Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews

Someone who has a complete collection of Italian cookbooks will obviously require The Country Cooking of Italy (Chronicle) in order to make it more complete. A beautiful book meant to be cooked from and shared, coffee table-style, and with a pedigree that will make aficionados demand it.

Author Colman Andrews is something of an American foodie blue blood. Andrews was a co-founder of Saveur magazine,was the periodical’s second editor-in-chief and has won eight James Beard Awards. Andrews’ last major cookbook, The Country Cooking of Ireland, was a cousin to this book in that both were contracted at the same time by Chronicle. With the accolades that first book won and the attention this second is getting, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Andrews was already cooking up more countries in the Country Cooking series. Meanwhile, though, this one is still pretty much hot off the press and there is, in any case, a lot here to take in and enjoy.

To be honest, despite the massive and gorgeous luxuriousness of this book, this isn’t my favorite sort of cookbook. I’m partial to books of a slightly more comfortable size, books that don’t mind spending time in the kitchen getting work done. In so many ways, for me The Country Cooking of Italy just isn’t that sort of book. It’s simply too beautiful to want to banish it to the kitchen or risk mucking it’s gorgeous pages with sauce or cheese. Add to that the fact that, at close to 400 coffee table book-sized pages, The Country Cooking of Italy is too large to lug anywhere comfortably, you just want to snuggle up with it in a comfy chair with a glass of a big barolo at your elbow and maybe a plate of fried fava beans and some caponata.

While Andrews’ book is, of course, a cookbook, it also in a way a culinary tour of rural Italy. This is a book to be cooked from, sure. But it is also intended to be savored, exclaimed over, examined carefully and enjoyed, either alone or with friends. It seems to me to go almost without saying that, for just the right person, this would make the perfect gift. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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