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The Oxford Companion to Italian Food (Oxford Companions) Paperback – April 1, 2009


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The Oxford Companion to Italian Food (Oxford Companions) + Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Companions
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195387104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195387100
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Admitting that no one book can adequately cover Italian food, Riley, a British author and food historian, promises to “convey the delights and excitement of the pursuit.” She certainly does this in a scholarly yet entertaining volume. The more than 900 entries, arranged in dictionary format, read like essays. There are no recipes as such, but many dishes describe the ingredients and methods of cooking. All aspects of food are mentioned—ingredients, implements and methods of cooking, chefs, regions of the country, etc. Convenience foods, Cookbooks, and Coriander are all described in entries of 2 pages. Chickpeas and Parmesan each merit 3 pages. Pig has 5 pages, followed by separate entries for the fat, head, offal, and other pig parts. Various aspects of pasta are discussed in 11 entries over 13 pages. Riley quotes excerpts from literature (some only in Italian) to illustrate the use of a food. One of her favorite writers is Andrea Camilleri. In the entry for Sand smelt, there is a half-page description of Montalbano (Camilleri’s fictional detective) eating fritters made with the tiny fish. A few small but artful black-and-white photographs accompany the text. A detailed bibliography and a comprehensive index add to the usefulness of this volume as a research tool. Recommended for all culinary reference collections, but those who love Italy or Italian food will enjoy reading it for pleasure. --Christine Bulson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"Italian Food shouldn't remain on the shelf; instead, it should be savored."--Chicago Tribune


"Exhaustive."--Saveur Top Ten Reads


"Italian food buffs on your list may welcome a mini-encyclopedia that turns out to be almost an anti-encyclopedia: Gillian Riley's determinedly personal, quirky, wide-ranging The Oxford Companion to Italian Food".--Anne Mendelson, The New York Times


"Food historian and gastronome Gillian Riley's witty, expansive compendium deftly deconstructs everything from antipasto ("benign titillation of the palate with only a few delicacies") to zeppole ("overkill can be achieved with a filling of custard")."--Bon Appetit


"A magisterial (recipe-less) book that anyone even mildly interested in the subject must own....encourages you to read entry after entry for the pleasure of learning marvelous oddments about the obscure and the familiar."--The Atlantic


"[Riley is] a good, spunky writer who really knows what she's talking about...a master of the pithy observation."--Russ Parsons, The LA Times Blog


"Erudite, witty, and stuffed with gems"--The Telegraph


"She writes in [a] characteristically colloquial but never too casual tone, a lovely, rare style...laden...with humor, sly political commentary, and a general sense of the author's total immersion in and great passion for Italian cuisine and its connection to all other aspects of Italy."--Bookforum


"A scholarly yet entertaining volume. Recommended for all culinary reference collections, but those who love Italy or Italian food will enjoy reading it for pleasure."--Booklist


"A grand buffet of curious delights. Riley writes to entertain as well as to inform, and never holds back when there is a choice anecdote to relate....essential browsing for the serious Italo-foodlie."--John Dickie, The Guardian


"Authoritative, erudite, and unexpectedly entertaining."--The Independent


"For anyone who takes these styles of cooking seriously, these books are essential....First is Gillian Riley's The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, a fascinating encyclopedia of the Italian food world. Though it contains no recipes, it is a wonderful resource for understanding Italian recipes and how to cook them."--Associated Press


"WORTH READING: [This] new book will do more than spruce up your coffee table...The Oxford Companion to Italian Food reads like a literary dictionary, with entries covering all aspects of Italian cuisine paired with striking illustrations."--La Cucina Italiana


"Gillian Riley has assembled between the covers of this volume more useful information about the foods of Italy than is available in any other form, or in any other language, Italian included. Anyone with more than a passing interest in this seminal cuisine should be grateful to her, as I am."--Marcella Hazan


"Erudite, engaging, and captivating: an indispensable guide for Italophiles, food lovers, and the greedily curious."--Nigella Lawson


"A great tribute to a rich and complex culinary culture: the Italian. It contains all the essential information and more, from the earth to the table, within a historical, artisanal and cultural context. This is a must-have reference book for any serious lover of Italian food."--Lidia Bastianich


Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Readsalot on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Love this book - answers any question you have about italian cooking, and in such an engaging writing style - this isn't a boring reference book. I don't know much about Gillian Riley, but I know she clearly loves what she's talking about. A beautiful addition to my food book collection - highly recommended!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
When I first got this for the Italianist in my life I did wonder about its utility; why on earth would one look up cardamom, say, let alone Cesare Evitascandalo*? Why entries for Eating Out or Cucina delle Nonne, indexed as Granny Food? But that's the point. This is a self-indulgent, slightly dotty (but entirely trustworthy) historical/travelogical/literary/gustatory work that put me in mind of David Thomson on cinema in his heyday (at least thirty years ago now); one knows one is going to want to read every word - eventually. Its most immediate utility is if you are planning to visit a particular region of Italy (of which there are at least twenty listed; how many do you know?) in order to seek out the slow food (see entry), but prepare in the meantime to be led down many a sunlit byway. Gillian Riley is staunchly, magnificently traditionalist; to her tuna is tunny and sugared almonds comfits. (You might as well know now - the Italian for sugared almonds is confetti; confetti they call coriander!) This is a book to live and dream with. It does not delight the eye with pictures - well, only little b/w ones, thank goodness; it will not meet you halfway - but if Jane Grigson or Elizabeth David float your boat you may warm to its combination of sensuality with erudition. Yes, you will need to be a little leisured - but heck, what else is leisure for?

* But lots of stuff like him has found its way into the main body of the work, making the - inadequate - index largely into a pale simulacrum of the whole. Then, to take a couple of examples, under Digestivi eight terms are highlighted (including the title itself!) but if one refers to them one is disappointingly referred back to the original article (except for anti-colerici, which is not cross-indexed, though Sambuca, not highlighted, is).
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Prof. R. Paris on February 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, but not for beginners. It requires a considerable level of knowledge, but the amount of information -historical, technical, gastronomic- is truly outstanding. Kudos!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a wonderful to have if you like knowing the origins of your food or recipes. I found it to be interesting and informative. I know you can always google this kind of stuff.....but I like books and looking through them.
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