First published in 1950 and revised over time, Italy's bestselling culinary "bible," Il Cucchiaio d'argento
, is now available in English. The Silver Spoon
boasts over 2,000 recipes and arrives in a handsome (and weighty) photo-illustrated edition complete with two ribbon markers. Its chapters make every menu stop from sauces and antipasti through cheese dishes and sweets, with many standout dishes like Genoese Pesto Minestrone, Eggplant and Ricotta Lasagna, Pork Shoulder with Prunes, and Chocolate and Pear Tart; the book also includes a number of "eccentricities," like sections on patty shells and bean sprouts, surely not an Italian dining staple. Meant to be inclusive, the book also offers a wide range of non-Italian, mostly French formulas, supplemented by a few "exotic" and other non-traditional entries.
Though the recipe range is vast, it must be said that American readers, anxious to cook this authentic fare, will encounter problems. Translating a cookbook from one language to another requires cultural recasting as well as word substitution, and in this the book's editors have been lax. The problems include non-idiomatic usages, for example, calling for "pans" when "pots" is needed; awkward conversions from the metric system, resulting in requirements like eleven ounces of zite; and the inclusion of ingredients like cavolo nero (Tuscan cabbage), tope (a Mediterranean fish), and pancetta copatta (ham-stuffed pancetta) that are unavailable here and for which no alternatives are suggested. In addition, the recipes themselves are often insufficiently specific or detailed--even seasoned bakers will pause before cake recipes that don't specify pan size--and can also lack yields. Space considerations have also meant printing recipes in single, one-column paragraphs, which can make place-finding while cooking difficult, and there are typos and other goofs (one recipe for four specifies six cups of sliced scallions; another requires that a marinade be "stirred frequently for five to twelve hours").
All this said, many cooks--casual and serious alike--as well as cookbook collectors, will want The Silver Spoon. It's an essential document of the Italian table and as such a classic. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a complete cookbook library without the book--a welcome evocation of a much-beloved repertoire by those who know it best. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Featuring over 2,000 recipes among its 1,200-plus pages, it's easy to see why this Italian version of The Joy of Cooking, billed as "the bible of authentic Italian cooking," is a popular wedding gift. Newly updated and translated into English for the first time, the book contains recipes for everything from basic sauces and marinades to salads, game, fish and baked goods, with each section color-coded for easy browsing. Recipes emphasize fresh ingredients and are to-the-point, typically summed up in a paragraph sans photo illustrations. Those who know their way around a kitchen will appreciate the brevity, but a novice might encounter some frustration when making pasta dishes featuring homemade gnocchi or orecchiette without a more in-depth description or the aid of photos. Almost all of the ingredients called for can be found in a typical supermarket, though more exotic dishes such as Eel with Savoy Cabbage, Woodcock with Truffle, or Calf's Head Salad will require some planning. Globe-trotting gourmands will appreciate the menu and "signature dish" contributions by famous Italian chefs that round out the book. The most exhaustive Italian cookbook in recent memory, this volume offers something for every cook, regardless of their skill level, and deserves to be a fixture in American kitchens.
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