‘I had my first taste of British food when I moved to the UK in the late 1960s. The University of Reading, where I was teaching at the time, put me up with a local family who, day in day out, would feed me the classic meat and two veg… The peas were particularly sad, and when I asked for a drop of olive oil – I did not think it an unreasonable request but little did I know – Mrs Porter gave me a suspicious look and suggested I should call in at the chemist’s . . .’ begins Diego Zancani in his new book.
Pizza, pasta, pesto and olive oil: today, it’s hard to imagine any supermarket without these ingredients. But how did these foods – and many more Italian ingredients – become so widespread? In How We Fell in Love with Italian Food, Diego Zancani maps the extraordinary progress of Italian food, from the legacy of the Roman invasion to its current, ever-increasing popularity. Using medieval manuscripts, it traces Italian recipes in Britain back as early as the thirteenth century, and through travel diaries it explores encounters with Italian food and its influence back home.
How did Pizza Margherita get its name? What did Charles Dickens eat when he visited Italy in 1845? What mentions of food were found in the rubbish left behind from the Roman settlement at Hadrian’s Wall? Answers to all these questions and much, much more are interspersed with Zancani’s recipes from family and friends for classic Italian dishes, such as Gnudi and less familiar recipes such as Cardoons with Parmesan Cheese and Pear Patina, in this fascinating book.
How We Fell in Love with Italian Food will undoubtedly enhance our enjoyment of Italian food. It is genuinely a book for all cooks, gourmets, food historians and anyone who enjoys a bowl of delicious pasta.
Diego Zancani is an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College and Emeritus Professor, Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford.
‘A work both academically rigorous and impassioned, it had me heading straight to the kitchen.’ – Joe Trivelli, co-head chef at The River Café, London and author of The Modern Italian Cook.