Lurking in the Cupboard #6 – ‘Italy In Bocca’ cookbookJuly 16, 2013
Something caught my eye this week which led to the next instalment in my occasional Lurking in the Cupboard series. And I’m e$pecially excited. (Yes, the dollar sign’s intentional.)
Turns out that a cookbook I bought in 1980 is worth about $US275. Friuli e Trieste in Bocca (roughly translated as A Taste of Friuli and Trieste) is one of a series of 20 regional Italian cookbooks published in 1978 but now out of print. The rare first edition was recently featured in L.A. Weekly’s ‘Chef’s Library’ series and Saveur magazine – and acknowledged as must-haves by collectors of vintage cookbooks.
Printed on heavy brown recycled paper (with what only looks like bits of grits incorporated into the wood-pulpy stock ) the Italy In Bocca series includes recipes, poems, proverbs, folklore and zany original artwork.
The cover illustrations for the series are nothing if not vibrant. I think this edition has captured Kirk Douglas during his Man from Snowy River period but the book predates the film so that’s pure coincidence.
Most of the books are trilingual – written in English, Italian and a regional dialect. And if that’s not confusing enough, my cookbook has both the Triestine and Friulian dialect, the latter being a Romance language in its own right.
People from this region are often portrayed as taciturn, but the illustrations of these stern women are enough to scare away small impressionable children.
Some of the traditional homestyle recipes were a revelation to my mother and me. Over the years, we’ve tried some of the more unusual ones, but we drew the line at frogs and chamois.
The editors weren’t much interested in food photography, opting instead for illustrations with props such as cats hovering near the polenta.
The trigger for revisiting the cookbook is that popular inner Sydney wine bar – 121BC Cantina & Enoteca will be holding a pop-up event in late July based on recipes from four of the Italy in Bocca series. Dishes will be produced by the talented PinBone collective who are obviously huge fans of the books too. Can’t wait to see what curiosities they serve up.