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Cucinaria: Letters from the Kitchen

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by Marialucia Luongo
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This is a bilingual salute to the home cooking of three Neapolitan families, including loving tributes to the women who shared recipes, kinship, and affection with the author.

"Now as in my childhood on every street corner one finds the scent of food and the sounds and sight of it being prepared and sold," writes Maria Lucia Luongo, a journalist whose quest to collect these recipes began with the discovery of the kitchen notebook belonging to her mother, Nina. Inside were many letters written to her by other women in the family, offering succinct culinary advice—barely recipes by contemporary American standards, but important enough for them to have been stained through use over the years as Nina worked to feed a family during the lean times of World War II in Southern Italy.

The notebook of family neighbor Ester, who came from a prosperous Calabrian family, displays a love of simple but rich sweet treats that were part of a bustling and generous household. The recipes of Maria, whom the author befriended as an adult, reflects a wider range of dishes and postwar prosperity, with more meat (but a similar love of desserts!).

Throughout the book, in an effort to make the recipes (particularly those for baking) usable by cooks accustomed to standardized measurements, Luongo often renders them in a familiar format. But many other recipes are written in a far less formal style, reflecting the fact that they were written by and for cooks who largely knew what they were doing in the kitchen. There are places where the English translation is less than perfect, but even these add to the charm of the Italian original.

Black-and-white photos of kitchen notebook pages. Paperback.

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