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Thursday, September 22, 2011


CUCINA POVERA; Tuscan peasant cooking (Andrews McMeel, 2011; distr.
Simon & Schuster, 185 pages, ISBN 978-1-4494-0238-9, $21.99 US hard
covers) is by Pamela Sheldon Johns, cooking instructor and author of
sixteen cookbooks (many dealing with Italian food). She also hosts
culinary workshops throughout Italy. Log rollers include Lorenza de'
Medici and Nancy Harmon Jenkins. This is a "meager and mean" cookbook
dealing with life's hardships around the time of World War II. "We had
nothing to eat" was a familiar refrain. Scattered throughout are these
memories as Johns dies a great job of presenting both cultural
traditions and peasant food preps. Of course, nothing is wasted in this
"economia rurale". The arrangement is by course: appetizers to
desserts. All of the classics are here, such as ribollita (vegetable-
bread soup), corn polenta, and cantucci (almond biscotti). There's
polenta made with the original chestnut flour, and as well, castgnaccio
(chestnut cake). At the end, there's a page of mail-order and internet
resources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there are two pages of tables of metric conversions
and equivalents.
Audience and level of use: Italian food lovers, Tuscan especially.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: farmyard crostini; fried
anchovies; eggs with wild greens; spring vegetable soup; farro soup;
braised pork shanks; rabbit and mushrooms; salted cod with greens.
The downside to this book: physically, there's a light beige frame
around each page, suggestive of antiquing and aging.
The upside to this book: a great introduction to peasant food.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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