Michigan State University

Introductory Essay

The Italian Cook Book: The Art Of Eating Well, Practical Recipes Of The Italian Cuisine, Pastries, Sweets, Frozen Delicacies, And Syrups
Compiled By Maria Gentile.
New York: Italian Cook Book Co., c1919.

This is another of the books selected to represent the culinary contributions of the multitude of new immigrants flooding the shores of late 19th century America. In this case, the Italian cuisine is represented as not only healthy and economical but also savory and patriotic.

The Preface begins with the statement that, "One of the beneficial results of the Great War [WWI] has been the teaching of thrift to the American housewife. For patriotic reasons and for reasons of economy, more attention has been bestowed upon the preparing and cooking of food that is to be at once palatable, nourishing and economical."

It continues, "In the Italian cuisine we find in the highest degree these three qualities. That it is palatable, all those who have partaken of food in an Italian trattoria or at the home of an Italian family can testify, that it is healthy the splendid manhood and womanhood of Italy is a proof more than sufficient. And who could deny, knowing the thriftiness of the Italian race, that it is economical?"

Thus this book was conceived to present Italian food, not pretentious but Casalinga [homemade] "which is not the least product of a lovable and simple people, among whom the art of living well and getting the most out of life at a moderate expense has been attained to a very high degree."

If we can get by the stereotyping, we find an early variety of the modern Mediterranean Diet syndrome!

In fact, the recipes are quite good and in the Italian manner. There are recipes for artichokes, zucchini, risotto, macaroni, polenta, eggplant, gelati, gnocchi and zabaione. Although the recipes are not very detailed, they are both modern and sophisticated.

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