La Cucina by Lily Prior **
I’m joining Jain in her bi-monthly edible book review at Food for Thought, where in her words, pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera. Books, Food & Photos, my three favorite things all in one place!
After finishing this book, I’m still uncertain how I feel about it. It was…Strange? Parts were … Entertaining? I’m not sure. I hadn’t heard of this book, even though it was published ten years ago. I stumbled on it in my search at PaperBack Swap, where I had some credits. Even though my to-be-read pile is toppling over, I’m always on the look out :-)
I had read the following blurb from Publishers Weekly:
Sumptuously appointed, celebratory and sensuous, this début novel is a mouth-watering blend of commedia dell’arte and Greek tragedy. Prior cooks up a cinematic yarn full of characters so rich you’ll fear they’re fattening, but readers will be sure to splurge on this saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes and murder.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I really wanted to like this book, sadly I did not. The book jacket was beautiful, the reviews were promising, for me, the story was lacking.
Rosa Fiore grows up on the family farm in Sicilian village with eight brothers. La Cucina, or the kitchen, is her safe haven and an emotional outlet.
… I retreated into the kitchen, in the same way that some women retreat into convents…
I had always loved my food: in those dark days it was all that could give me comfort. I did not emerge from my self-imposed exile in la cucina for a long time. I assuaged my grief by cooking, and cooking, and cooking some more.
When tragedy strikes, she leaves everything behind and heads to the big city of Palermo and becomes a librarian. Her self-imposed exile from her family, village, and la cucina lasts twenty-five years. There in her library, she meets a mysterious stranger, l’Inglese, researching Sicilian cuisine. Rosa agrees to teach him what she knows, starting first with shopping at a market.
The mention of the market with the foods stalls reminded me of la Bourqueria in Barcelona, where we were fortunate enough to visit last spring.
Wild strawberries, cherries, oranges and lemons, quinces and melons were all subject to my scrutiny.
L’ Inglese awakens Rosa’s passions, culinary and otherwise :-)
They spend the summer together until l’Inglese suddenly disappears. Events transpire causing Rosa to return to her family home.
There are obviously tons of mouth-watering food vignettes in this book…I thought I’d share an easy Focaccia Bread Recipe.
This book read like a black comedy, which is not my cup of tea.
The Free Dictionary defines a black comedy as: a comedy that treats of morbid, tragic, gloomy, or grotesque situations as a major element of the plot.
Here’s a perfect example:
When Rosa’s grandfather dies, he is laid out on the kitchen table according to tradition. Rosa cooks chickpea fritters and feeds the corpse in hopes of reviving him:
“Nonno Fiore was buried with the grease still clinging to his whiskers, his toothless mouth bulging with food.”
Warning…Animals do not fare well in this book…
“It lay for a long time in the gutter with its four little stiffened legs pointing up until someone threw it into a trash can.”
… including Rosa’s parrot.
Lots of scenes about slaughtering pigs and other livestock in graphic detail…
Reading the reviews on Amazon, it’s obvious I’m in the minority. While the food excerpts were enjoyable, the story didn’t do it for me. I’m glad I “swapped” this book instead of buying it.