An inspiring Italian cookbook

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, ItalyThe name of the Watermill’s first-ever cooking course, L’arte di mangiar bene, the art of eating well, was inspired by the famous Italian cookbook La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, written by a rich retired 19th Century businessman and landowner Pellegrino Artusi. It was composed in his house in the Piazza Massimo d’Azeglio, very close to the apartment in Florence where the Breckon family live when they are not at the mill.

Artusi was 71 when he finished the cookbook in 1891. He failed to find a publisher, so he published it himself. After a slowish start the cookbook really caught the public’s imagination and sales soared. It is now a perennial Italian bestseller and has been translated into a number of languages. The recipes are classic and timeless and we’ll be sharing some with you on later blogs and in our cookery course at the Watermill next Summer (details below).

Artusi bustLike many of his class in those times, Artusi welcomed progress and embraced science — and his book can be  regarded as truly scientific ( the first part of the title), since the recipes were the result of observation and experiment. He lived alone in his house in the Piazza d’Azeglio, with a butler from his home town of Forlimpopoli and a Tuscan cook, who undoubtedly made the dishes while his master watched and tasted. (I’m sure the butler did, too.)

The book also had profound cultural significance: it was written in Italian rather than any local dialect and was the first to bring together recipes from all the various regions, so it helped to make the citizens of the Kingdom of Italy (created in 1861) feel part of a united nation. And it was not written for professional chefs, as was customary at the time, but for middle-class housewives and those servants who helped them cook family meals.

But above all the tone is friendly and reassuring, full of straightforward practical advice – and humorous comments.  I particularly like his note on apple strudel: “Do not be alarmed if this dessert looks like some ugly creature such as a giant leech or a shapeless snake after you cook it, you will like the way it tastes.”

We’ll have more from Pelegrino Artusi in coming blogs and we’ll also be celebrating his inspiration in our L’Arte di mangiar bene cookery course at The Watermill, where you’ll not only learn the secrets of healthy Italian eating but also savour la bella vita italiana.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italypanzanella19-26 August – L’arte di mangiar bene 

with Lois Breckon, Ingrid Fabbian and The Watermill team

To learn more about this delicious cookery course, please click here




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