Rome For All Seasons: A Cookbook, by Diane Seed
My basic requirements for a cookbook are modest. If a book has recipes that sound tasty and I would like to try, the book is worthwhile, even if the general approach of the book is not one I would generally appreciate it, and even if there are a great many dishes that I do not find appetizing for one reason or another, even the presence of a few good recipes makes a book worth reading and worth taking recipes from. This book meets that modest standard. It does not meet it by as large a degree as I would want, but it does meet that standard, and the reason why it meets that standard is that the author includes as part of the Roman-themed dishes enough Jewish dishes that there are some foods that do not have pork or shellfish in them in some fashion, and that is enough to provide some recipes that are worth stealing and worth using. Again, if you are a reader with very narrow dietary interests, this book will not have a lot of interest, but if you like Italian food at least somewhat, and I think that is the case for many people, this book will be of at least some interest to you as it was to me.
This book is a bit more than 100 pages and is divided into several chapters that, in order, are roughly the order that one would eat a multi-course meal at a fine restaurant in Rome. Indeed, the book does precisely seek to convey the dining of a composite of fine Roman restaurants listed at the end of the book. After an introduction, the author gives 40 pages of pasta, rice, and soups that make up the largest portion of recipes in the book. And, I must say, these were not as impressive as I would have liked. What I did like a good deal was the next chapter on vegetables, which included a few tasty and interesting dishes with country potatoes, asparagus, and fairly straightforward salads. After that the author discusses recipes with fish and shellfish, most of which did not meet my dietary requirements, alas. Then comes a chapter on poultry and meat that also includes some interesting options that are worth trying, before the book ends with some desserts, as well as basics, a glossary, a guide to Roman food, mail order sources, and an index.
Is Roman food worth emulating? That depends on a lot of factors. This author, like many cookbook writers, has a bit of a hipster approach when it comes to recipes, so one does not find the sort of straightforward recipes that most people would prefer eating, but rather fussy and elite-oriented recipes that cost a fair amount to make and that appeal to rather fussy and refined palates. Occasionally the author refers to a particular recipe as being a sturdy peasant recipe and this is a fair signifier of the author’s own approach to food. In reading this book, though, I was reminded of the quirks of Italy that I noticed in my first visit to the country when it came to what food was available when, and I have to say that while I do not mind the simple and straightforward approach of Italian food in practice, given the simplicity and straightforwardness of my own tastes, this book does not share the straightforwardness that one finds in general eating, but rather the sort of highbrow dining that one finds in fine dining places in Rome, and if that is appealing to the potential reader than this book will likely deliver on expectations.