Valentina Harris is a noted authority on Italian food and food culture. In 1984 she published her first cookbook, Perfect Pasta, which won an award for literature and gastronomy in Germany. Many other books followed, as well as a six-part BBC television series, Italian Regional Cookery, in 1990. The book of the series, Italian Regional Cookery, became a top-ten bestseller. Since then, Valentina has written many books, including The Cooking of Tuscany, and Southern Italian Cooking.
Gem of the Adriatic, Trieste sparkles and beckons through the pages of poets and novelists. Drawn there in search of literary ghosts, of the poet Umberto Saba and the novelists Italo Svevo and James Joyce, Joseph Cary found a city with its own imaginative life, a crossroads of East and West. A port held in turn by Romans, Austrians, Italians, Germans, Slavs, and finally Italians again, Trieste is the capital of nowhere. Fertile source of a unique literary fluorescence in the first third of this century, it has been a home for exiles and an exiled city. Trieste’s cultural and historical riches, its geographical splendor of hills and sea, and its mysterious presence unfold in a series of stories, monologues and literary juxtapositions that reveal the city’s charms as well as its seductive hold on the writer’s imagination. Literary and immediate impressions alike are elaborated in paintings and maps, and in handsome line drawings by Nicholas Read. Part travel diary, part guidebook, part literary history, A Ghost in Trieste is a wonderful introduction to what Cary calls the “city made of books.”
The Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is perhaps the least well known by Americans. Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Italy, stretching almost from Venice to Vienna, the region proudly grows the widest range of grape varieties in all of Italy. The Friulians, therefore, are extraordinarily aware of the interaction between food and wine. Fred Plotkin wrote La Terra Fortunata after 25 years of visiting the small region. His knowledge of its food, its wine, and its people and their customs is immense. Plotkin offers a comprehensive history of the region and great insight and understanding in his choice of recipes and their instructions. There are few generalities that can be used to describe this collection. Friulians are great wine drinkers and have a reputation for working hard, and so have a custom of eating small dishes to wash down with their wine and to satisfy their hunger between meals. So it’s no surprise that many of these dishes can be served alongside one another. The herbs and spices used are not necessarily those we think of as Italian; they are much more international. Yogurt-Dill Sauce sounds Greek and Mustard-Wine Sauce sounds French, but both they and Montasio-Mint Sauce can be found in Friuli (the Montasio cheese gets just a hint of mint, beautiful on pasta or soft polenta). From a garlicky Mussel Frittata to the most traditional Frico Croccante (a thin crispy pancake made entirely of cheese, it makes a delicious cup for Gnocchi with Mountain Herbs or Risotto with Crabmeat and Peas), Plotkin’s recipes are flavorful, unusual, and well explained. Because the region stretches from the coast to the mountains, traditional cooking includes everything from seafood to game and every herb, vegetable, and fruit under the sun. Plotkin introduces every recipe with a story, and they, along with his guide to Friulian wines, make La Terra Fortunata an indispensable guidebook both for the cook and for the armchair traveler.