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Description - Rosemary and Bitter Oranges by Patrizia Chen

This rich combination of cookbook and memoir tells the story of a family and the secrets of its kitchen in post-World War II Tuscany. Suffused with the scents of simmering pots of cacciucco - a hearty, local seafood stew - and the vibrant coastal blossoms, Patrizia Chen's childhood was centred in the sun-drenched kitchen and adjoining herb garden of the family home in Livorno, on the Tuscan seacoast. There, in a world struggling to recover from the devastation of the Second World War, Emilia, the cook, shared her craft with her young charge, while Patrizia's grandmother, Nonna Valentina, managed a household still containing chamber pots, sacks of chestnut flour and coal-burning stoves. Eccentric characters, aromatic dishes, white Carrara marble terraces and a magical garden come alive in a warm and humorous narrative. Rosemary and Bitter Oranges will captivate readers with its simple, delicious food and the author's wit and abiding love for tradition.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781844080373
ISBN-10: 1844080374
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 125mm x 17mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 19-Apr-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Rosemary and Bitter Oranges by Patrizia Chen

UK Kirkus Review » The Tuscan sun is beating down on the boisterous town of Livorno and from the kitchen the most delicious smells are wafting into the garden, where a small girl plays with her favourite dolls. This was Patrizia Chen's childhood and nothing could have been more idyllic. Although the household was suffering from the deprivations left in the wake of the Second World War, Emilia, their devoted cook, still managed to create mouth-watering meals to tempt the family - meals that, at seven years old, Patrizia pestered to learn how to cook. Even as she grew into a typical teenager - dreaming of boys, fashionable clothes and all things American - Patrizia never lost her love of Tuscany and its people. Life took place in a house of white Carrara marble, ransacked by German invaders, and yet retaining the elegance of its former years. Alongside the luxuries of central heating and bathrooms, it was still a household ruled by the waste not, want not ideals of wartime. And yet above all it was a house filled with warmth and fun. In her memoir, Chen recalls those happy days with sparkling prose, interspersed with some of her long cherished and delectable recipes. Alongside remembrances of her grandparents, Nonna Valentina and Nonno GianPaolo, her doting parents and her siblings, Patrizia also writes about some of the eccentric characters who helped to make her life so colourful. There are anecdotes about strange neighbours, strict teachers and close friends, not to mention the brash local market traders with their fast talk and persuasive sales techniques. The author's ready wit and love of good food shines through. This memoir is as fragrant as a jar of spices and as satisfying as a bowl of minestrone. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » From an Italian journalist who lives part of the year in New York, a beguiling memoir of growing up in a Tuscan city, learning to cook local and family favorites. Chen's memories are soft-edged and nostalgic as chapters such as "Garden Lessons" and "In Emilia's Kitchen" recapture the way it was in Livorno on the Tuscan coast during the postwar years. Born in 1948, she missed the hardships of the war years, during which the family's elegant home was taken over by a destructive German regiment and food was in short supply, but her relatives still practiced the economies learned then. Drawers were filled with wrapping paper, bits of ribbon, and pencil stubs that might be useful one day; one excessively thrifty aunt kept a jar labeled "STRINGS. Too short to be useful." Chen and her brother were constantly reminded how fortunate they were to have food, which they were forbidden to waste. (Here the author inserts a recipe for economical and filling minestrone; other chapters also include relevant recipes.) Emilia, the family cook, taught her how to cook and shop daily at the local markets. Chen describes their house with its marble terrace and vegetable garden, the nearby convent school she attended (the competitive girl strove to be the most virtuous), and visits to her paternal grandparents' seaside home in Sicily, where freshly caught swordfish was a staple at meals and the bedroom had a wonderful frescoed ceiling. She also vividly evokes period housekeeping details: the laundress washed their sheets in spring water and dried them on the grass; the pantry contained only dry goods, as perishables were bought daily in limited quantities; the family didn't acquire electrical appliances until the '60s. Chen entered adolescence during that decade, and she notes the growing American influence on music, television, and fashion that irrevocably changed the way Italians lived. She closes with a bittersweet account of visiting present-day Livorno. A richly textured past intimately evoked. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Patrizia Chen

Patrizia Chen is a former professional model and a correspondent for numerous Italian publications. She lives in New York and in Todi, Umbria, Italy.