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OP: We Called it Macaroni

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by Nancy Verde Barr
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We Called it Macaroni (1990) is an exploration of Italian-American cuisine in the hands of immigrant descendants who are removed by multiple generations from “the old country.”

An inevitable outcome of immigrant cuisine in the United States is a hybridization—an effort to preserve the flavors, textures, and aromas of the origin country while utilizing the available and approximate ingredients of a new land that has its own history and influences. Within a generation Italian-American cuisine not only achieved this blending, it also amalgamated various regional traditions into a new whole.

Nancy Verde Barr (1944– ), raised within a large community of Italian-Americans in Providence, Rhode Island, seeks out the traditional, specifically southern, Italian dishes of her ancestors in an attempt to understand and document the food they ate in their native land, thereby venturing into that pesky territory of “authenticity.” With thoughtful headnotes and sidebars, Barr effectively conjures the food culture of Southern Italy, whence most Italian immigrants to the United States came.

We wouldn’t blame you, however, for jumping straight to the recipes, as they are so enticing as to keep us flipping from one page to another, determining what our next meal should be. We spot Calabrian artichokes, pan fried with a spicy, garlicky white wine sauce. Then we turn to Apulian eggplant—filled with a mix of breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, and parsley—rolled and baked in tomato sauce. And then to a delectable leg of lamb roasted with pancetta, sweet sausage, and herbs. The final sections with cookies, cakes, breads, and pies will certainly keep you wide-eyed and eager to hop in the kitchen, as well.

We are sad to part with, but happy to be able to offer, a Very Good Plus copy with a Very Good, clipped jacket. Just as valuable in getting fresh meal ideas as it is in instilling a sense of history and culture.

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