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Book Review: Jamie’s Italy

Fine Cooking Issue 84
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Jamie’s Italy
by Jamie Oliver
(Hyperion)

In Jamie’s Italy, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver takes on Italian cooking, inviting us on a whirlwind trip around the boot to
explore the food of the “real” Italy, as he puts it, from antipasti to desserts. While in substance this book is not that different from other well-researched collections of traditional Italian recipes, Oliver’s infectious energy and obvious passion for the food drew me in and sent me straight to the kitchen. Oliver’s recipes are simple to follow, most can be made with easy-to-find ingredients, and the ones I’ve tried—including a delicious fennel risotto with ricotta and dried chiles—were quite tasty. His headnotes and introductory
chapters also pack a lot of useful information, helping to put the recipes in context. And the book is a beauty to behold. It’s filled with gorgeous, atmospheric photographs of inviting dishes as well as of Jamie Oliver himself roaming around the back streets of Italy, making pasta with Italian matrons, and sharing wine with craggy-faced shepherds (though I must admit that the photos seem a little contrived at times).

In so many ways, this is my kind of Italian cookbook: It’s honest to the food yet fresh and inspiring. And it exudes charm right down to the intentional imprecision of the ingredient lists (“a pinch of ground fennel seeds” or “4 large handfuls of fresh basil”), which remind me of the way my Italian mother writes her own recipes.

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