Our most recent guest on the Eye on Italy podcast was Mark Leslie,* author of Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family, published by Gemelli Press.
I received a copy of Mark’s book last Thursday afternoon, just in time to do a little interview prep for Monday evening’s taping. I was hoping to get at least most of it read by the time we’d be speaking with Mark — and that turned out to be no problem at all. I flew threw this book in just a couple days. To be honest, I wish I could have savored it a bit more but the approaching interview gave me an excuse to keep picking it up. And believe me, no one had to twist my arm to do so.
Beyond the Pasta is about Mark’s month with an Italian family in Viterbo, learning both the Italian language and Italian cuisine. The book is Mark’s journal of experiences during that time, each curiosity and peculiarity noted and explored, with mysteries often left to be answered in subsequent chapters. I particularly enjoyed how we live through Mark’s time in Viterbo without misunderstandings corrected until they were done so in real time, even something so basic as the nickname of one of his hosts — I think many of us can identify with mishearing/mispronouncing/misunderstanding Italian names you’ve never heard before!
Oh, and as an added bonus, you get nearly 30 of Nonna’s authentic Italian recipes, including a previously secret ricetta for what looks to be a delicious yogurt cake Mark calls “Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa” because the ingredients are measured out using the empty yogurt cup.
Mark’s love for both Italian culture and his adopted family shines through his writing; his enthusiasm is contagious and kept me turning pages. I was truly sad when Mark’s time with his adopted family was over and even shed a tear or two. I remember very clearly what it was like to leave Italy reluctantly, and all that came flooding back to me with Mark’s words.
Even as someone who has lived in Italy for seven-plus years, I found Mark’s story lively and engaging — and believe me, that doesn’t always happen for me with books in this genre. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Italy and all things Italian; of course it would make a perfect holiday gift for the Italophile on your list.
Subscribe to my Book Reviews feed — book reviews ONLY, which aren’t published to the main feed — by visiting Feedburner.