Celebrity Chef/Award Winning Author Maria Liberati shares another review on a book about Leanardo DaVinci that paralells her book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:DaVinci style. For more info on Leonardo DaVinci join 100,000 worldwide subscribers at www.marialiberati.com.
Editor: Chris Manganaro
Have you ever wondered whether or not the great minds of the past thought much about food? What their thoughts on the cuisine of their time might have been? Apparently Dave Dewitt wonders such things if his book Da Vinci’s Kitchen A Secret History of Italian Cuisine is any indication.
Dewitt’s book does not only speak of Da Vinci of course, but rather uses Da Vinci like a character in the grand scheme of things. In this case, the big picture is that of the history of Italian cuisine. Many books have been written on the subject and they all draw from a similar pool of research to some extent. What often differentiates one book from another is what they focus on and how they go about saying what they want to say.
Dewitt goes about presenting his work in a rather textbook way. His book is quite literally like a textbook. Along with the use of pictures and diagrams we are given sections and gray boxes of information. It feels like a history book. While this is informative and may appeal to some people, it may throw other readers off. Also, while some pictures work in accompanying the words on the page, others feel less connected. Still, most hold some interest to the reader. The writing can be a bit dry and lacking in transitions, but it is varied enough that it can draw the reader back in a bit using poetry and anecdotes. Being a rather short book overall, its wavering pace is not too bad. It just means that it might take longer to read than one expects.
The author himself answers the question of whether this is a cookbook or not in his “Note on Recipes” section of the introduction. He admits that the book is written as a food history, which goes along with the textbook feel, and so it is not a cookbook. The recipes are easily found at the end of chapters and he worked hard to present them in such a way as to make it possible to reproduce them with as much ease as one could expect to have with recipes of so long ago. The fact that these recipes reach so far back into history actually makes them quite intriguing. In actuality, along with the one’s Dewitt presents at the end of each chapter, there are even more recipes included throughout the book; however, these do not include measurements or steps of any certain kind. They are merely written in gray boxes, as if they are mere artifacts. It is understandable that Dewitt was not able to do anything more with these, but they are still probably possible to make if one tried hard enough. In the end, it seems this book may be better off not being used as only a cookbook. It works as one, but not solely so.
For those who were interested in the book due to seeing Da Vinci in the title, you may find yourself feeling a tad disappointed. There is only one chapter focused specifically on Da Vinci and even then it does not only focus on Da Vinci’s kitchen and feelings about food. The way it weaves its tale leaves the reader thirsty for more. Despite the fact that Da Vinci is mentioned throughout the book, it does not exactly make sure the reader’s desire is quenched. Those looking to learn more about Da Vinci are better off looking elsewhere as this book is diet Da Vinci or Da Vinci light.
Dewitt’s book is a good read for those looking for a lighter look at the history of Italian cuisine. If you aren’t looking to learn everything about Da Vinci and Italian food, this is at least a good introduction to both subjects that will hopefully whet your appetite for more.
For more on DaVinci Get The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:DaVinci Style by Maria Liberati