Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte

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Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A memoir with food from one of the finest writers about Italian food. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099505990

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People who are serious about food will know the name of Anna Del Conte. She's a serious writer about Italian food but not someone who has courted fame via the television screen. You'll have met her in places like Sainsbury's Magazine or read some of her brilliant writing about the food of her native Italy.

Anna was born in Milan in that much gentler time before the Second World War. Her parents were well-to-do and well-connected. The family lived well and there were staff in their apartment to take over the time-consuming work. Anna's mother loved to cook, but not the day-to-day drudgery of cooking for a family. Good food was plentiful right up to the later years of the war, when shortages forced Anna and her family to move to the countryside.

Even then food – and excellent food at that – was still in plentiful supply. At the time Anna ate some of the best food of her life but before the end of the war she became accustomed to throwing herself in ditches to avoid being machine gunned as strafing planes flew over. She twice went to prison. Her stories of the war and the bravery of ordinary people who sheltered those on the run, such as army deserters, are worthy of a book on their own.

In 1949 she came to England as an au pair. The country was a culinary wasteland and Anna looked forward to the time when she would be returning home. But it was only a few days before she left that she met Oliver Waley, the man she would marry, and despite returning to Italy she couldn't wait to get back to England. Since then she's lived in England, but had holiday homes in Italy and been a regular visitor to the country. Does she now consider herself to be Italian or English? Even she doesn't really know.

The memoir is frank. She's quite open about affairs she's had and the successes and failures of her life. Brought up to be self-effacing there's little in the book which is self-congratulatory despite her many achievements and it makes refreshing and interesting reading.

It is though, a memoir with food. Each chapter is rounded off with mouth-watering recipes which usually illuminate the subject of the preceding chapter. There's the titular risotto with nettles, which I am determined to try next spring, through to pancakes stuffed with ricotta – which are going to get an outing rather sooner. All the recipes are written for the average cook and feed varying numbers of people. Bollito Misto might outface you, but there's bound to be something to everyone's taste. There are thirty seven recipes in total and when combined with such an interesting and readable memoir it's difficult to think of the book as being other than very good value.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

We've been impressed by some other 'memoirs with food' and you might like to look at Cupboard Love by Laura Lockington and A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson.

Buy Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte at Amazon.com.


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