Weekly Pinprick: Culinary Arts Over Literature

Pellegrino Artusi has become a historical figure as he wrote a cookbook for present and future generations — one that earned him the title of father of Italian cuisine.

Pellegrino Artusi
By Simone LetariOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

About Pellegrino Artusi, the father of Italian cuisine

The best chefs in the world have been exported from Italy. They can be credited with turning culinary arts into one of our sectors of excellence.  Pellegrino Artusi has become a historical figure as he wrote a cookbook entitled “La scienza in cucina o l’arte di mangiar bene”  (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) for present and future generations — one that earned him the title of “father” of Italian cuisine.

His book has sold more copies than “Pinocchio” and “The Betrothed.” It is not simply a compendium of recipes since Pellegrino Artusi, using his witty style, created a social-didactic manual accompanying his delicious recipes — complete with explanations regarding their nutritional value, in addition to cultural and social considerations on the pleasure of fine food. Culinary arts had the upper hand over literature. But not immediately. Just like any other great author worthy of respect, Artusi had to shoulder the expenses of printing the cookbook describing the concoctions he gathered during his travels (especially through northern and central Italy).

Artusi lived from the early 19th to the early 20th century, experiencing the scenario between the Risorgimento and all the way to the Unification of Italy. He was an important part of that historical period since he became the author of the Italian culinary Risorgimento, an actual “bard” of Italian achievements at the stove. And so Italian cuisine was born with Artusi; it was apparently an actual revolution even from the linguistic standpoint as it banned those French terms that had been dominating the scene for centuries. According to Artusi: “After the unification of Italy, I thought it necessary that one should also care about a unified spoken language.

Aimo Moroni (the acclaimed chef we are all acquainted with) describes him as “the Garibaldi of our cuisine” — he was the one to have conquered our country. His first failures were the platform for his belated acknowledgements. Two publishers refused to print the book. Whereas renowned anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza forecast its success and his predictions exceeded all expectations.

Women were the ones who ordained the cookbook’s popularity. It is still being published today — over one-hundred years after its first release. And it is very much appreciated by brides as a wedding present. Artusi supervised 14 editions of his book between 1891 and 1910. A total of 111 editions have been published and more than one-million copies have been sold. It has been translated into English, Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese and Russian. Intermundia created an APP in 2009, where 790 recipes can be consulted “at the touch of a telephone” using iPhones and iPods.

Artusi, the son of a grocer, was born in Forlimpopoli on August 4, 1820. He spent the last years of his life in Florence. Pellegrino Artusi, the “Made in Italy” ambassador, died in his Florentine home located in Piazza d’Azelio at the age of ninety. A man who rescued so many marriages.

Translation by Vittoria Farallo

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