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The Country Cooking of Italy    by Colman Andrews order for
Country Cooking of Italy
by Colman Andrews
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2011 (2011)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews is a monumental work of art, a tribute to Italian cooking, and a message of respect to all the Italian mothers who have instilled a love of food in their children. This tome is presented as 'an expansive and exquisite celebration of one of the best-loved cuisines in the world.' In it, tribute is paid to the ultimate, the most respected and influential cook, Mamma.

After a Foreword by Mario Batali, 230 recipes are packed into these pages, representing every region from Piedmont to Puglia. Fresh, local ingredients are prized as an ingredient-focused culture is deeply rooted in rural traditions. Photos of a hundred mouth-watering recipes tantalize as you leaf through the pages to decide which is going to be the first recipe you proudly present to your family. As well as being glorious to gaze upon, they taste as luscious as they look. The recipes are simple to negotiate, sensual, and incomparable.

Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur Magazine, has won eight James Beard Awards as well as having The Country Cooking of Ireland named International Cookbook and Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2010. Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton have produced photos that have appeared in many award-winning cookbooks and magazines as well as producing and publishing Canal House Home Cooking seasonal cookbooks. A winning combination of talents.

Okay, let's get to the meat (no pun intended) of this accolade to country Italian cooking. What Italian cookbook could hold its head up if it didn't include the tried and true Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce? With a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, it's fit for a king. The book moves through spaghetti with various other ingredients, making me want to start with the first one and work my way through - Shrimp and Pistachio Pesto; Salt Cod and Black Olives; Abruzzese Meat Sauce; Alla Calabrese. Take your pick or make them all yours.

There are true Italian Calzones; Raviolis with various fillings; Pappardelle with Hare Sauce. Donít knock it until you've tried it. Polenta and Risotto; Pizza; Flatbreads; Lasagna; Fish Ė oh, and so much more. I have to admit the Stuffed Tomatoes are an addiction of mine, and the Tuna Pate calls for my attention. Entries run from Antipasto through Soups, Treasures of the Sea and Shore, Pork, Lamb, Goat, as well as Beef, Veal, Game and Offal. We finish up with Desserts and Confections. Name it and you'll find it.

The Country Cooking of Italy is a lovely presentation of a culture of food of which to be proud. Very proud. Recipes are merely indications of how to prepare your family or guests' meals. After you have followed the recipe you can't resist and perfected it, make the changes you feel would suit you and your family and go for it. In so doing, you're continuing a tradition passed down from one generation to the next.

If you have your own version of these dishes, try Andrews' anyway. How can you go wrong? He's a master at what he does and he is helping you to become one. He has included short tips and essays on this wonderful country to help put you in the mood and also to make the transition from an everyday cook to one who excels at Italian cooking. I was lucky once to spend a month in Tuscany and my fondest memories are of the meals I ate. Such good food fixed with a love of what the chefs were preparing. Get in the mood and become, if you are not already one, an honorary Italian.

If I were qualified to wear one, my toque is off to Chef Colman Andrews. Thank you, sir. The Country Cooking of Italy is a lovely and a monumental work.

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