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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cucina Povera, June 12, 2012
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This review is from: Zuppe: Soups from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project (Hardcover)
At first, I was surprised that the American Academy in Rome would assume that Italians might need their help in preserving time-honored food traditions. This is a subject Italians are famously passionate about. After reading (and cooking from) "Zuppe," a wonderful collection of soups (whose sale benefits the Rome Sustainable Food Project), I understand better what's up. The student-chefs at the American Academy have put together an extraordinary collection of soup ("zuppe") recipes, their patronage -- under the auspices of legendary chef Alice Waters -- offered as a way to show gratitude to their hosts.

I've always believed that soup could be part of the answer to some of the problems closer to home, as budgets shrink and people begin to show the damaging effects of a national diet that fails to nourish in any sense. Trendy and precious, the ongoing coverage of high-end specialty food and restaurants is not the answer. Rather, I agree with chef Michael Ruhlman that the world is simply better when we cook at home. Soups -- traditionally based on vegetables and grains, or meat products that would be otherwise thrown away -- is an extremely cost-effective way to put lots of flavor and satisfaction on your table every night.

Few of us would go as far to reclaim otherwise wasted ingredients as they do in the kitchen of the American Academy, where fennel tops, usually cut from the fennel bulb and thrown away, are used in a amazingly flavorful potato and fennel soup. This is a demonstration of "cucina povera," a reference to a possibly impoverished kitchen, but also used as a kind of compliment to signal that a thrifty cook has been at work.

That the students come up with their own versions of soups based on the ingredients at hand is no departure from their devotion to conservation, nor is it an insult to the traditional recipe. This is "arrangiarsi," the concept of using whatever you have, and is exactly what makes Italian cooking the best in the world.

If you've never made soup, this would be a great place to start. "Zuppe" is a lovely book, and every recipe has a bonus, a little cooking lesson incorporating the small steps and traditions that build flavor and preserve nutrition. With beautiful photography by Annie Schlechter and a format divided by seasons (they don't exactly correspond to our seasons, so look through them all), Find other cookbook reviews and food stories and photos at [...].
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Location: Waynesboro Virginia

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