Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food

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Buon appetito! Everyone loves Italian food. But how did the Italians come to eat so well?

The answer lies amid the vibrant beauty of Italy's historic cities. For a thousand years, they have been magnets for everything that makes for great eating: ingredients, talent, money, and power. Italian food is city food.

From the bustle of medieval Milan's marketplace to the banqueting halls of Renaissance Ferrara; from street stalls in the putrid alleyways of nineteenth-century Naples to the noisy trattorie of postwar Rome: in rich slices of urban life, historian and master storyteller John Dickie shows how taste, creativity, and civic pride blended with princely arrogance, political violence, and dark intrigue to create the world's favorite cuisine. Delizia! is much more than a history of Italian food. It is a history of Italy told through the flavors and character of its cities.

A dynamic chronicle that is full of surprises, Delizia! draws back the curtain on much that was unknown about Italian food and exposes the long-held canards. It interprets the ancient Arabic map that tells of pasta's true origins, and shows that Marco Polo did not introduce spaghetti to the Italians, as is often thought, but did have a big influence on making pasta a part of the American diet. It seeks out the medieval recipes that reveal Italy's long love affair with exotic spices, and introduces the great Renaissance cookery writer who plotted to murder the Pope even as he detailed the aphrodisiac qualities of his ingredients. It moves from the opulent theater of a Renaissance wedding banquet, with its gargantuan ten-course menu comprising hundreds of separate dishes, to the thin soups and bland polentas that would eventually force millions to emigrate to the New World. It shows how early pizzas were disgusting and why Mussolini championed risotto. Most important, it explains the origins and growth of the world's greatest urban food culture.

With its delectable mix of vivid storytelling, groundbreaking research, and shrewd analysis, Delizia! is as appetizing as the dishes it describes. This passionate account of Italy's civilization of the table will satisfy foodies, history buffs, Italophiles, travelers, students -- and anyone who loves a well-told tale.
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About the author

John Dickie lectures in Italian Studies at University College London. Cosa Nostra, his award-winning history of the Sicilian mafia, has been translated into twenty languages and has sold nearly half a million copies throughout the world; it was hailed in Italy as the best book ever written about the Mafia. In 2005 the president of the Italian Republic appointed him a Commendatore dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana. He lives in London with his family .

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jan 8, 2008
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781416554004
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Language
English
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Genres
Cooking / History
Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / Italian
History / Europe / Italy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Italy, the country with a hundred cities and a thousand bell towers, is also the country with a hundred cuisines and a thousand recipes. Its great variety of culinary practices reflects a history long dominated by regionalism and political division, and has led to the common conception of Italian food as a mosaic of regional customs rather than a single tradition. Nonetheless, this magnificent new book demonstrates the development of a distinctive, unified culinary tradition throughout the Italian peninsula.

Alberto Capatti and Massimo Montanari uncover a network of culinary customs, food lore, and cooking practices, dating back as far as the Middle Ages, that are identifiably Italian:

o Italians used forks 300 years before other Europeans, possibly because they were needed to handle pasta, which is slippery and dangerously hot.

o Italians invented the practice of chilling drinks and may have invented ice cream.

o Italian culinary practice influenced the rest of Europe to place more emphasis on vegetables and less on meat.

o Salad was a distinctive aspect of the Italian meal as early as the sixteenth century.

The authors focus on culinary developments in the late medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, aided by a wealth of cookbooks produced throughout the early modern period. They show how Italy's culinary identities emerged over the course of the centuries through an exchange of information and techniques among geographical regions and social classes. Though temporally, spatially, and socially diverse, these cuisines refer to a common experience that can be described as Italian. Thematically organized around key issues in culinary history and beautifully illustrated, Italian Cuisine is a rich history of the ingredients, dishes, techniques, and social customs behind the Italian food we know and love today.

MAFIA. CAMORRA. 'NDRANGHETA.

The Sicilian mafia, known as Cosa Nostra, is far from being Italy's only dangerous criminal fraternity. The country hosts two other major mafias: the camorra from Naples; and, from the poor and isolated region of Calabria, the mysterious 'ndrangheta, which has now risen to become the most powerful mob group active today.

Since they emerged, the mafias have all corrupted Italy's institutions, drastically curtailed the life-chances of its citizens, evaded justice, and set up their own self-interested meddling as an alternative to the courts. Yet each of these brotherhoods has its own methods, its own dark rituals, its own style of ferocity. Each is uniquely adapted to corrupt and exploit its own specific environment, as it collaborates with, learns from, and goes to war with the other mafias.

Today, the shadow of organized crime hangs over a country racked by debt, political paralysis, and widespread corruption. The 'ndrangheta controls much of Europe's wholesale cocaine trade and, by some estimates, 3 percent of Italy's total GDP. Blood Brotherhoods traces the origins of this national malaise back to Italy's roots as a united country in the nineteenth century, and shows how political violence incubated underworld sects among the lemon groves of Palermo, the fetid slums of Naples, and the harsh mountain villages of Calabria.

Blood Brotherhoods is a book of breathtaking ambition, tracing for the first time the interlocking story of all three mafias from their origins to the present day. John Dickie is recognized in Italy as one of the foremost historians of organized crime. In these pages, he blends archival detective work, passionate narrative, and shrewd analysis to bring a unique criminal ecosystem—and the three terrifying criminal brotherhoods that have evolved within it—to life on the page.
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