AND IT’S ARRIVED! The first book was waiting for me at work this morning. And what a beauty it is! It’s bright red colors with gold lettering just screams royalty. It’s just begging me to open it and start cooking. But oh dear me….This is not your 21st century cookbook!
“Il Talismano della Felicita” was first published in 1929 as a compilation of recipes Ada Boni had published during her time as a writer for the women’s home economics magazine “Preziosa.” It is, as far as I can tell, one of the few cookbooks that most Italians had in their houses at that time.
Needless to say, it is most definitely a cookbook from another time. Just look at her preface:
Many of you, ladies, may know how to play the piano well or to sing with exquisite grace. Many of you may have prestigious degrees, may speak foreign languages or be pleasant writers or fine painters. Others of you may be master tennis or golf players, or know how to drive a luxurious automobile with a firm hand. But, alas, if you examine your conscience, I am certain that not all of you can honestly say that you know how to make a perfectly coddled egg!
By 1949, (that’s when my edition was published!) it had been in print for 20 years. It had become the cooking book that mother-in-laws gave to their daughters-in-laws and had brought the regional cuisine of Florence to Naples and vice versa.
Before I continue, let’s put that in context. Americans love cookbooks. We have bbq cookbooks, healthy living cookbooks, ethnic cookbooks, city cookbooks, we even have cookbooks about using tea leaves to cook!! Italians do not love cookbooks.
If Italians use a recipe at all to cook, it will probably be a recipe that their mother gave them. Really, given this information it’s no surprise that the Slow Food Movement started in Italy!
Yet even traditionalists and expert cooks need reference guides at times. This is where this little book (with it’s 2,000 recipes) comes in and where I start exploring.
I do have a confession to make though. Although out of print now, this book has been translated into English. It became such a hit that for a while it was the most sought after book at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, MA.
The book has been split up into 10 parts: sauces, cold anitpasti, soups-macheroni and rissottos, warm antipasti-fried things, eggs, fish, meat, vegetables, pasteries and the art of conserving. It is my goal to cook and translate 2 recipes in each of the sections. Given the fact that I have many more books on the way, I will not do this all at once, but my hope is to get through quite a few recipes before the year is over. And what better time to start cooking Italian than in late summer when the tomatoes, basil and eggplant are all ripe and ready for picking. So come on tomatoes, fall right into my open hands, you’re about to cooked and stewed into a delicious basil filled sauce!!!