Why Italians Love to Talk About Food is a lovely book recently translated into English. It's written by Elena Kostioukovitch, a Russian who has lived in Italy for many years and who translates Umberto Eco's books into her native language. Accordingly, it's wonderfully literary, so much so that I'm a bit saddened that FSG chose to produce and market it in a way that would convince some purchasers that it might be a cookbook or a coffee table book. Yes, the color photographs of idyllic Italia are nice, but this is a book meant to be read more than looked at, and it's a little too square (shape-wise, not attitudinally) and glossy to be curled up with on the couch. After all, Kostioukovitch peppers her short chapters on each of Italy's culinary regions with quotes from, and references to, Goethe, Stendhal, the Futurists, the Old Testament, and renaissance and medieval records. These chapters are separated by short essays on miscellaneous topics including pasta, the Jews, Slow Food, and an incredible litany of 'preparation methods' worthy of Georges Perec.
I bring up the book in this forum because it's got me hungering for all morsels and gulps Italian. Last night I happily re-heated a Trader Joe's Quatro Formaggi pizza––made in Italy!
I've long been a fan of the drinkable and mineral-driven wines from the Veneto, so I was pleased to read that Kostioukovitch describes Venice in the following way: 'Indolence, elegance and gloom: these legendary traits of Venetian life, celebrated in British, American, and Russian poetry, are reflected in the city's characteristic cuisine.' If that's what the food is like, imagine how the booze must taste.