Grandma keeps her cookbooks on a shelf near the fireplace. Less than a dozen books, the same since I can remember. Pellegrino Artusi’s book is the most worn out, her reference book for everything she needs to cook, from carnival fritters to wild boar. In my house there weren’t cookbooks when I was young, just an old fashioned cookery encyclopedia mum collected week after week when she was a newly married woman learning her way through pots and pans. When I was a teenager I started collecting articles and recipes from magazines in a school notebook, keeping a trace of my favourite cakes and pastas.
I learnt to cook looking at mum whipping up a ciambellone on Sunday morning sitting on a high stool with an apron so big it looked like a night gown. I learnt many Tuscan recipes doing my homework at grandma’s kitchen table, growing up in the hearty and unpretentious smell of meat sauce, minestrone and fried cutlets.
I learnt to appreciate Tuscan cooking and traditions through cookbooks, too. I bought my first cookbooks when I started working after university, with those small but highly appreciated monthly salaries, which I would spend equally into perfumery products and books.
My favourite Tuscan cookbooks
When I moved into the new studio I decided to select those books which marked my growth in the appreciation of my Tuscan culinary heritage and dedicate a shelf to them. I still use these books everyday as reference books, as inspiration, as guide to my daily cooking.
- Twelve, a Tuscan cookbook, by Tessa Kiros, is the first book I bought on Tuscan cooking. I discovered how fascinating your home food, the food you grew with, can be when seen from a foreign perspective. With Twelve you’ll spend twelve months in Tuscany, discovering seasonal ingredients and authentic recipes.
- La cucina Toscana, by Giovanni Righi Parenti. Soon after Twelve I bought this book which has a detailed description of hundreds of typical Tuscan recipes with a special focus on the Sienese traditions. I recognize my accent, my words, my taste in every recipe. It’s a keeper.
- Il grande libro della vera cucina toscana by Paolo Petroni, available in English as Recipes from Tuscany. Traditional Home Cooking: Yesterday’s Flavours for Today’s Taste. This is probably the most comprehensive collection of Tuscan recipes. Petroni covers each and every area of the region, giving insights on ingredients and traditions unknown to many.
- Aldo Santini‘s cookbooks. He wrote about Maremma, Livorno and Florence. Every book is a plunge into a specific area of Tuscany, with history, food and an unrivaled humour. Being a food journalist from Livorno, he has a unique attention to this port town and not a very good opinion of Artusi, guilty of not paying enough attention to the recipes and traditions of his beloved hometown.
- Secrets from my Tuscan kitchen. Judy is an example, she taught me how to be a Tuscan cooking class instructor, dealing with the nitty-gritty of this new profession. She gave me self-confidence and courage, I owe her so much. This is her cookbook, every recipe is tested and they work as magic. A real insight on Tuscan cooking, a book born from her cooking classes.
Florentine, the true cuisine of Florence
We met by chance, as it usually happens in the most beautiful friendships. We met on line, as it is happening often lately, thanks to a mutual passion. We met for the first time in Florence, of course sitting at a table. She chose a little trattoria where we had some fabulous local food. From that choice I understood how deeply in love she was with Florence and Tuscan food, how well she knew the town where she had found love, how curious and respectful she was, digging into the Tuscan food culture with restless passion. I instantly knew she was bound to do great.
Five years later, her debut book Florentine is already sold out and it’s being re-printed after just two months.
What I like about Florentine, the cookbook
Emiko’s writing is something you would never stop reading. Her descriptions of Florentine markets and bustling streets of Florence remind me of Elizabeth David’s best passages about Italy and France, one of our shared love.
Florentine has also an unusual structure, as Emiko brings you with her, chatting, along Florence and the book chapters, exploring food and scenes of La Pasticceria (The Pastry Shop), Il Forno (The Bakery), Il Mercato (The Market), La Trattoria (The Trattoria), Il Macellaio (The Butcher) and In giro (Out and about). Every chapter presents the typical food you would find in a Florentine trattoria or market.
Besides this, how not to mention the stunning photos which complement her writing. You will discover the most fascinating corners of Florence, making of Florentine the perfect book for some armchair travel.
Emiko might not be born in Tuscany, but she is one of my references for Tuscan cooking. Her recipes are authentic, genuine and depict a real table in a real Tuscan home. Her penne strascicate have a special place in my heart, as they were one my aunt’s best recipes. She has also a recipe for braciole rifatte, my childhood most intense food memory. She assures you perfectly authentic Italian breakfasts with her cornetti, crostata di marmellata and sfogliatine, something you usually enjoy in a bar while having an espresso. There’s also a selection of panini, not just the most representative street food of Florence, the lampredotto, but also a mouthwatering one with spinach and brie and a panino you can have All’Antico Vinaio, with finocchiona, eggplants and stracchino.
Every recipe is very similar to the food I cook at home, yet not the same. This is probably one of the best signs of the authenticity of her book, as if you are a loyal reader of her blog, or mine, you have already realized how Tuscany is fragmented into small areas with distinct food traditions which differ just on herbs, spices or even just the name of a recipe.
This book is for…
Italian and Tuscan lovers. This book is for those who love cooking according to seasons and local traditions, with simple techniques and incredible results based on the quality of the ingredients. For those fascinated by the history behind Florentine recipes, for those who love to travel through food, photos and memories. For those who appreciate a beautifully written book, captured by the sound of well chosen words and rhythm. This book is for those who want to have a keeper to become expert in Tuscan home cooking and surprise friends with hearty and simple meals.
Let’s spread good Tuscan cooking all over the world! Hardie Grant and Emiko are giving away a copy of Florentine, The True Cuisine of Florence. The book will be sent anywhere in the world. Just leave a comment below to say which is your favourite Tuscan food. Emiko and I will pick a winner. Get your entries in by 2 June, 2016!
Congratulation Marie, you won! We both loved your comment full of vivid images and memories!