We Called It Macaroni: An American Heritage of Southern Italian Cooking

Nancy Verde Barr, Author, Kathe Helander, Illustrator Alfred A. Knopf $25 (344p) ISBN 978-0-394-55798-4
Newcomer Barr's contribution to the Knopf Cooks American series dishes up 250 bravura recipes but oversauces them in nostalgia. Refreshingly nondoctrinaire, Barr argues for the ``American'' identity of the cuisine developed by waves of immigrants from Southern Italy, whose novel relative prosperity allowed them to refurbish traditional recipes with previously luxurious ingredients (``Poor families in Sicily might see the butcher only twice a year,'' she reminds us). Her recipes, all standouts, all lucidly explained, include a Calabrian eggplant salad seasoned with fresh mint; a parsley pizza; ``eggs in purgatory'' (``not so bad, that is, so hot, as being `allastet diavolo' ''); and a paprika sauce for pasta that demonstrates the synthesis of New World flavors. There are also obligatory ragus, meat rolls, lasagnas. Her frequent and repetitious interpolations of ``food memories'' from a cast of Italo-Americans distract, nonetheless, from the excellence of Barr's work; they skirt history and settle, mostly, for sentiment. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC/HomeStyle alternate. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-19508-6
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-679-76577-6
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