“Cooking is a little rascal, it will often lead to despair”.
This is what Pellegrino Artusi said in the introduction of his self-published cooking manual, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. He wasn’t being pessimistic. He was just being honest, trying to offer some consolation for those who have to throw away a deflated soufflé twenty times before getting it right. He himself mentions his numerous failed attempts at making minestrone, although he did finally reach a satisfactory recipe.
Pellegrino Artusi wasn’t your average ‘chef’. In fact, he wasn’t really a chef at all, just an Italian businessman interested in good food and the scientific method. Writing just two decades after the unification of Italy in 1848, Artusi’s mission was to compile a manuscript of authentic Italian recipes from all regions of Italy. He was a pioneer in this aspect – the first person to unite Italian cookery in one book, or at least the first two attempt such a feat.
If you read his book, you’ll notice it’s not your typical cookbook. Artusi’s approach was a scientific one. He loved the Scientific Method and he took time to test every single recipe through a process of trial-and-error until it was perfected. According to Artusi, to cook well, all you need are three things: “passion, a great deal of attention and the habit of being precise“.
Artusi was also concerned with nutrition.He says we must learn to understand our bodies and know how to give it the right nutrition. He often shares his insight on how and when to eat certain dishes, as well as the side effects of certain foods. “All members of the cabbage family, be they white, red, yellow or green, are children or stepchildren of Aeolus, god of the winds.” Yes, cavolo nero will bring along some wind for sure!
In essence, Artusi loves good things. “I love what is beautiful and good, wherever it is found, and I am repulsed when I see, as it is often said, the ruination of God’s gifts. Amen.” Amen indeed.
Some other quotes I love from Artusi’s book:
“The best sauce you can offer your guests is a happy expression on your face and heartfelt hospitality.”
“If I knew who invented the oven, I should like to erect a monument to him at my own expense. In this age of monument mania, I think he would deserve it more than anyone else.”
and the rest of that seemingly pessimistic quote…
“Cooking is a little rascal. It may often drive you to despair. Yet it is also very rewarding, for when you do succeed, or overcome a difficulty in doing so, you feel the satisfaction of great triumph.”
Next to Marcella Hazan and Julia Child, Pellegrino Artusi is my culinary and literary hero, a foodie saint, an inspiration for all things related to cooking. Which is why I love La Festa Artusiana, a festival dedicated solely to Pellegrino Artusi and his beliefs on cooking.
LA FESTA ARTUSIANA
If you happen to be in Italy during June, you
must really ought to attend La Festa Artusiana, an annual week-long food festival dedicated to Pellegrino Artusi himself. Held in his hometown of Forlimpopli, about 80 km southeast of Bologna, the festival is a celebratory expresssion of not only Artusi’s written recipes, but also his passion, precision and scientific approach to cooking.
What can you do at La Festa Artusiana?
Eat, of course.
Buy some specialty products from the markets including wine, cheese, olive oil, cured meats, honey, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
Eat some more.
Steal Buy some wine.
Drink some wine.
Anxiously wait for someone to bring the next round of food.
I think you get the idea.
Really though, it’s more than just an opportunity to pig out. It’s a chance to experience the Artusian spirit, to taste a unified, yet diverse, Italian cuisine, and to sample specialities from every region of Italy. It’s an impressive food festival in a small town in Italy that not too many people know about. Did I mention it’s way more affordable than Milano’s EXPO, and much less crowded? Enough said.
This year’s festival runs from June 20th – 28th, 2015. Most events/tastings happen during the evening from 7:00pm to 11:00pm, so it’s best to go for dinner. You can reach Forlimpopli by train from Bologna.
Click here for more details on the festival (In Italian).
You can find Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well here (an good book for any foodie to have on his/her shelf).