- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (Dec. 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 055309159X
- ISBN-13: 978-0553091595
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 21 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,508,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Flavors of the Riviera: Discovering Real Mediterranean Cooking Hardcover – Dec 1998
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More About the Author
A collection of nearly 150 recipes captures the rich cookery of the region between Tuscany and Provence, including such dishes as focaccia, ratatouille, mesclun, and ravioli.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In many ways, this book belongs to that noble clan of books on Italian regional cooking exemplified by Arthur Schwartz's `Naples at Table', Fred Plotkin's `La Terra Fortunata' on the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Lynne Rosetto Kaspar's `The Splendid Table' on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. To some people, including myself, the Riviera in the title primarily evokes France of Cannes and Toulon and Marseilles. Actually, the proper geographical region `Riviera' is in three parts, the larger two being in the Italian region of Liguria from La Spezia in the east to Sanremo in the west. The smallish French portion of the true Riviera is the Mediterranean coast from Menton to Nice, including the principality of Monaco. To make the picture even more Italian, Mr. Andrews relates how this French region was for several centuries part of an Italian region, conquered for France by Napoleon in his invasion of Italy and ceded permenantly to France in an election coinciding with the unification of Italy under Garibaldi. In fact, the dialects of these French and Italian provinces is its own Latin based language sounding part French and part Italian.
So, while the Riviera is largely Italian Liguria, it is not all of Liguria, because this coastline is bordered by steep hills and mountains, being the foothills of the Alps and the Apennines. The region is dominated by two cities, Genoa, the capitol of Liguria and Nice, the fourth largest city in France. Neither are as glamorous as some of their more famous cousins such as Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Milan, and Trieste. Genoa, in fact, is downright dowdy, immersed in its role as a major port and not bothering itself a lot with tourism. Nice has a bit more of the `Atlantic City' air about it as a resort town, but it is not as fashionable as other French cities such as Paris, Lyon, or Marseilles.
Among all books on regional culinary subjects, one may place those by Paula Wolfert and Lynne Rosetto Kaspar at one extreme where the focus is on culinary excellence. Mr. Andrews' book falls at the other extreme, aiming primarily for journalistic, historical, and analytical excellence. As such, his opening essay on the elements of an `authentic' cuisine in general and the `authentic' Mediterranean cuisine in particular should be read by all foodies before they read any more books on any regional culinary speciality. I have no wish to steal his thunder, but the sense of his analysis is that many writers of the `Mediterranean' cuisine is more a description of how people eat at Chez Panisse than how they eat in Nice or Messina or Antioch or Tunisia. I have had some faint intimations of the incongruities of which Coleman speaks when I read and hear one Italian cuisanard after the other claim that `we are talking of the cuisine of poverty' only to proceed to recipes laden with procuitto, parmesan, truffles, and artichokes. This is a bit of an exaggeration, since, for example Mario Batali, on his `Molto Mario' show often highlights ways in which the use of bread crumbs, stale bread, organ meats, and wild greens played a role in the `cuisine of poverty', but that didn't stop him from using the expensive stuff too.
Andrews does not dispute the evidence of the healthfulness of the `Mediterranean Cuisine', but like the very popular recent book on why French women don't get fat, he points out that this healthfulness has as much to do with taking a long time to eat and proper rest and exercise in conjunction with eating what is available locally.
One of Andrews' points is that we probably are not really interested in the authentic cuisine of poverty. How many of us are really eager to sit down to a gruel of chestnut flour and milk? Another very interesting point in Andrews' analysis is that many classic dishes are really rather new. I was first struck with this fact when I realized that dried pasta was not even very common in northern Italy until the second half of the 20th century. Another excellent example is the fact that the ingredients of the classic Provencal dish, ratatouille are almost half `New World' immigrants, which were not even used very much in Europe until early in the 19th century, as they were suspect due to their relation to the deadly nightshade.
The last of Andrews' key points about `authentic' cuisine is that very, very few dishes have a single `authentic' recipe. While one can point to a `genuine' Caesar's salad recipe, since the dish was invented at a particular time and place by a particular well-known individual, it is simply impossible to identify a definitive Salade Nicoise. While Julia Child may give us a complicated recipe with lettuce and a potato salad, the historical recipe includes neither ingredient.
Coleman Andrews does not go so far as to give us a book full of recipes for chestnut flour and milk. He does, however, give us recipes that can be traced to practitioners who are native to the Italian Riviera, and he is careful to cite these sources. In many ways, his book is an excellent extension of Nancy Harmon Jenkins' analytical `The Essential Mediterranean' in that he gives us essays on all the basic elements of the Riviera terroir.
While the recipes in this book are sound, they are not the main attraction. The center ring at this show is Andrews' manifesto on what you really mean when you speak of `authentic' cooking and cuisine.
Highly recommended for foodies and students of cuisine.
Many of the recipes might be considered peasant cooking- simpler recipes with humble ingredients. Love that! I've made quite a few of them, and have been very happy with the results. It's amazing how much flavor, richness, and complexity can be elicited from simple, quotidian foodstuffs.
A true classic that will continue to stand the test of time.