With February’s full moon falling on Saint Valentines day I thought it only proper to dedicate this post to the love of cooking. That said, I’ve never been more in love with a cookbook than first time I picked up Pellegrino Artusi’s “Exciting Food For Southern Types.” Written in 1891 it is, in my opinion, one of the most elegantly written cookbooks of all time.
A love of gastronomy and the beauty of a good meal permeates from every page in this century old book. Artusi describes cooking as an art that is continually renewed and improved upon never reaching a point of absolute perfection. The dishes are elegantly simple and the instructions have an effortless flow to them.
Along with the recipes Artusi provides the reader with his meditations on food, cooking and society. He points out, “Many people eat more with their imagination than their palate.” Accordingly, he cautions to withhold revealing the ingredients in a dish until after the meal has been enjoyed and digested. He remarks, “foods are considered inferior for the sole reason that they are inexpensive or because they evoke associations that some people might find distasteful. Yet these very foods when used well and handled correctly, make for good, tasty dishes.” A remark that holds equal weight today (although with the high incidence of allergies and intolerance’s in today’s society I cannot recommend following this advice for all ingredients).
In a note at the start of the book Artusi tells the reader, “I should not like my interest in gastronomy to give me the reputation of a gourmand or glutton. I object to any such dishonourable imputation, for I am neither. I love the good and the beautiful whenever I find them and hate to see anyone squander, as they say, God’s bounty. Amen.” As you read through the pages of this book you feel you are cooking with a wise old friend. One whom you can trust to never steer you wrong when following their lead.
If you are looking to renew your love of food and cooking I urge you cook with Artusi, a timeless read that is sure to remind you of the pleasure and wonderment food brings to life.
The following are a few lines of verse written about Artusi by a poet:
This little manual is about health and well being,
a true apotheosis of the taste buds,
Thanks to which a man can live a hundred years
Sipping life to the fullest drop by drop
The only joy people have (the rest are a mockery)
God entrusted to the talent of cooks;
So that you only have yourself to blame
If you do not have Artusi on your shelves
And you should call yourself an ass ten times over
If you have not learnt his precepts by heart
– An Admirer