Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Italian
Rosemary and Bitter Oranges: Growing Up in a Tuscan Kitchen
Published: March 25, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Chen portrays a rose-colored dream of a childhood in Livorno, Italy. The live-in cook, Emilia, is the inspiration for most of Chen's love of cooking, and Chen lovingly portrays Emilia's stubbornness and oracular beliefs about
cooking ("If I asked how long it took to simmer the meat sauce, Emilia would answer with a grumble and her usual lapidary phrase: `Quanto basta. As long as it takes.' ") She recalls a childhood of outings to the market and to Emilia's home in nearby
Vada, lavish Christmas dinners, orange and magnolia trees and herbs in a lush garden, feeding chickens and fetching milk from the local vendor, evenings of reading with her Nonna, and mid-day school treats of la torta di ceci (chickpea pancakes) and
recipes for Emilia's fabulous, ubiquitous confections like Lemon Tea Cake and Quince Paste. Chen offers humorous, though sometimes overly sentimental, descriptions of her strict Catholic upbringing and the family's superstitions (Fridays and Tuesdays are
bad days for trips; don't leave a hat or purse on a bed) as well as a portrayal of the Americanization of 1950s Italy. Chen, a correspondent for Italian newspapers, also includes several simple recipes, such as Caponatina alla Mia Maniera (My Eggplant
and Celery) and Merluzzo al Vapore (Steamed Cod) and Hen's Milk.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Patrizia Chen's childhood was suffused with the scent of simmering pots of cacciucco -- a local, hearty
seafood stew -- and of the pittosporum blooming along the Tuscan coast. Her family's house and sumptuous garden in the Italian seaside town of Livorno are at the center of this captivating book that weaves together simple, delicious recipes with a love
of home, family, nature, custom, and, above all, food.
The family cook, Emilia, a feisty, temperamental woman from a nearby fishing village, dutifully produces bland white dishes for every family meal, as dictated by Patrizia's grandfather. But
behind the kitchen door it's a different story. One day seven-year-old Patrizia is led by a wonderful smell into the kitchen, where Emilia is preparing a spicy red sauce bursting with garlic and onion. With one bite, Patrizia becomes hooked. In the
spacious, sun-drenched kitchen and adjoining herb garden, Emilia takes Patrizia under her wing, disclosing the secrets of her favorite Tuscan dishes.
Through vivid descriptions and charming anecdotes, Chen brings to life the white Carrara marble
terraces, the coal-burning stoves, antique roses, and sacks of chestnut flour that fill the family house, kitchen, and garden. This delightful and evocative narrative will welcome you into the heart of Patrizia's Tuscan home and allow you to bring the
robust flavors of Emilia's cooking into your own kitchen.
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