure to the wise grandmothers, and the wild and unexpected experience of life itself serve to impart this wisdom to Jessica page by page.

The Jessica who set out on this journey is different than the Jessica who returned.

I don't normally associate cookbooks as something that you can just sit down and read, but this book is a joy to curl up with, like a warm wool blanket by the fire. I will be buying them for family and friends as Christmas presents, and just-for-the-heck-of-it presents. A sense of love and warmth permeates the book, and it will truly touch the reader.

Every once in a while a truly special book comes along- this is one of them.

Five stars.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing recipes...Fantastic food!!, October 15, 2010
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
My mom and I just spent a lovely day together cooking five of the recipes from this amazing book! We were able to make all of them despite our somewhat limited chef skills...and each dish was just FANTASTIC!!! We both thought it was one of the best meals we've ever had. The Apple Cake was phenomenal! The fennel salad was a simple wonder! And the best part is feeling that connection with our heritage and with each other...everyone should give a copy to their mom!!!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could be the cookbook companion to "Eat Pray Love", November 15, 2010
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
With the delicious recipes and stunning photographs to go along with the stories of Jessica's relationships with these wise Italian women, this amazing book should take the place of "Eat Pray Love," particularly for foodies who now can make the revelatory meals in their own kitchens. The veal osso bucco and saffron risotto recipes from this book resulted in, by far, the most delicious meal I've ever made. It's hard to choose what to make next, and the stories about how Jessica came to these recipes make the meals even more meaningful when enjoyed. The only trouble with this book is that I can't decide whether to keep it in my kitchen, or on my coffee table!
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely stories, involved directions, January 18, 2011
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This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
This is an enchanting rendition of this womans trip to Italy, and the stories about the trip are wonderful. The explanations of the homes and atmospheres are great. My problem is the involved recipes. There seems to be a lot of ingredients and many steps to each of them. Having an Italian background dispite my last name, I do remember it taking days to make Ravioli for the whole family which was a very long table chock full of relatives. I remember the little ravioli being spread all over clean white sheets on the beds and couches and chairs and tabels of the front porch. Still worth the money just for the stories, history, beautiful photos of the areas and the dishes themselves.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soulful Journey, October 11, 2010
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
This book is absolutely beautiful! Between the illustrations, the photography, the words, and the recipes, it's truly a piece of art! Jessica's journey connected me back to my journey in and out of the kitchen..travel, food, grandmothers,,,, After reading her book, It felt as if my own grandmother was present. A true hommage to older generations...bringing back what's good, soulful, and much needed in today's busy world. It's a reminder to slow down and tap back in to our roots...to remember our past generations who were serving up soulful advice and food! I can't wait to give this book as gifts for the holidays and birthdays...especially for women..it is a beautiful work of art with amazing and easy recipes from Italy. What more could you ask for?
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, December 22, 2010
By 
Foodgeek (Mill Valley, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
Beautifully written. The recipes are authentic and superb. The photography is gorgeous. Before I run out of adjectives, just want to say this is one of the finest cookbooks I have ever seen. This is real food for real people. No ridiculous combination of trendy ingredients. What a joy to read and use over and over again.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Stories -- Flawed Recipes, September 1, 2011
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This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed reading this book for its lovely and interesting stories of the various grandmothers. It made me want to return to Italy. However, I found the recipes curiously lacking -- so many of them were so much more complicated than they need be. I learned to cook in Italy from 2 aunts -- one in the South, the other in Tuscany. There were far too many ingredients in the book than were actually needed to produce a successful product.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cooking grandmothers favorite XMAS gift!, January 9, 2011
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This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
We bought this book for an Italian grandmother that only dreams of returninig to Italy. This cookbook wins the prize not only for Italians that love to cook traditional Italian fare but any grandmother that might dream to create a journal of favorite family recipes that they can pass on through generations. It's a beautiful book with great story telling.
HIGHly recommend.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTICO!, February 22, 2011
By 
MnM (Olalla, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
I LOVE this book! I read it straight through in two days and could not put it down. I have used some of the recipes at home, and some at my cafe, and it is delicious. The stories, though, are the best part. I love Italy and go every year to learn more about the culture, food and wine, and Jessica lived my fantasy! I am jealous, and she wrote about it beautifully, I felt like I was there watching her... she included me in her adventure with this book and that is work it's weight in gold. I love this book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women, Food, & Listening, December 13, 2010
This review is from: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily (Hardcover)
I must first apologize for taking so long to complete this book review. I was expecting this to be a mere cookbook. I thought I would skim over it quickly, try a recipe or two, then tell you if they were any good. But that was not to be. This book will not allow one to rush. It demands that you savor it slowly, one page, one recipe, one photograph at a time, with pauses for absorbing what you have seen. It begins with a quote'most appropriate, considering what is to follow:

"No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers." 'Laurie Colwin

In an introduction to the book, Chef Alice Waters says, "We have forgotten how to feed ourselves and each other and are at risk of losing our culinary heritage. However, when the stories are told and the recipes retained, we somehow manage to secure them for the future...Jessica Theroux has taken a gift for connecting with people and new cultures and translated it into an anthology of stories that capture the role of food and family in the lives of twelve remarkable women. Her closeness with the women she has lived and cooked with comes through with clarity and beauty as we meet them through their pasta, beans, and rabbits."

As a young girl, Jessica Theroux was fortunate to have an Italian au pair. Then she and her family traveled to Italy a few times to visit Graziella (the au pair) and her mother, Mamma Maria. "It seems to me now that I was always destined to return to Italy someday to recapture those childhood pleasures... Mamma Maria was the original Italian grandmother for me, and as I set out as a young chef to document and learn Italy's food traditions, it made complete sense to go back to that beginning...I also yearned for the sense of nurture and connection that comes with being well fed; I wanted to experience this, and I wanted to learn how to do this for others." If you too are interested in learning how to do this, I think this book would be a very good place to start.

As someone who is very much interested in using local, seasonal ingredients and trying to recapture the "taste of place," I was especially interested in seeinghow the cooking of each of Italy's regions has been informed by its geography, history and evolving circumstance. For instance, Theroux tells us that the Lombardian cooking of Mamma Maria's youth was affected by wartime's enforced simplicity, with an intimate dependence on one's garden, on the local trees, on the land and the ocean, on the animals one raised, and on the foods and skills one could trade with neighbors. "As Mamma Maria and I cooked these Lombardian dishes together I started to get a better sense of Northern Italian cuisine. These dishes were heavy, warming, and very sturdy. Mamma Maria was like this, too."

From there Theroux worked her way south, absorbing all that she could from the women she cooked with along the way, until at last she found herself with another Maria'one whose cheeses tasted of the local grasses and ocean air'on a tiny volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. And the recipes she picked up along the way? Oh, my, my. Working my way through them will be the next best thing to spending a year in Italy myself!

The first recipe I tried was Giovanna's Brown Butter and Sage sauce, served over mushroom ravioli from my freezer, but I look forward to autumn, when I shall try it on her Pumpkin Tortelloni with crumbled amaretti biscuits in their filling. Over the holidays I plan to try her Torta de Grigna, a simple cocoa and almond cake which will be perfect for afternoon tea. I also plan to try several of the soup recipes in the book'so warming on a winter's day. Come summer, it will be difficult to choose between Daria's Pesto Lasagna and Maddalena's Spaghetti with Burst Tomatoes, but one thing is certain. Dessert will be Blood Orange Gelato!

Theroux says, "This is a book about women and food and listening... Good cooking, the kind that feeds the soul and nourishes the body, is the result of listening openly and acting simply. All of the women in this book taught me something about the power of food to connect us to ourselves, our history, our land, our culture, to our past and to the present moment...My greatest hope is that this book will encourage you to pay the utmost attention to your life, and in particular to your food and the people around you. What you discover could change your life."

by Becky Lane
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily
Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily by Jessica Theroux (Hardcover - September 28, 2010)
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