Browsing the cookbooks in an Italian bookstore is an interesting experience. Gone are the fancy coffee-table recipe collections. The blogger-turned-cookbook author doesn’t occupy much shelf space either. Ethnic cooking is barely represented. What you find instead oscillates between celebrity chefs, non-fussy recipe collections and a handful of ingredient-specific books.
Last year I would go to Feltrinelli on Saturday afternoon and browse. Sometimes the celebrity chefs fascinated me (read: Benedetta Parodi), other times I flipped through the ‘cooking in your dishwasher’ book (I don’t joke) and there were days when I couldn’t stop looking at Il cucchiaio verde, a riff on Il cucchiaio d’argento, The Silver Spoon.
Eataly Turin Lingotto doesn’t offer quite the range your average book store does, but what they do offer is fascinating. Who would think that a store which uses the slogan ‘Italy is Eataly‘ and greets you with Wendell Berry’s famous line ‘Eating is an agricultural act‘ would stock books about cake pops and cupcakes? I sure wouldn’t.
My favorite Italian cookbook story is this: there was an early cookbook that had a recipe for gnocchi. It listed the ingredients — potatoes, flour, eggs, etc — and under directions it said combine ingredients, boil and serve. Ever since I read this during my time at the British Library I’ve told the story countless times. It represents what Italian cookbooks are to me, though they evolved since then.
What’s your favorite type of cookbook?