Observations from an Eataliano
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Bagni Di Lucca Library Cookbooks

Where’s the cookbook?

I noticed something while spending time in the kitchens of some of my italian friends. They have very few, if any, cookbooks. They cook without direction or guidance from a third party reference. No cookbook. No recipe box. What they do have in their kitchen is an inherit sense (and love) of food.

In the US I’m addicted to cookbooks, but in Italy, I avoid them. Why?

In my US kitchen, I’m flooded with messaging of what to eat (advertisers, government, social media etc). There are so many things from all over the world available at the mega stores that I lose my creativity and confidence. I’m at a loss for what to do, and how. I need someone/something to direct me. A cookbook works well for that.

In the Italian kitchen, it’s about what’s local and fresh. It’s about preparing healthy, hearty food for friends and family. The influencers there are what people see growing on the trees, in the gardens and forests and what’s on display at the open-air markets. Traditions of food passed down for generations.

The Italian cooks have knowledge from their mothers and nonnas of ingredients and methods. They have a confidence that makes for good food, without the cookbooks.

Italians have a better feel for what the right proportions are. They do things by taste versus by prescription – a recipe. “The figs are really sweet today, so a little less added sugar in that tart.” (Oh how I’ve learned to love fresh figs!).

This innate knowledge of what works, and what doesn’t, of what’s fresh and available, and what family and friends will enjoy eliminates the need for the cookbook. I had never made a meringue before, but I was confronted with a bunch of egg-whites, in Italy, I decided to jump, without a recipe. I’d seen recipes many times in the past, but was always afraid. Now, without a recipe, but with a little italian self-confidence, I whipped up a batch of the best meringue cookies ever. They were delicious! I’d give you the recipe, but you don’t need it.

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