DiscoverCooking & Food, Wine & Spirits

Stories of Food and Life

By Mariuccia Milla

Loved it! 😍

Little stories of people preparing and enjoying Italian food together, with the details of each recipe entwined in the story. BELLISSIMO!

Synopsis

A delightful collection of stories about Italian lifestyle, cooking, and human connection. Each bite-sized story includes a recipe served on a platter of memories, where food preparation is a social art to be shared.

The spontaneous approach celebrated in Stories of Food and Life will give you confidence to cook on the fly with finesse. Flow with the seasons and discover food as a way to be together rather than a culinary exam.

Wouldn't you like to know how to make a delicious strawberry risotto? Or learn something new about figs as Mariuccia tells you about her kids playing in her Italian country garden? You'll learn about the origin of the Caprese salad from someone who was there and also discover the “spaghettata,” a go-to midnight snack.

Cosa si puó dire? It’s worth the money. You’ll learn something and be entertained by this tribute to the simple treatment of the best ingredients.

Food is a celebration of life, so read this, or listen to the audiobook, and go cook for your friends.

Then, mangia!

Mariuccia Milla is an American living in Italy. She wrote this little book to introduce the typically Italian culture of food to the world, to spark curiosity about what ingredients are used and lastly to remind the reader of the importance of enjoying food with friends and loved ones.


I am Italian so I thought reading this book wouldn't teach me much about the Italian cuisine, but since everyone and their mum (and their grandma) has an opinion on how to make a dish, I still learnt some tips from this book. It's definitely full of tips for people who haven't cooked the Italian way before - without measuring, only with the freshest ingredients and with endless amounts of love for what will be the finished dish. As it says in the book, if you are Italian "you use all of your senses when you're cooking."


The combination of first meetings, good food and good conversations is at the core of this book and the whole process of preparing and enjoying food together is celebrated; cooking is a way to bond and pleasure each other in Italy. The combination of the deep and the trivial reminded me of Rachel Cusk's trilogy Outline, in which the writer/protagonist is often travelling and writing about the conversations and meetings that so effortlessly happen while abroad. I liked how each dish had its own chapter, which was primarily a story of people meeting and making the dish, but it also included anecdotes about the ingredients or about the origin of the dish. This particularly interested me, as there are dishes in this book that don't come specifically from my area - hence why these anecdotes were new for me too.


In conclusion, I recommend this book as it's a short and easy read that will also teach you something about the food and the culture of Italy. I especially recommend reading it if you are moving to/visiting Italy and you have never been before.

Reviewed by

I am a neuroscience student but I have always been a passionate reader and I have read many different book genres. I also write and have done for a very long time. I would definitely say reading and writing are two of my favourite activities, and I don't think this will change anytime soon.

Synopsis

A delightful collection of stories about Italian lifestyle, cooking, and human connection. Each bite-sized story includes a recipe served on a platter of memories, where food preparation is a social art to be shared.

The spontaneous approach celebrated in Stories of Food and Life will give you confidence to cook on the fly with finesse. Flow with the seasons and discover food as a way to be together rather than a culinary exam.

Wouldn't you like to know how to make a delicious strawberry risotto? Or learn something new about figs as Mariuccia tells you about her kids playing in her Italian country garden? You'll learn about the origin of the Caprese salad from someone who was there and also discover the “spaghettata,” a go-to midnight snack.

Cosa si puó dire? It’s worth the money. You’ll learn something and be entertained by this tribute to the simple treatment of the best ingredients.

Food is a celebration of life, so read this, or listen to the audiobook, and go cook for your friends.

Then, mangia!

Penne all’arrabbiata


The road to Ludovico’s house was not a crushed stone drive that wound up a Tuscan hill accompanied by cypresses. You know, the kind silhouetted against the sunset on the cover of romantic novels in the “Italy porn” genre.

Instead, it was a narrow alley whose masonry buildings stood at point blank with the edges of a street where pedestrians scattered only slowly, like jaded farmyard chickens. We were driving a red Fiat Cinquecento, thankfully, and deftly made the tight turn through the arched portal that led into the cobblestone courtyard. The Milanese fog had lifted and the sun was starting to appear, white and diffuse, through the gauzy air. The gray of everything was offset by the red car and the ochre-tinted plaster of the building chipped in some spots.

Ludovico had an American visitor named Roberto who had recently arrived from a place called Watkins Glen. He was preparing lunch. I was visiting Milan from the Ligurian town of Camogli, where I had spent the summer rehabilitating a private garden that had fallen into disarray. Ludo’s partner, Alessandra, was my host in Milan; she had invited me to tag along.

I had been going back and forth between Italy and the U.S., and while I did meet some expats during my stays in the bel paese, I generally avoided other Americans. I didn’t think we had much in common.

Ludovico’s apartment was a third-floor walk-up with windows on both the courtyard as well as the canal. He greeted us enthusiastically in the foyer, while his guest held back. I walked down the short corridor to the kitchen. Roberto was tying an apron at his back.

“The first thing is to pour a glass of wine,” he said after I introduced myself.

Roberto’s blue eyes had nothing of the pretty boy about them thanks to his luxuriously bushy black eyebrows. The eyes themselves were penetrating, searching, and a little careworn. He looked to me like someone who was missing something longed-for in his life. Yet he was happily preparing our lunch of penne all’arrabbiata. The tools were arrayed, the wine was airing, and he held a bulb of garlic in his right hand, which he set on the counter so that he could shake mine.

“Why do you go by Roberto,” I asked, “and not Robert?”

“It is Robert,” he said, “but Ludovico has decided to Italianize my name. He doesn't like it when people call me ‘Bohb.’”

“Okay, Roberto,” I conceded. “Thank you for making our lunch.”

"I like to make people happy," he said. "Especially when I'm here because Italians enjoy food more than Americans do."

“Americans like to eat, by the looks of things,” Alessandra said.

“Overeating or depriving ourselves, that’s what we do,” I said.

“Exactly,” said Roberto. “The U.S. is still a Puritan country at heart. Sin and repentance.”

He poured some extra-virgin olive oil into a skillet and started peeling garlic cloves with a small knife.

“I’m generally not very good at enjoying things I have to do,” Roberto said to me, “but I seemed to have managed it with cooking.”

“What brings you to Italy?” I asked him.

“It suits me,” he answered. “I love the food, the wine, the cars, and the countryside. And the people, of course! I met Ludovico through a mutual friend on my last visit. He invited me to stay for a few days here before I head to Montepulciano. I’m taking a full-immersion course in Italian next week.”

Roberto had plucked the leaves from a bunch of fresh parsley and placed them in a small drinking glass. He took the kitchen scissors and started snipping the leaves in the glass.

“Why do you that?” I asked.

“The parsley is confined in the glass, and that makes it easier to cut,” he said.

By now the garlic was getting abbrustolito, or toasted, an even brown. Roberto carefully picked the cloves out one at a time and placed them in a small bowl. Then he tossed hot pepper flakes, or peperoncino, into the oil, and I watched them skitter at a respectful distance. The pungency filled the small kitchen, drifting up my nostrils. It made my eyes water.

“Toasting the garlic and the peperoncinois what gives the sauce its flavor,” said Roberto.

“It puts the rabbiainto all’arrabbiata," Ludovico said, filling a pot with water from the sink.

“You’re using canned tomatoes,” said Alessandra.

“Yes, well, that’s my habit in the States, because I like to use Italian tomatoes. The soil is different, and you can taste it in the tomatoes. Besides, if I used fresh tomatoes, it would take too long for lunch. I’d have to remove the skins. This sauce is more spontaneous than ritualistic to me.”

“Well,” said Alessandra, taking a sip of wine, “I don’t have to agree with you to recognize that it is very Italian to have an opinion about cooking. We’ll have to make you an honorary citizen.”

He lowered the heat and dumped the diced tomatoes into the skillet, standing back to avoid the fallout.

“Where are you staying in Montepulciano?” I asked.

“In an osteriathat has rooms for the students,” he answered, then asked me, “What brings you to Italy?”

"I used to live here. Then, I went back to the U.S. But I never really settled back into it. I think that once you're an expat, you kind of lose your original nationality without gaining a new one. You’re in expat limbo forever.”

“I know what you mean,” he said. He looked at me with his penetrating eyes. That was where he smiled, rather than with his mouth. I had trouble returning his gaze. It was as if he wanted to unlock my secrets, and it made me feel vulnerable. I just looked down.

The aroma of the sauce permeated the room. I wanted to grab a piece of bread and dip it into the simmering red tomatoes. Roberto fingered through Ludo’s utensils until he found a potato masher, then gently pressed the diced tomatoes, now softening, in the skillet.

“Now I need to grate some parmigiano,” he said.

The sharp odor of the cheese introduced itself into the bouquet, like the bright and unexpected sound of the triangle in an orchestra.

“You must be a good listener,” I said to Roberto.

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Because you use all of your senses when you’re cooking.”

He looked at me askance, with his head down and his eyes smiling again. When I returned his gaze this time, he raised his luxurious eyebrows in some sort of a challenge.

I liked this Roberto, although he was very different from anyone I had previously met. He wasn’t like an Italian guy, with their romantic subterfuge. And he was nothing like an American. He lacked the American prejudice about the world; he had understood our nation, as I did, from the outside looking in.

Like me, he was a natural-born expatriate.

This was both a welcome and frustrating revelation for the simple reason that he was out of my league. He was too good-looking to pay attention to someone like me.

He dumped a handful of salt and a box of penne rigateinto the boiling water. Then he looked up at me.

“Is Montepulciano very far from where you’re staying in Liguria?”

“Far meaning too far to travel for a lark?” I asked.

“No, I mean, too far to travel to be my guest for the weekend.”

I was unable to respond, not sure of what he meant. Alessandra came back into the kitchen from setting the table.

“You can take the Super Rapido train to Florence,” she said to me, popping an olive into her mouth.

"Well,” Roberto said, “I'm going back tomorrow, and if you can make it, I'd love to take you to dinner on Saturday."

Alessandra looked at him, then at me, and said, “Of course she’ll come.”

I glared at her while Roberto drained the pasta into a colander in the sink.

He put a little bit of raw olive oil on the pasta in the serving bowl before mixing in the sauce. He looked at the three of us anticipating our meal and decided to try out his Italian.

La pasta é pronta!” he said.

Lunch was ready.

About the author

Mariuccia Milla had a dream of going to Italy. After her first job in New York City, she bought a one-way ticket and set out on her first adventure. Mariuccia has lived in Milan, Tuscany, and later near Lago Maggiore, for a life-changing eighteen years abroad. view profile

Published on February 05, 2019

Published by

20000 words

Genre: Cooking & Food, Wine & Spirits

Reviewed by

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