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Silver Spoon - Italy's 50 year old best seller

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#1 kutsu

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 06:57 AM

It is the original foodie nation, a place where the notion of celebrity chef recipe books is just as likely to be swallowed as ready-made lasagne. Unlike us Brits, with our ubiquitous collections of Jamies, Nigellas and Delias, Italians learn to cook from their parents and grandparents, and take a serious amount of pride in knowing how to rustle up supper without a recipe to hand. There is, however, one exception: Il Cucchiaio d'Argento, The Silver Spoon, a 55-year-old, hefty 1,264-page cookery book. It's been the most popular recipe book in Italy since 1950 and is the book every bride is given on her wedding day. Now into its eighth edition, it's about to be published in English for the first time. Chef Giorgio Locatelli, of Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli, recalls, 'When my grandmother passed away I was about 10. She had always cooked for us, so my mum had to become the family's cook. We have never been a very book-oriented family and my grandmother certainly never had a cookery book. When my mum started cooking, she decided to buy one book, and that book was Silver Spoon. To this date, it is the only book she owns (except mine of course!) and she always goes for the short recipes - of which, fortunately, there are many.'

Gennaro Contaldo, legendary chef of Il Passione in London and Jamie Oliver's mentor, calls the book 'my kitchen bible. I have had a copy for as long as I can remember, and I would not be without it'.


http://observer.guar...1585306,00.html


This looks to be comming out in good old England in a week or two and I'm very interested in grabbing a copy, but does anyone here already have it, and is it worth adding to the collection?

It's pretty huge at over 1,200 pages. Read more at the above link.

#2 Mimi Sheraton

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Posted 14 October 2005 - 08:33 AM

I've had a copy, in Italian, for at least 30 years..it is terrific but you really have to care a lot about Italian food...I have no idea what changes might be wrought in an English edition might or if it has been up-dated to include different recipes than in my very old, tattered copy. Good as it is, I prefer another huge Italian recipe compendium..Il Talismano della Felicita by Ada Boni. A much abbreviated English version was published here many years ago as The Talisman Cookbook. I do not know if that is in print.

#3 chrisnorth

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 01:15 PM

This looks to be comming out in good old England in a week or two and I'm very interested in grabbing a copy, but does anyone here already have it, and is it worth adding to the collection?
It's pretty huge at over 1,200 pages. Read more at the above link.

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it is just now on sale in england and will be out in the us in a few weweks.

i have a copy since i work for the publisher (and am therefore necessarily biased). but speaking personally YES it is definitely worth it (at £24.95 / $39.95) -- my girlfriend and i have already started to cook from it and have a long list of recipies we're planning to try.

note that it is NOT a step-by-step "how to cook" type book -- you won't find a 12-page illustrated "how to make a perfect risotto step-by-step" recipe here. it is rather a compilation of recipies from all over italy, originally published by DOMUS magazine in italy and now, after 8 editions and several million copies in italy, in english for the first time.

phaidon has a dedicated micro-site for the book which is here:
silver spoon
chris

Edited by chrisnorth, 19 October 2005 - 01:16 PM.


#4 russ parsons

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 01:48 PM

I've had a copy, in Italian,  for at least 30 years..it is terrific but you really have to care a lot about Italian food...I have no idea what changes might be wrought in an English edition might  or if it has been up-dated to include different recipes than in my very old, tattered copy.  Good as it is, I prefer another huge Italian recipe compendium..Il Talismano della Felicita by Ada Boni. A much abbreviated English version was published here many years ago as The Talisman Cookbook. I do not know if that is in print.

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here here! "talismano" is a wonderful book, full of great ideas for those willing to ferret them out. unfortunately, the english translation was done pre-foodie and a lot of compromises were made along the way.

#5 Andy Lynes

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 04:19 PM

I have a copy which I haven't had a proper chance to look through yet, but with a section at the back with menus and recipes from the likes of Mario Batali, there must have been some changes from the original version.

Is it worth adding to your collection? Well, its certainly going to take up a wodge of shelf space, and while it doesn't go into sufficient detail of all the basics to call it a cookery bible, it covers an awful lot of ground and is very reasonably priced for what you get. I was a bit diappointed with the paper quality and consequently the pictures, but I guess it's the recipes that count and I haven't yet given them a try out.

#6 rancho_gordo

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 05:05 PM

I think it's the opposite of inspirational. It's more like a dictionary for when you're stuck. I almost wish I hadn't bought it.

Add me to the list of Ada Boni fans.
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#7 russ parsons

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 05:34 PM

for italo-freaks, one of my favorite references is the "grande enciclopedia della gastronomia illustrata". it has not been translated, but for those with rudimentary kitchen italian, it's not too tough to figure out. published by readers digest (of all things), it is like a new larousse for italian food, with great color art, good cultural sidebars and wonderful recipes (drawn from lots of good books, including jeanne parola's big book on naples. it's a little hard to find, but can be ordered online sometimes.

#8 helenas

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 11:15 AM

i'm in rancho's camp - i detest this book - poorly designed, cheap paper, bad photography, boring recipes and as i mentioned somewhere else looks like it belongs to the remainder section of Borders...

#9 chrisnorth

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 08:29 AM

okay, so so far some of you hate the paper, some of you hate the photographs, and some of you hate the design. tough crowd!

to take a few of the points that have been raised:

it's true that the book is something like a dictionary or encyclopedia. remember the history of the book -- the editors of DOMUS magazine (under Gio Ponte) commissioned experts to collect traditional recipies from every region of italy. i think that the book was used as a reference book by italian home (and professional) cooks looking for ideas, not as a "teach yourself how to cook" book such as julia child's THE JOY OF COOKING. SILVER SPOON is surely unmatched in the english language for the breadth and authenticity of italian recipes presented.

it's certainly true that there are some recipies, even sections ("brains") that will not be of interest to most anglophone cooks. we made the decision to keep these in for authenticity; and besides, with 2,000 recipies, if you don't want to cook brain you've got a lot more to chose from.

the paper is in fact very expensive, difficult to source paper chosen for its translucency, its relatively low bulk (bulky paper would have made the book too large to bind given the 1,200 page count) and for the slightly ambiguous coated/uncoated feel. most cookbooks use coated paper since images look sexy on glossy paper, but the text is then difficult to read. this paper works relatively well for both images and text. we particularly liked the slight translucency.

photography: we are incredibly proud of the photography, which was newly commissioned for the book from one of the uk's leading food photographers, jason lowe. he shot everything in his studio using ingredients bought from london's borough market, shooting only in natural light. i have heard a lot of compliments for the photography though off the record might agree that there are one or two where the colour balance (in the reproduction, not the originals) could be improved when we reprint.

in any case, please give the book a look and make your own judgments. it is already widely available in the UK (and by all reports selling off the shelves) and should be arriving in stores as we speak in the US.

i'm happy to note that the reception for the book has been so positive that we are effectively sold out of it and expect to see stores run out of stock well before christmas.

by the way, here are a few links to articles about the book:

observer
independent
london eating
publisher's site


thanks

#10 rancho_gordo

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 08:53 AM

okay, so so far some of you hate the paper, some of you hate the photographs, and some of you hate the design. tough crowd!


It's a good thing that we're a tough crowd. Hopefully we're not your target audience.
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#11 chrisnorth

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 03:34 AM

It's a good thing that we're a tough crowd. Hopefully we're not your target audience.

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our target audience is anyone who is interested in italian cuisine. i suppose the book isn't directly targeting the obsessive foodie crowd that we are on egullet. but then again i'd hope that those with a passionate interest in italian food would be interested in the book for the wide range of recipes collected from all regions of italy over its 50+ year history as well as as a reflection of the recipes italians themselves have turned to over the years.

anyway, the criticism is helpful. we've got thick skin. there certainly are things that can be improved about the book and we expect to publish many editions over a very long period of time. your comments are going to go directly to the editorial and design team! so keep them coming.

in the meantime i would be very curious to hear if you think that there are more "undiscovered classics" out there. this forum has mentioned two other italian books -- what other great classic cookbooks are there that don't exist in english but should?

#12 Steven Blaski

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 08:42 PM

in the meantime i would be very curious to hear if you think that there are more "undiscovered classics" out there.  this forum has mentioned two other italian books -- what other great classic cookbooks are there that don't exist in english but should?

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There was mention upthread of Ada Boni's "The Talisman"--it could use a new and updated edition. Also, Boni's "Italian Regional Cooking" is another wonderful book that's out of print in the U.S. These two get my vote.

#13 FoodMan

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 01:01 PM

Well, I still have not made up my mind if I will be buying this book or not. Mosty likely I will, both to support my book buying addiction and becuase Italian cuisine is on eof my top favorites. So far I have not seen an argument as to why this book is not a good buy besides some aesthetics.

Chris, the fact that the book has a "Brains" section tips the scale sharply in favor of the book (even though I might never be able to make the recipe in the US). So for future reference, please do not remove such wonderful sections from any publication (Marcella Hazan has one in hers too I think). They add to the adventure of continually looking for what a cuisine is about, they give a sense of realism to the experience IMO. I also would love to see a copy of Ada Boni's work.

I guess my next step is to check a copy out at a local book store before buying it.

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#14 jamiemaw

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 01:41 PM

For Canadian readers, I understand from Barbara-jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver that Silver Spoon was released yesterday and that she should have copies within a week or so. Presumably other Canadian booksellers will follow suit.
from the thinly veneered desk of:
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#15 helenas

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 03:25 PM

Well, I still have not made up my mind if I will be buying this book or not. Mosty likely I will, both to support my book buying addiction and becuase Italian cuisine is on eof my top favorites. So far I have not seen an argument as to why this book is not a good buy besides some aesthetics.


i have problems with this book far beyond aesthetics: after reading Chris's post i went back to the book and spent couple more hours browsing it - i coudn't find anything i would like to try - this is a pretty boring and dated book, and i'm ready to question the authenticity - many recipes call for curry powder, rice chapter includes recipes for cantonese and indian rice, and i stumbled on several provencal recipes as well. Yes, i have more than 50 books on italian cooking including those by Batali, Lidia, Contaldo, Locatelli and Gray who either contributed to the supplementary section of the english edition of The Silver Spoon or praised the publishing of the book in reviews linked above. And i cooked a lot form them, and they're so exciting and through cooking from these books i fell in love with italian food - i doubt it would happen if i would be given The Silver Spoon as my first italian cookbook.
No doubt this book has a lot of sentimental value for Locatelli or Contaldo and might explain their excitement.
And if this was the book that was given for every italian bride in the last 50 years, dare i say because of the lack of better choice?

#16 russ parsons

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 03:44 PM

this is a pretty boring and dated book, and i'm ready to question the authenticity - many recipes call for curry powder, rice chapter includes recipes for cantonese and indian rice, and i stumbled on several provencal recipes as well.

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ooh, there's that "a-word" again. and in perfect context! whatever the book's strengths and weaknesses, it is one of the best-selling cookbooks in italian history (it would be interesting to compare its sales figures with something we would find much more respectable such as artusi). the recipes, as i understand it, come from domus, which is a longstanding high-end architecture and design magazine. what the book pretty much indisputably represents is a very authentic look at one upper middle class italians were cooking from, say, 1950 to 1970 or so.

#17 FoodMan

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 04:02 PM

this is a pretty boring and dated book, and i'm ready to question the authenticity - many recipes call for curry powder, rice chapter includes recipes for cantonese and indian rice, and i stumbled on several provencal recipes as well.

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ooh, there's that "a-word" again. and in perfect context! whatever the book's strengths and weaknesses, it is one of the best-selling cookbooks in italian history (it would be interesting to compare its sales figures with something we would find much more respectable such as artusi). the recipes, as i understand it, come from domus, which is a longstanding high-end architecture and design magazine. what the book pretty much indisputably represents is a very authentic look at one upper middle class italians were cooking from, say, 1950 to 1970 or so.

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Interesting. So it's not really an "Italian" cookbook, but rather what Italians were cooking in the 70s? So, even if a recipe is not necessarily Italian (like the Cantonese stuff) but Italian household were cooking it, then it made it to the book? It's like writing a cookbook about Lebanese food that has a recipe for Beef Stroganoff because it is a popular dish in Beirut!

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#18 ludja

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 04:20 PM

this is a pretty boring and dated book, and i'm ready to question the authenticity - many recipes call for curry powder, rice chapter includes recipes for cantonese and indian rice, and i stumbled on several provencal recipes as well.

View Post

ooh, there's that "a-word" again. and in perfect context! whatever the book's strengths and weaknesses, it is one of the best-selling cookbooks in italian history (it would be interesting to compare its sales figures with something we would find much more respectable such as artusi). the recipes, as i understand it, come from domus, which is a longstanding high-end architecture and design magazine. what the book pretty much indisputably represents is a very authentic look at one upper middle class italians were cooking from, say, 1950 to 1970 or so.

View Post

Interesting. So it's not really an "Italian" cookbook, but rather what Italians were cooking in the 70s? So, even if a recipe is not necessarily Italian (like the Cantonese stuff) but Italian household were cooking it, then it made it to the book? It's like writing a cookbook about Lebanese food that has a recipe for Beef Stroganoff because it is a popular dish in Beirut!

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Or like a "Joy of Cooking" or "The Doubleday Cookbook" having a recipe for hummus, sauerbraten or lasagna... which they do.
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#19 helenas

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Posted 02 November 2005 - 05:36 PM

Russ, believe me i care less about the authenticity i was addressing the following quote by Chris

SILVER SPOON is surely unmatched in the english language for the breadth and authenticity of italian recipes presented


so i open the book and start searching for foccacia, tiella, ciabatta - can't find them but instead i get two recipes for brioche.

but of course you're right

is a very authentic look at one upper middle class italians were cooking from, say, 1950 to 1970 or so.

and Chris actually agrees

our target audience is anyone who is interested in italian cuisine. i suppose the book isn't directly targeting the obsessive foodie crowd that we are on egullet. but then again i'd hope that those with a passionate interest in italian food would be interested in the book for the wide range of recipes collected from all regions of italy over its 50+ year history as well as as a reflection of the recipes italians themselves have turned to over the years.


so here is a key phrase: a reflection of the recipes italians themselves have turned to over the years - and in Silver Spoon we find a strange mix of italian/french recipes so the FoodMan's hilarios comparison

writing a cookbook about Lebanese food that has a recipe for Beef Stroganoff because it is a popular dish in Beirut!

makes perfect sense :biggrin:


and Joy of Cooking vs Silver Spoon - the similarity is striking, in fact i just pulled both out and prefer neither: for this hypothetical english speaking bride i would give a subscription of Donna Hay magazine (or the latest book by Bill Granger) to entice her into the kitchen and also Tamasin's just published Kitchen Bible to get her questions answered and charm her into cooking even more :smile:

#20 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 09:44 AM

...and I don't know book-learnin' or nuthin, but I browse this thing and have no desire to make anything. So many books have inspired me these days (many thanks to helenas!) that it's odd staring blankly at this huge book and my main concern is where to put it or if I sell it on half.com will I make up the shipping costs.
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#21 Pontormo

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 03:39 PM

This is being discussed tonight, any minute now, on All Things Considered:
Silver Spoon
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The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

#22 emilyr

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 12:47 PM

Back in college, my Italian professor each had us make a recipe from her well-worn copy of Il cucchiaio d'argento (or Silver Spoon) cookbook. She said it was like the Joy of Cooking of Italy - the cookbook everyone gets when they get married or start cooking for themselves. I recently found that there's an American translation - both words and measurements - and was wondering if anyone had used it? Would it be worth shelling out $40, or should I ask for it for Christmas?

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#23 star792

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 06:48 AM

amazon has it for 26 bucks!
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#24 giblert

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 12:32 PM

I bought a copy at my local Costco for $40 CDN.

I have made a couple of recipes from the book and both turned out well. I previously lived in Italy for a year and was pleased to see that some the recipes that I had learned there, were provided in this book. So far, so good!

#25 Lesley C

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 06:32 AM

The more I read this book the more I like it. It takes me back to the Italian restaurants I used to visit in the eighties, where they served profiteroles and the waiters wore tuxedoes. What people tend to forget is how French Northern Italian food is, or certainly was.
It's so old-fashioned! But in this very appealing way, I think, because the recipes are quite simple. The tiramisu is exactly what a tiramisu should be. The bolognese is a straight up bolognese, and the bruschetta is pure as the driven snow. And I love the fact that they tell you not to sprinkle the spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce with cheese. Only an Italian cookbook would tell you NOT to do something.
That said, I agree with those who say the food isn't all that tempting or inspirational. I would only recommend this book to someone who already has a knack for Italian cooking. If I had to start my risotto Milanese with bone marrow every time, I might never make it. But after reading the SS recipe, I'm interested to try out the marrow method.
The food also looks a bit drab, and the photos have a lot to do with that. I see the kind of no-nonsense style they were after, but I'm not too sure it worked.
Anyway, I say thumbs up. And really, considering the amount of information here, the price is more than fair.

#26 CtznCane

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 11:12 PM

I bought a copy at my local Costco for $40 CDN.

I have made a couple of recipes from the book and both turned out well. I previously lived in Italy for a year and was pleased to see that some the recipes that I had learned there, were provided in this book. So far, so good!

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I saw it at Costco the other day (Califorinia) for $22.95. I didn't get it then but think I'll stop back in tomorrow and pick-up a copy.
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