I am very grateful to Mr. Rusher for sending me a delightful book: Romeo Salta’s Le Delizie della mia Cucina. Salta arrived in New York an illegal immigrant in 1929, thereafter working his way up to become a chef, and, in time, a renowned restauranteur. He died in 1998, aged 93. Le Delizie… is the Italian version of a recipe book he originally published in English as The Pleasures of Italian Cooking. The recipes look excellent, and the book will be a useful complement to my copy of Anna del Conte’s The Gastronomy of Italy, but what drew Mr. Rusher’s attention to the book in the first place were not its recipes, but its quaint illustrations…
These depict anthropomorphosised vegetables in a variety of situations. Looking closer at the illustrations, I saw the names Varin and de Gonet on each of them. Amédée Varin, I discovered, was their artist, and Gabriel de Gonet had been their publisher. They had originally appeared in a book entitled L’Empire des Légumes, (The Empire of Vegetables) sometime, I would guess, in the 1850s or ’60s. Varin evidently illustrated at least one other book for de Gonet. I could find little information about Varin on-line, beyond that he sometimes worked with an Eugéne Varin, I guess, perhaps, his brother, and that his style is seen as reminiscent of Grandville’s.
Staying with the vegetabley theme, here is Salta’s recipe for Carciofi alla Romana (Artichokes, Roman style): first, obtain six small, very tender artichokes; discard their outer leaves and trim the tips of the others. Open out their centres, taking care to keep them intact, and extract the hairy ‘chokes,’ which are barbe (beards) in Italian. Place the artichokes in cold water and lemon juice, to avoid discolouration. Re-fill the artichoke centres, using a mixture of a quarter cup of olive oil, two handfuls of finely-chopped parsley, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, and a few pinches of fresh mentuccia, or of dried mint, a teaspoon of salt, & pepper.
Stand the artichokes close to one another in a saucepan, drizzle them with more olive oil, and cook them on a medium heat for 10 minutes (presumably having added water to the pan—the recipe doesn’t say how much, but this variant suggests just covering them with water) Then, add 2 glasses of white wine, and half a cup of chicken broth to the pan, with more salt & pepper. Cover, and cook on a medium heat for about 45 minutes, or, until the artichokes become tender. A vegetable stock could, of course, be substituted to make the dish suitable for vegetarians.
Click on the images above, by the way, to see the illustrations enlarged, and in full.Posted by misteraitch at July 22, 2005 10:32 AM