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Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library) Paperback – Illustrated, December 27, 2003
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‘Artus's book stands with Manzon's great novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), and the music of Verdi as works that not only are great unto themselves but represented a sense of identity and self-worth to a nascent country with no nationalistic feeling ... Artusi chose to give Italians their definition by telling them how they ate ... Anyone who seeks to know Italian food avoids Artusi at his or her peril. He is the fountainhead of modern Italian cookery.’(Fred Plotkin Gastronomica)
‘One of the defining documents of what it means to be Italian.’(John Allemang The Globe and Mail)
‘A landmark work in Italian culture.’(Darby Macnab Tandem)
About the Author
Murtha Baca’s translations include several manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci, An Italian Renaissance Sextet: Six Tales in Historical Context (edited by Lauro Martines) and Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
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He obviously recognized that his readers already knew how to cook. This is a book to give the reader various ideas about recipes and menus. Beginners beware, it will not tell how many teaspoons of something to put into your sauces. We're supposed to know how much is too much or too little.
It's a great book, and very unique among a plethora of same old-same-old cookbooks.
If it were not for this recommendation, I may have been inclined to dismiss the book as irrelevant to today's cooks, given the wealth of Italian cookbooks from Marcella Hazan, Lydia Bastianich, Michelle Scicolone herself, and a dozen of scribblers on the cooking from the various regions (Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Sicily, etc.) and `superregions' (north versus south) of Italy. So, here I am to say that there is much of value here for the foodie and the professional cook. For all you casual cookbook clients out there, you may want to give this one a pass. In spite of its title, it has absolutely nothing in common with the kind of kitchen science written by Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher, and Alton Brown.
This is not to say that there is no deep thinking about food in this book. The paperback has over 650 pages filled with 790 recipes plus an English and an Italian index. And, in all that space, there are hundreds of little observations about the right way to cook dishes. The problem for the amateur is that almost all the recipes assume you already know a lot about cooking, so lots of little details are left off. One of my favorite examples is in the recipe for veal saltimbocca (Veal cutlets, Roman Style). Artusi gives scant details on the size of the cutlet except that they should be a half a finger thick. He also gives no details about the sautee time except to say that the side with the procuitto should not be cooked for too long, lest it become too tough. On the other hand, the author takes the time to say that the veal should not be prepared with a whole sage leaf, as this would be too much. One wonders how large his sage leaves are, as I have made this dish several times and used a full sage leaf with no ill effects. To the good, I welcome the warning about not sauteeing too long. I just finished making a veal Marsala which turned out poorly, as the meat was too thin for my cooking time. Live and learn.
Probably the biggest disadvantage for typical American amateur cooks is that most measurements are made by weight. The fact that they are translated from metric into Imperial units does little good, as most kitchens are simply not equipped to weigh an ounce of butter or 2/3 of an ounce of grated Parmesan cheese. Thus, unless you use the book to provide supplementary insights to recipes from Mario Batali, I would place the book by your favorite reading chair rather than on the kitchen shelf between `The Joy of Cooking' and `Mastering the Art of French Cooking'.
As an historical document, this is really a great read. It was first published just after the unification of Italy and, while the book has many references to the geographical sources of these recipes, it does address the cuisine of Italy as a whole, at a time before Escoffier, when claims to dominance in the cuisine of Western Europe between Italy and France was a pretty lively issue. In fact, the author was criticized for being too French and by reflecting the practices of the French professionals working for the nobility rather than the practices of mother and grandma in the kitchens of Sienna or Leghorn. The most pervasive evidence of this French influence is that almost all sauces are strained before serving. I think Mario Batali would rather sell his firstborn before he strains an Italian sauce. But there it is. Artusi gives us professional Italian culinary practice among the nobility and restaurante chefs of 1890.
While the value of this book is unmatched, I give it only four stars to warn anyone to read the review carefully before buying this book with mistaken expectations.
If you are a died in the wool foodie, food professional, or cookbook collector, you must have this book. In addition to the recipes, there are dozens of stories, the kind which foodie readers really appreciate. For all others, consider a more modern encyclopedia of Italian recipes such as Michelle Scicolone's own `1000 Italian Recipes'.
I have learned so much from cooking these delights, my family loves the dishes from this traditional cook book and I am a hit with them ,
I have not told them about this book yet But I am giving each family member a copy of the book and will become a family hand me downs.
this is good old fashion cooking and should not be attempted unless you take the time to make them properly.
The secret to fine cooking is patience , measurements of ingredient time and temperature . there are no shortcuts for great cooking .
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