Italian Cooking in 400 Pages – and over 200 Recipes March 1, 2010

Shame, shame on a foodie blog that does not do the occasional book review.  Man doesn’t live by bread alone.  As my mother used to say, “develop a voracious appetite for reading.”

I’m still trying to finish David Vise’s book about Google, but client work has kept me away from that goal.  I will finish it soon, not because I want to learn Google’s algorithms for determining page rank and Adsense mumbo-jumbo, but because it is inspiring to read about businesses that start in a garage with hardly any venture capital and yet end up giants who take over some aspects of how we communicate with each other.  Don’t tell me you’ve never once used “google” as a verb?

I don’t want to mislead you. This post is not about the Google book I’m reading.  It’s about the OTHER book I found in my local library by accident – The River Cafe Classic Italian Cook Book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

It isn’t unusual to find books with two gourmet authors sharing the credits.  What’s unusual is how Gray and Rogers combed the entire country – Italy – to taste every possible dish whipped up by the regions’ culinary enthusiasts.  Their travels took them to Sicily, Tuscany, Puglia, Maremma and to all those places we can only dream about. 

Their story, however, does not begin in Italy.  It starts in the banks of the Thames River in London.  That’s where they opened the River Café in 1987.  Although perhaps not as well-known as Rachel Ray or Nigella Lawson, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers have just about turned the gourmet world upside down!

  • After they opened the River Café, they travelled all over Italia.  The book says “they cooked with friends, chefs and wine makers who shared their traditional recipes…”  From that experience, this book was born.  Mind you, this dynamic duo has 10 cookbooks to their credit!
  • They earned a Michelin star in 1997.  They also appeared in the show Top 50 Restaurants in the World and did a TV series (in 12 parts) on The Italian Kitchen for England’s Channel 4.

book review 1

They have learned much from the Italians.  Call it close encounters of the best kind.  They say, “It is our friendships with those who grow the grapes, tend the olive trees, make the wine and olive oil we use, the cheesemakers and salami producers that have taught and inspired us.”

The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook is a book that not only delivers recipes you’ll want to try, but also narrates the simple joys of discovering ingredients, observing habits and methods, imagining aromas and textures, and inhaling herbs from the hills and valleys that stimulate man’s ravenous nature.

There is something in this book for everyone; it offers generous sections that cover:  soups, pasta & gnocchi, risotto and polenta, breads and pizza, fish, meat, poultry & game, vegetables & salads, sorbets and ice creams, cakes, sauces & stocks.  On the last pages of the book, they share a list of their favorite places.

The photographs are stunning. Not all of the recipes come with a photograph but the clear and engaging way that Rogers and Gray describe the recipe steps will help you imagine what the finished dish should look like.  The book is rich with photographs of landscapes,  stalls and corners,  unpretentious countryside, open markets, and the elegant dining rooms of the country’s fine restaurants – the kind where starched linens, gorgeous waiters and dark mahogany walls tell you what you’re about to savour!

The book’s ISBN is:  978-0-718-15349-6.  Famous chef Jamie Oliver put his words on the back cover of the book:  “They have changed the way British people eat – here’s to them both!”


What’s your most precious cookbook – the one you WOULDN’T lend to even your best friend?


4 Responses to “Italian Cooking in 400 Pages – and over 200 Recipes”

  1. Kiwidutch Says:

    Aw, now I’m in pain, should I, or should I not, add *another* cookbook to my already humoungous collection? ( and I measure my collection in the “numbers of metres long” these days ‘cos counting them gets into totals that might be even more eye watering to acknowledge.) Sigh, sotsil, you are tempting me you are, you really really are. Moi.. off to check these authors out, or better still, can I be you new Best Friend?, I’d return the book, I will, honest! ( …well if I’m *really* honest….)

  2. sotsil Says:

    Hello kiwidutch,
    I don’t even own the book – my local library will fine me heavily if I don’t return it on time. If you were my neighbor, sure I’d lend it to you – but let’s see…the Netherlands is how many miles away and in what time zone again? Tsk…tsk…
    By the way, I left you a comment about that meat pie with the neat leaves as design – that was lovely. I’m going to be a copycat and make it – just you wait and see!

  3. Darlene Says:

    Admittedly my cookbook collection has grown as much in the past few years because I look up a lot of recipes on the internet. But the cookbooks I do cherish are the ones my mom gave to me.

  4. sotsil Says:

    Hi Darlene,
    Old cookbooks make good treasures. Like music, we tend to say “they made better music back then.” I guess the same can be said of books in general.
    I too use the Internet a lot for recipes. But on occasion, I hide in the cookbook aisle of my library and scrounge.
    I just learned this morning that Rose Gray – one of the founders of the River Cafe – died of cancer last Sunday. She was only 71.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s