From the kitchen – two cooks

Yesterday, during a dinner with friends, we talked about cooking together. The discussion arose when I remembered the first time I cooked with Enrico, and how it went so seamlessy that we both found it so unexpectedly… beautiful. It is a common belief that too many cooks ruin a dish, but how many is too many? For some people it could be just one. We all remembered situations at home where any extra person in the kitchen was only a nuisance and was firmly sent away… not mentioning most cookbooks and recipes, which are tailored (implicitely) for one cook only.

On the other side, I have several memories of cooking together with my mum and with friends, with unspoken simplicity. I thought about how I find it so easy, and concluded that paying attention to each other is key: it makes possible to both to take care of the recipe’s steps, plan ahead at need/will, have time to look at details and enjoy them fully. It’s easier to have a freer mind when working on a well-tested recipe, but it’s also wonderful to try a new one and work on it together. I have no clear idea how one can learn it (because I didn’t), but it is probably a quite diffuse maturation of the self.

muffin1.jpg
my chocolate chip muffins

 

 

 

From the kitchen: Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook

Today I wish to write about an iconic Italian cookbook: La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, from Pellegrino Artusi. It is so famous that people call it simply “l’Artusi”. The book is the collection of hundreds of regional and family recipes from all around Italy, sampled by Artusi during his business travels and published, with significant difficulties, in 1891. No editor dared to publish such a book, considering it too trivial, so he resolved to publish the first edition at his own expenses and risk. After a short time, with great surprise, he became so popular that it sold over 1 million copies and reached 111 editions!

artusi_1a_ed

I bought a copy of it on a street market in Mantua, not suspecting its value, and after a closer inspection, not understanding why someone would sell it. Each recipe starts with a paragraph about how and where he first knew about the dish, a careful explanation of the cooking steps and special attention to the quality of ingredients. It is nowadays not easy to put into practice, because tools, ingredients and quantities have changed so much: he often mentions the large ovens that were common in farms (forni da campagna), meat cuts that I have never seen, and suggests to cook for 8-12 people. It is more an overview of the Italian society than a cookbook, with its rich descriptions, hints on ingredients availability, perils of travelling, funny anecdotes, common ailments, even the final section with menu suggestions for the common holidays you find “Festa dello Statuto”, that was the anniversary of the first Constitution approved by the king.

I have read it in Italian, the rich, musical, aged Italian of the book’s last edition of 1911. There are translations in multiple languages, that I hope keep its peculiar atmosphere. Enjoy!