Good Food Revolution speaks to Good Egg’s Mika Bareket about her choice of book for December, Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali’s Lidia’s Mastering The Art Of Italian Cuisine.
Good Food Revolution: So, this month you have chosen Lidia Bastianich – Lidia’s Mastering The Art Of Italian Cuisine… what makes this book a real winner?
Mika Bareket: No pictures! This is rustic, non-Instagramable cooking that makes use of seasonal ingredients, and doesn’t ask too much of the cook. Instructions are straightforward, ingredients even more so.
GFR: I’ve always had a real soft spot for Lidia Bastianich, although in the past it’s been my colleague Malcolm who has met up and done the interviews with her… so I’ll have to check this one out.
Who do you feel this book would make the perfect gift for?
MB:For the head cook of a household, perhaps, who wants a break from complicated cookery, but still desires gratifying meals. This book is a sigh of relief for cooks who don’t relish running around town looking for zaatar and fermented goose eggs. Also for anyone cooking on a budget, this is a treasure trove. Not that there aren’t any exotic treats to be found… the odd truffle sneaks its way in here and there.
GFR: So would it be suitable for a novice, seeing as it is presented as a masterclass of sorts?
MB: In the absence of photos, this tome is chock full of recipes and variations. I wouldn’t say it’s exhaustive, but it offers a wide spectrum. Her writing is approachable and conversational. The copious notes at the front introduce the reader to the Italian pantry, as well as basic techniques and kitchen management. So yes, I’d say this is a wonderful book for the novice cook. But also, for know-it-alls like me who need to get back to basics and appreciate day-to-day home cooking for what it is, nourishment.
GFR: She wrote this book with her daughter, Tanya. Can you see a bit of both of them in this tomb?
MB: No sir. When I was a kid, I watched Lidia cook on weekend public television programming and admired (and feared) her authority. She’s the boss, and her voice is all over the recipes. But having talked to people who write cook books for a living, it is A LOT of work. How nice for a mother to have a daughter as her right hand! And as I pointed out, there are oodles of notes and a massive glossary that I would imagine her daughter was instrumental in compiling.
GFR: How does this book address the subject of regional cooking within the country?
MB: Not much. These are Lidia Bastianich’s family recipes, and there are no notes about provenance. In her introductory notes, she comments on the broader Italian diet, ingredients common in her native country, and occasionally mentions traditions inherent to the city (Pula) in which she grew up in. The Bastianich family has been in America for almost 50 years, and she seems very proud of her new roots.
GFR: (As you’ve already pointed out), we don’t have any glossy photos here, do we? I’d love to hear (more) thoughts on this.
MB: Photos take up precious space AND stifle creativity. I am a decent home cook, but my attempts at emulating restaurant chefs and/or photos found in cook books these days make me feel like a loser. Hours and hours are put into making photos look incredible, not to mention the professional food stylists and photographers, plus photo editors who contribute to making every morsel look prize worthy. Let’s get real.
GFR: So what recipes would you call your favourites, and why?
MB: I’ve only tried a few things so far: Escarole and White Bean Soup (which I served with latkes for Hannukah), Linguine with Walnuts and Swiss Chard, Radicchio Salad with Orange. All certainly yummers, though I must admit I look great artistic licence with the soup, because that’s what this book is about – developing simple recipes to taste, and with what we have on hand.
GFR: Thanks so much Mika!
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And this is going to be on his list for Santa.