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  • Writer's pictureFiona Richmond

Magnaccioni: My Food…My Italy by Anne Pia - Reviewed by Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food, Scotland Food & Drink. 


I’m sure that many readers of these pages are fellow Italophiles. What’s not to love about a country with so much beauty and culture which centres around savouring regional food and drink at the table? And also like me, I bet the word ‘Magnaccioni’ in this book’s title sparked your interest. New to me, it’s a Roman dialect for ‘people who live to eat and drink well’. Oh yes, that’s us!


I was introduced to author Anne Pia by a food historian who managed to squeeze me into the launch event at none other than Valvona & Crolla (where else?), the treasure trove of Italian (and Scottish) produce celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.


I could have listened to Anne all night, as she so evocatively read extracts from the book and shared her food memories. The way she described the joy of watching Italians with “visceral” pleasure; the rituals around making and drinking coffee, shopping for pastries on a Sunday or relaxing with antipasti in the sunshine, perfectly captured how so many of us feel about this special country’s food and drink culture. It was infectious. 


An esteemed author and poet, this is surprisingly her first foray into food writing. A very personal memoir, as the grandchild of Southern Italian immigrants, Anne invites us to share her Italian food heritage, and the recipes, stories and music that have influenced her.


Divided into enticingly named chapters, from ‘Antipasti…relaxing with guests’ to ‘The best of life’, ‘L’ora dell’aperitivo’ (that delicious drink and snack before dinner) and ‘The sweet South’, Anne lyrically describes traditions and food customs, her memories and anecdotes, with accompanying recipes, from her famous frittata and beef sugo to homemade ricottamushrooms with lemons and walnuts and focaccia. There are drink recommendations too, as well as playlists of classical and modern Italian tunes (oh I can hear them now). 


Anne’s philosophy is one of simple food, made with good ingredients that respect the land and seas, to be shared around the table with music and conversation. They are dishes and ingredients that are easy to make at home and to get stuck into with friends and family.


It's easy to romanticise Italian food culture, but this book doesn’t aim to do that. It’s about sharing joy, real food inspired by precious heritage, reminding us of all of the pleasures of the table and what this can add to our lives. Whether a fellow Italophile or not, this is surely something that we can all get behind. Buon appetito!

***

Anne’s book can be purchased online at Luath Press or, at the time of writing, Valvona & Crolla and The Edinburgh Bookshop.





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