For eight years i had been living, mostly, in french kitchens, amongst the copper pots and pans and the oily jars of duck fat stacked on swaying shelves betwixt the plum jams of early autumn, the cornichons, and the candied onions. I was happy in those kitchens: I had distanced myself from the city, and what a city it was. Who in their right mind would ever leave Paris? Later, I had no particular reason to leave my French country kitchen either—and a hundred good ones to stay. Yet Italy was calling us. After all, it was there where the seeds of our country life had been sown a decade earlier. All those holidays in Italy, by the sea in small, grand hotels with waiters in white jackets and Bellinis before dinner. In rented villas from Tuscany to Umbria to Marche. On road trips winding from north to south and on romantic holidays, including a honeymoon in Rome, Italy called us like a siren to a sailor, and we were powerless to refuse her. For a moment, or forever, we closed the shutters and doors to our magical palace at 1, rue de Loudenne in Medoc. We headed for a new adventure in this blessed, rich land, where the light is magical at any hour, where from north to south, east to west, fruits and vegetables grow with abandon, where the coffee is better and the paintings are older.
We came charging over the mountains in a car filled with children and dogs. We brought some pans, a few good knives, and a painting of a dog to place above our dining table. A dining table we had not yet found. We left almost everything in our house in France and brought very little. In a sense, we were starting over, quite literally without even a pot to cook in. The first night of boiling pasta in Torino saw me running in a side street with a pot in hand, borrowed from a nearby seafood restaurant; and as if to keep to my French roots, I had a bottle of Champagne in the other. That was a beautiful evening; many have followed. There is magic in cooking, and in cooking Italian food there is alchemy. Every region has its dishes and every dish has its story. The story of a nation is a story of food. And now, in the most modest way, through this book, we are a part of that story.
The book you have in your hands is, in fact, two books.
In part, it’s my story, or rather, my family’s: our Italy, how we have experienced her, the Italian food we have always cooked, always loved. These are the family classics inspired by our travels throughout the years and by the recipes and traditions I’ve fallen in love with during our first year living in Italy. It is also another book, one made possible by good people, Italians willing to share their best work, their family secrets, so I could then share them here with you. From regional treasures steeped in tradition to renegade versions of what Italian food can taste like when executed with flair, passion, and a touch of modernity, these are the “best of” recipes plucked from my Italian culinary dreams. Whether eating to live or living to eat, here, there is no difference, no pretension. Food is truly the fabric of life, the pleasure and passion. A humble necessity and the highest honor.
Copyright © 2020 by Mimi Thorisson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.