There are a plethora of cookbooks on the market and amongst that plethora are the ‘classics’. But are they all they’re cracked up to be? I feel a bit compelled to check them out and tell it like it is. Starting with Italian culinary bible, The Silver Spoon.
And so here it is – fat and luscious like a culinary brick sitting upon a chopping block, ready for dicing and julienning and boiling up into rich pasta sauce. Where do I start? Let’s go for the website, shall we?
A spoon with it’s own site. Yes, it’s true, and like the book, it’s style personified. Clean, simple, classic design, you can access online a selection of mouthwatering recipes, and also learn more about the book, its history and even what the chefs say. You can even access the site in German, French and either US or UK English – though, curiously, not in Italian.
As for the book – well, it’s large. Large with life in a way the Italians do so well. With over 2000 recipes, there’s a reason Il Cucchiaio d’Argento has been Italy’s best-selling cookbook for over fifty years, and why it’s considered the bible of authentic Italian cooking. First published in Italy in 1950, the book was translated into English in 2005 for the very first time, and since then has reprinted in 2006 (five times!), 2009 and 2010.
So shall we take a little peek inside?
For the aperitivo, we have a guide to using The Silver Spoon, followed by a taste tempter of cooking terms and notes about cooking and the appropriate equipment. We’re then drizzled with sauce. Marinades, flavoured butters – anything pourable or with the capacity to be slathered – this section features such tongue curlers as marsala sauce, velouté, mayonnaise, cheese sauces, a morass of marinades and flavoured butters to baste in.
In Antipasti, we get into the slivers of Italian delight that food lovers all over the world appreciate so much – the anitpasti, the pizza, the appetisers that tease us. It’s all here – bruschettas, salads, canapés, crostini, tartines, bouchées, crêpes, patés, soufflés, pies, quiches – where does it stop? Thankfully, not too early.
But the following course – the First (Prima Piatti) – will also impress. Here we move into a breathtaking collection of soups (including fabulous broth and stock recipes), gnocchi and fresh fresh pasta, kneaded and rolled and sliced and pressed into all manner of delectable al denté gorgeousness. Of course, this collection takes an eon to get through – but who’s complaining?? Prima Piatti also includes rice dishes (the risottos will roll your eyes to the heavens).
In Eggs, we lay out our pans and sizzle up fritattatas to die for. We do eggs poached, soft boiled, shirred, fried, en cocotte, boiled, scrambled, crêped and folded gently into a parade of omelettes that will transform any breakfast into a sophisticated brunch. With no pretention. Simple, classic, delicious.
The Vegetables chapter is astounding – packed with a mass of ideas to make vegetarians drool. It’s so full, it’s arrange in alphabetical order – by vegetable.
Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish will project you straight to the Italian coast and Meat will settle you firmly in the hinterlands with a lightly chilled red, the scent of basil on the terrace and a setting sun. The recipes here (and indeed, scattered throughout the book) also borrow from the US, France, England and other nations, showing a deeply embedded Italian penchant for foods of the world, despite this country’s own impressive culinary originality.
Next are sections for Poultry and Game, and there’s even a small chapter on Formaggi. Like the French, Italians love their cheese and these traditional recipes will delight readers, as will the impressive section on Desserts and Baking… from pastry and dough through cakes, puddings, jellies, custards, creams, biscuits, tarts, fruit desserts, ice creams, sorbets and more.
A wonderful ending to a jam-packed drool-fest is the section entitled Menus by Celebrated Chefs, in which a series of guest chefs from all over the world (including Australia – Stefano Manfredi, Karen Martini and Stefano de Pieri) delight us with their own suggested menu and recipes.
The Silver Spoon also has useful cooking tips relevant to each section, has interesting lead-in blurb for each featured ingredient and offers a clean, classic, beautifully-designed layout that makes reading a pleasure. Despite the enormous amount of recipes, they are easy to find and well-laid out. Complemented with occasional and simply-shot photographs, you won’t need to travel to Italy to get your gastronomic Italian fix.
Prop the book on your bench, pour yourself a glass of red, open your back door and start plucking fresh basil and tomatoes from your kitchen garden. You’ll be cooking forever with this book – and you’ll be multo multo glad of it.