If I am blindly fond of Italy, it is not only because I have Italian blood (anecdote: my last name, Tramuta, was originally Tramutalo but shortened when our family’s ancestors arrived to Ellis Island) but because it was the first country I visited with my husband when we were a new, doe-eyed couple.
We spent almost a week in Rome in 2007, which was long before I discovered the work of Katie Parla, a food writer, food historian, culinary guide and fellow American whose stories about Rome’s evolution I have followed closely for years (she was also the inspiration behind one of my most popular posts!). It was also before I discovered Kristina Gill, a talented photographer and American expat whose work you may have seen on Design*Sponge, a site for which she serves as the food and drinks editor.
Not only do their experiences mirror my own in Paris, in my ways, but their new book “Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City ” taught me everything I needed to know to return to the city and experience it the informed way — that is, led entirely by my belly and their guidance.
What I found most fascinating about their book is how many parallels I could draw with the changes I’ve observed in Paris (some of which you’ll be able to read about in my book next year!). It’s also a city that bears the heavy weight of its own history and is romanticized in much the same way people tend to idealize life in Paris. Rome must have the best dining on every corner, must be steadfastly attached to their past and deliver on the laissez-faire fantasies trotted. Likewise, Paris has struggled to strike the appropriate balance between fantasyland and forward-thinking global city.
When it comes to food, the travails are similar and Katie and Kristina sought to document the city’s food landscape not only through disappearing recipes and fading traditions but through contemporary culinary innovations, through diverse cultures — like Roman Jews that have made their mark with their cucina ebraica romanesca– and through neighborhoods, many of which can be found on the city’s periphery, that have come to define Roman cooking today. They do what I and my fellow Paris writers have tried to accomplish with our own culinary coverage: break with the notion that Roman food must be hypertraditional to be authentic. Not only that, they demonstrate how modern recipes are deeply rooted in traditional Roman flavors.
In doing so, they offer what I would consider Roman food 101 and by that I don’t mean to imply that it is simple but rather that this beautiful book should serve as required reading for any food lover traveling to Rome or simply looking to integrate more Roman flavors into their own home cooking (and I’ve already marked more recipes than I can conceivably make in a week but I’m ready to try them all!).
With every tale and every photo, I felt my curiosity deepen. If I’m being entirely honest, I will admit that there are very few cookbooks that I have actually enjoyed reading cover to cover and even fewer that motivated me to both rush into the kitchen AND check airfare for a weekend trip to Rome. But this book nails what every cookbook should be: well-researched, inspiring, informative, and visual, with recipes that don’t intimidate.
Bravo, Kristina and Katie!
GIVEAWAY: 3 COPIES OF “TASTING ROME”!
I have THREE copies of the book to giveaway to you fine readers (and cooks?), along with extra goodies: photo prints by Kristina, an illustrated map of Rome from artist Lena Corwin, and a digital recipe booklet. To enter, follow the steps in the Rafflecopter widget below! Entries close Monday, April 18. Good luck!
Photos: Reprinted from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. Copyright © 2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.