From Publishers Weekly
In this revelatory history of gourmet Italy from antiquity to today, Dickie (Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia
), examines the centuries of religious, political and sociological events that effectively thrust Italian food into today's global limelight. Though it begins with the requisite gnocchi, lasagna, tagliatelle and tortellini, this bittersweet historical narrative quickly dispels the romantic notion that contemporary Italian fare has been the prideful plate of the rural peninsula and peasants throughout the ages. Dickie tracks the country's culinary saga to medieval times, during which the impoverished would have been less likely to eat bistecca alla fiorentina
or risotto alla milanese
(had either existed), as they were to subsist on banal fare like turnips and polenta, with little concept of epicurean taste or pride. He notes that it was the urban areas, replete with food markets and money, that enabled foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano and mortadella to become Italian staples. As Dickie shows, the mainstream American concept of Italian food is a modern-day notion developed as a mixture of the multiple identities of the country's cities. Boisterous, gluttonous stories—some verging on salacious—are balanced by accounts of paucity in this look into Italian history and its edibles. (Jan.)
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'Wide-ranging ... Dickie writes interestingly about the twists and contradictions of Italian food' -- Times Literary Supplement 'Full of fascinating detail' -- Independent 'Much profitable reading is in store. A clever and provoking account of Italy's history ... informs as well as enlightens' -- Guardian 'Important' -- Observer 'Lots of books are written with passion about Italian food, precious few backed up with the deep historical background here presented in allegro con brio style by a clear-headed historian who rubbishes some too persistent myths and replaces them factual narratives no less fascinating.' -- The Times
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