Sunday, January 15, 2006
Fed By Silver Spoon, Part One
You already know how dangerous stores like Target and Costco can be to people like me. Just call me a sucker for merchandising, someone whose cart is filled with 10 unnecessary impulse buys, whether it be hairclips or a new cereal, before she reaches the checkstand.
At Costco, temptation usually comes in the form of food, like "Hey, you wanna try these Armenian foccacia? Our fridge is full, but let's try them anyway." But every so often, I'll find something in the media aisle that will catch my eye. More recently, my impulse buys from this section of the warehouse has been in the form of novels that I'm trying very hard to replace my television with. I always check out the cookbook section, but all you see lately are Rachael Ray and Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee books, and who needs culinary inspiration from them?
The other day, however, I happened to be browsing the cookbook section when a tome of a cookbook with a silver spoon on its stark white cover caught my eye. "Italy's best selling cookbook for over fifty years. The bible of authentic Italian cooking," a sticker on the front cover read. I'd heard about The Silver Spoon before in a news article saying that the legendary Italian cookbook would finally be published in English, and lo and behold, it was there right in front of me. And for 42 percent off the cover price of $39.95. I had to have it.
As with all of my new cookbooks, I like to sit down and read them when I get home; you know, a little one-on-one, get-to-know-you time.
"Uh yes, Silver Spoon, do you have anything in particular you'd like to share?"
First thing out of his mouth: "EATING IS A SERIOUS MATTER."
(Yeah, no shit)
I think this is going to work out just fine.
I'm thinking that The Silver Spoon is to Italians sort of what The Joy Of Cooking is to Americans--"the book that has its place in every family kitchen, the one that many brides have received as a wedding gift." Like its American "counterpart," the book is jam packed with recipes--over 2000 of them--and covers everything from simple sauces to roasted meats to dessert. The Silver Spoon, however, seems way more intense. Rather than your typical chapter titles of "Vegetables," "Seafood," or "Meat," there are entire chapters devoted to a single type of vegetable or animal or even part of an animal. Want belgian endive? You got it. How about brain or calf's head? That, too. Oh, and did I mention its got pretty pictures? My only gripe with that, however, is that the pictures are uncaptioned and that sometimes I'm left to guess which recipe it corresponds with. You mean you need me to think?
For tomorrow's dinner
For all you Belgian Endive-philes
I just love pretty pictures!
Look for a gnocchi post one of these days!
Granted, I've never seen the un-translated, un-Phaidonized Italian version, but there is still a certain primitivity about these recipes that I love. Many of the ingredients lists are short and simple, though many use ingredients which may not be popular or readily available in the States. (You may have some luck finding "Pluck and Lights," or lamb lungs and vital organs, for example, at some butchers; at others, not so much) The cooking directions are written in concise, choppy sentences, almost as if they were from recipes scribbled on pieces of paper and passed on through generations. Having read through the preface "Our Spoon" regarding the English translation, I learned that English language cookbooks tend to have more detailed explanations than Italian ones, and that The Silver Spoon's translators made it their goal to make the English version user-friendly to its readers while also retaining the Italian character of the book. With this in mind, I'm dying to see the Italian version. I imagine that reading its recipes are like getting a Chinese cooking lesson from my mom: no exact measurements, just a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Too bad I can't read Italian.
All the sauces you can imagine...even "brain sauce" and "Chinese sauce"
I'm ecstatic to have added this book to my collection, though I don't think that I'll be preparing half of the dishes in here. I see myself making some of the more simple dishes, like bread soup with tomato or porcini with prosciutto or zucchini frittata, but I don't imagine that I'll be making brain sauce, guinea fowl, or kidneys in madeira anytime soon.
"Enough about the book," you say, "go make something from it!" Stay tuned for part two.