cover image KEEPING HOUSE: A Novel in Recipes

KEEPING HOUSE: A Novel in Recipes

Clara Sereni, , trans. from the Italian by Giovanna Miceli Jeffries and Susan Briziarelli. . SUNY, $25 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-7914-6479-3

Over 100 recipes guide and shape Sereni's autobiographical novel of self-discovery, originally published in Italy in 1987. Chapter titles read like cookbook sections ("Appetizers," "Second Courses," "Eggs," "Vegetables" and "Sweets"), and contain relevant recipes followed by Sereni's episodic, expressive musings on events related, either directly or tangentially, to the dish. The author (b. 1946) has led a rich life—a politically active Italian Jew from a prominent Roman family, she had a loving, domineering father (her mother died when she was young) and, as an adult, a somewhat unconventional love relationship—and she covers a lot of territory in this slim novel. Her narrative leans toward telegraphic, at times almost coded explication. And although the translators give some background on Italian history and culture and Sereni's family with an introduction and endnotes, it's not enough to close the gaps in the reader's understanding of this impressionistic, nonlinear work. As a cultural artifact, this novel definitely interests, but the recipes are its strongest point: foodies will relish learning how to make Arugula Spread, Vitello Tonnato (Veal with Tuna) and Zabaione Ice Cream. (May)