Nigellissima arrived last
week. My first thought was: What am I going to do with
another Nigella cookbook? And my second thought was:
Forget that! what am I going to do with another
If your library is anything like mine, Italian is one of the
most grievously swollen categories on the shelf. I thought
I'd been very strict about rationing additions, but as if this
moment EYB tells me I still have 59 Italian cookbooks.
I blame the market. I can't think of a single year that
publishing in Italian cuisine has really slackened. Some
years there are more standouts than others. But even in the
slow season, in summer, publishers just keep printing more Italian
cookbooks. Even though when it comes to food you
don't need a recipe for, Italian is (rightly or wrongly) probably
the first thing that comes to mind.
Anyway. Let's try and think for a moment about what
types of Italian cookbooks we maybe need. Maybe this
profile will hold true for other ethnic cookbooks as well.
Maybe we'll have some luck paring down our collections.
- Essential overview.
A big, accessible book that covers basic techniques,
from how to make your own pasta and sauces to how to make
limoncello. With lots of basic recipes.
- Travelogue type
book. Something with cultural history, food
scholarship, lots of National Geographic-style pictures. Something
that captures the feel of the country and teaches me something, but
which doesn't necessarily have to live on the cookbook
book: Something with lots and lots of easy
recipes using my favorite Italian staples - you know, garlic and
oregano and tomatoes and so forth - but in ways I haven't
necessarily encountered or can't just come up with
- Dessert book:
Because you can't expect to just whip up some cannoli off the top
of your head.
- "Project" book: Something full of
super-authentic, time-consuming, old, and slow recipes - say,
breaking down a whole pig and making head cheese - for the rainy
day when I really want to knock myself out. Although in
reality I may not ever even crack the cover, I still want to have
books: Do I need a book just on salumi? Gelato?
Pizza? Maybe not, but you can make an argument for them, so let's
be generous and say you might need a handful of these.
books. The longer a cuisine has been popular, the
more specialized the books can get. I happen to like southern
Italian food, so I have a few Sicilian books. But I've got
Tuscan and Venetian books too, which I almost never look at.
And there are at least half-a-dozen other regional areas that
receive frequent publishing attention. You can see where
things balloon out of control here.
OK. That's all I can come up with. Even allowing
multiple entries in the "single subject" and "regional" categories
- even allowing for having 2 or 3 of everything else - I
don't see at all how I get to 59. Maybe it's because I didn't
include a "Mario," "Lidia," or "Jamie" category...but personally, I
think my books are reproducing.