December 3, 2014

food glorious food


So sorry to veer off the topic but I just read one of the greatest forewords to a book and had to share it with you. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, on pretty much every topic under the sun. My books from the library are probably all overdue but I don't care. Splayed on the coffee table right now are:  
Bauhaus by Magdalena Droste, An Affair to Remember, The Remarkable Love Story of Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy by Christopher Anderson, Nora Ephron's I feel bad about my neck and other thoughts on being a woman, Josef Albers' Interaction of Color, and Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman, who is so ridiculously smart and funny I can barely get through the book.

The foreword I read this morning, however, did not come from any of these. The massive Great Italian Cookbook published in 1986, given to me by my mother-in-law several years ago, literally fell off the top of the refrigerator over a week ago and has been sitting on the kitchen table ever since waiting for me to either open it or set it back up on the fridge. Since I decided on pasta for dinner tonight I figured I'd open it up for some inspiration. Lots of inspiration of course, the book weighs about 6 pounds. But the foreword, fervently written by Giovanni Nuvoletti Perdomini, the president of the Italian Academy of Cookery, really caught my attention. What other cookbook foreword quotes Descartes, Horace and Dante, or compares "a voluptuous layer of polenta" to a sculpture by Antonio Canova? My favorite quote:
Our belief is that God, having punished the sinner with hunger, then rewarded human endeavor with appetite. At the divine invention of water to quench thirst, man's ingenuity responded in turn with the invention of wine... As a reward for this inspired invention, God - in admiration - bestowed on man alone among all creatures on Earth the gift to enjoy drinking without being thirsty... man found a way to transform hunger into a chosen pleasure, elevating it to appetite. On this foundation civilization built up the science of gastronomy.
              
creepy photo by James Ostrer
I love this guy! He not only insults an entire century of anxious pill-poppers who are "terrorized by faddish diets, hounded by food technology's fiendish new weapon, deep-frozen convenience meals", he boldly pledges his allegiance to the institution of the family, to cuisine as a rich and evolving creative expression, and to Italy's national culture, exclaiming, "we will associate with neither posturing gourmets nor blase nostalgia mongerers." Was 1986 really an atmosphere of 'devastating haste and vulgarity'? My Sicilian head is shaking yeah, maybe.


1986 might be a little dated but here in the 21st century I just this instant came across a holiday advertisement, "8 Words for Eating" which included gorge, gobble and scarf. I am certain this persistent pitch for callous gluttony would put Giovanni over the edge. After all, "this art is major; it nourishes the mortals." Note the word ART.

In the spirit of holiday feasting I thought it fitting to bring this all up now.

I'm wishing all of you a holiday season filled with "large family meals, where laughter and spirited conversation are felicitously married with a noble and unashamed pleasure in good food"!


2 comments:

Che Pizaro said...

Okay, I was already hungry, but now I'm simultaneously being very hungry and telling myself not to rush, to take the time needed to make something layered and delicious!

Samantha Palmeri said...

So glad you found this post useful!!