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Bibliography on Italian Food


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References to good cookbooks and other resources crop up here and there on this regional forum, with Kevin's food blog providing interest in cookbooks that focus on specific regions that hathor and orte (? sorry if I don't recall name correctly) have also traced in their cooking.

Is there any interest in collaborating here on eGullet to assemble an annotated bibliography* of books, periodicals and other sorts of resources that feature Italian cooking and food history?

An emphasis could be placed on items in English, in print and accessible here in North America.

However, online international resources are rich, including library catalogs such as the one for the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

This is to the

Schlesinger Library

and the

New York Public Library

Links to other online resources, including blogs that focus on Italian food might also be added.

*Members could write short blurbs detailing contents, or evaluating features of the resource.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Yes on all counts, I agree.

There is no way on earth we could be exhaustive. There are plenty of specialists who compile such material for their own publications and institutions, and one thing we could always do when we want the latest word is go to the back of a recent publication and check out its bibliography.

However, one thing eGullet members could do is keep this thread in mind when they come across a new book or Web site and inform the rest of us.

Someone ambitious who is investigating street food such as tripe sandwiches, or ragu :wink: or soups :rolleyes: or banquets at the Kingdom of Naples under Angevin rule might wish to post an annotated bibliography on that topic here, along with URLs or links to blogs with entries on the topic.

Someone who really loves Italian desserts might wish to put together an annotated list of resources s/he's used or wishes others to consult. That effort might inspire a "spin-off" thread devoted to the cakes made with chestnut flour from various sources with comments and photographs from participants.

This way, we could all be notified, too, when The New Yorker's food issue contains a piece on Italian heirloom pears.

Who knows what would happen once and if the thread expands....but it would be fun to try.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Before launching the project, I believe we should establsh parameters and categories so that people don't post into some structureless cauldron, so to speak.

For instance, do we limit the information to that which is written in English? Do we divide the categories in terms of epochs (say pre-1900 and post 1900)? I imagine we would have basic categories such as "Recipes", "Produce/Agriculture/Gastronomic Landscape", "Chefs, Cooks Biographies" and so forth. What restrictions do we make on format; i.e. do we exclude trade catalogues, brochures, guidebooks, and other kinds of ephemera? Also, do want to think about publishing this as a book, in which case we could use the site to gather the information as opposed to organizing it in a cohesive manner as we go along.

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Yes, again.

I personally wasn't thinking of a book. There are books of published bibliography & established Italian encyclopediae on regional cuisine.* There are scholars who study food history, whether in anthropology or history departments, and I am sure that faculty at cooking schools, authors, chefs, etc. spend a great deal of time and effort on their own collections and files. There's the USIG and perhaps they'll have full-time faculty in endowed chairs one day along with archivists.

I was hoping that this might be a different way to collaborate on a regional forum and it might be a good new way to take advantage of eGullet's international membership....perhaps attract even more. The suggestion was casual and meant first to see if there was any interest. So far only three of us have piped up.

It's also a good way to exploit one advantage that an internet site has over publications. Bibliographies that appear as publications become quickly out-dated. Here, that problem doesn't exist.

Another thing I thought would be an advantage here is that we could establish a model that is superior to library practices in the United States where books are distinguished from periodical literature and placed in separate databases. There's one Italian library that I like in particular because its catalog organizes all publications together, whether they're books, articles or contributions to an anthology edited by someone else.

So, for example, if Mario Batali contributed his own chapter on umami (umani? what's the word?) to a book edited by Christopher Kimball, a recipe to Silver Spoon and was the subject of a piece in Gourmet, all of these items would appear along with his own cookbooks if someone used his name as a search term.


The one disadvantage of eGullet that I see right now is that these threads are not databases, so we don't have the advantage that librarians have with their ability to establish a nice system in which entries can added in a uniform, organized manner.

You're right to raise the possibility of utter chaos. Nor would I wish to create more work for you and Alberto. I'd be happy to help out on the project, strictly as an amateur/home cook...IF there is interest....though I suspect some of us are lurking and don't want to say anything until something more is established.

Since eGullet is U.S. based and English is the language used here, I'd suggest that text written by members ought to be in English, i.e., commentaries, and so forth. However, it would be a shame--and rather ridiculous--to exclude books in Italian...or German, French, ecclesiastical Latin or Arabic for that matter.

It would be good to take advantage of the variety of local resources we might have. I have the LOC here, others may be in Manhattan, Cambridge, Hyde Park, Bari, Heidleberg...

I was thinking very, very modestly, excited by the idea...but I find your cautionary remarks extremely important because it would be good to be organized from the beginning just in case other members become interested. It might become popular in other regional forums, too.

What do you all think? Too much?

*The aha! :hmmm: rests in the accessibility of these resources to those who don't read Italian. However, the burgeoning number of new cookbooks published in English kind of fill in the gaps in that many are well-researched and include Italian sources in their bibliographies. One of the many great things that Kevin's blog has demonstrated is that we no longer rely on books about Italian cooking as one monolithic entity, so those with bibliographies tend to have very specialized entries even if they're not comprehensive and devoted exclusively to published books.

Well, I meant to log in just to check the Pastry & Baking forum. Please feel free to send a PM, though it would be nice if anyone with any sort of interest would make his or her presence felt here first. Librarians, registrars, curators, archivists or software engineers especially welcome.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Ciao. Wonderful idea...but we need a database or it becomes too cumbersome.

I'm pretty decent at setting up a database (filemaker), but I wonder how the eG board could handle something like that. I could do the set up ...and then the memebers just fill in.

However.... I would cast my vote to also include Italian language info. It would be a shame to not include this vast amount of info.

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As a professional librarian (MSLS, UNC-Chapel Hill, 1989), I am very pleased in your desire in wanting a bibliography on Italian food compiled.

Robert Brown is wise in bringing up the issues of organizational structure, selections, publication formats, languages, ephemera, etc. Not everything can be found on Google and/or Yahoo! And whatever is online today can, uhh, disappear tomorrow. In that respect, Robert, you are ..."the Sage of eGullet." :wink:

In spite of the challenges, I wouldn't mind being involved somehow in this opportunity.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Russell, thanks for the kind words. I've compiled a bibliography or two in my day. I'm glad you are keeping the concept alive. For the time being, I wish I could say I could commit time to what would be a worthwhile endeavor, although I could contribute something on the fly, such as I am doing now.

I'm wondering if we should concentrate on setting up a repository that would, as the great masscomm researcher George Gerbner put it, "grasp and retain" useful, fleeting information sources such as periodic literature (articles, fillers, tidbits,etc.) and web sites. In other words, make it unusual and even a bit quirky. I would hope we could store and present it on the site and hope that someone will volunteer to take in the information and organize it.

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As an American living in Italy... I do not really have any American books on Italian cuisine, pre 1984 when I loved here.

So all my books, and there are many , would be in Italian.

Whenever I travel to a new region I pick up a book there.

I cannot say they are bibles or expert sources ( for the academics)

But simply more information.

My New Year's resolution was to put together a Bibliography.. so would love some guidelines to what is the correct way to do this.

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:biggrin: I'm confused as usual. And slightly enthralled at this idea, too.

So I'll ask some questions.

Why Italy? Or "just" Italy?

What would be included in this?

So far books have been mentioned; internet sources; articles. Would this be something where Lexus/Nexus sources would be searched also?

Could it be started in a generally democratic messy sort of fashion or not? To see what actually *would* hit the list if anything?

Would it be more beneficial to focus on a smaller part of the overall scheme first - say - books on Italian Soups? Or would that be just sort of stupid and confusing?

Does everyone know the same form for writing an Annotated Bibliography? :rolleyes: Ninth-grade dropouts like me just might do it wrong, you know. :wink::smile:

It sounds like a massive project - and a fun project - and it also sounds like the sort of project that would give a sort of credibility to wherever (or to whomever) published it - whether the final resting place was online or not.

One of the failings of online resources that the academic world often mentions (and also, increasingly, this is mentioned in the "regular world") is veracity of source. This sort of annotated bibliography might provide a path towards changing that sense.

Personally, I adore All Things Library and All Things Books.

It would be fascinating to see this happen, if somehow the time and desire were to be found by people here and there.

Good luck!

(Buona fortuna?) :biggrin:

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Were we to use a database system, which I would lobby for, the following probably will not matter very much unless members wish to start early.

Standards for formatting a bibliography in English-speaking countries differ from those in other parts of the world. Format for footnotes or end notes differs from that of bibliography.

The best source for academic writers is:

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

Sixth edition. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Its instructions apply to scholarly publications as well. Russell and others may have something to add about other sorts of books, however, I notice in the back of a few recent cookbooks that have been heavily researched, the format is similar.

N.B. Lost in transfer to eGullet is fact that title took up entire first line of text. Every line of entry following the first is indented five spaces. I can't figure out how to TAB here. Then you double space before the next entry. All lines in a single entry are single spaced.


A. Order of entries

1. Author's name

2. Title

3. Place of publication

4. Publisher (if known. This will not always be available in early sources.)

5. Date

6. For annotated bibliographies, skip one line, then indent first line five spaces. (My format is not orthodox, but I like to indent entire text of commentary. Note full sentences are not required, though initial letters are capitalized and terminal punctuation is used.)

Scully, Terence. The Neapolitan Recipe Collection. Ann Arbor: The University of

Michigan Press, 2000.

Translation of late fifteenth-century cookbook whose author remains unknown. 220 recipes. Catalan rulers of Naples mirrored those of courts throughout Quattrocento Italy in elaborate food prepared by cooks whose recipes survive in manuscript form. Historical introduction & commentary on recipes included. 264 pages.

B. Author's Name

1. Last name first, comma, first name, etc. ending in a period.

2. More than one author?

Invert the name of the first author cited only.

E.g.: Rosso, Julee and Shelia Lukins with Michael McLaughlin. The Silver Palate Cookbook.

N.B. I respect the order of names in publication vs. alphabetical order.

3. If author has edited the volume, indicate the fact by following first name with a comma, then write the abbreviation "ed." before continuing with the title.

Adamson, Melitta Weiss, ed. Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe: A Book of Essays.

New York & London: Routledge, 2001.

Part of the Garland series called Medieval Casebooks. Seven chapters organized

chronologically and by region, each with variety of authors. Begins with Greco-Roman world of antiquity. Chapter 3 treats northern and southern France separately, with two different authors. Also co-authored, Chapter 4 concerns Italy with Sicily singled out from the peninsula. Next features Spain. Final chapter on Low Countries culminates in 1500s.

4. Author of a study in an anthology or collection of essays as in the title above, or:

Bertolli, Paul. "Cooking is Always Trouble." In Best Food Writing. 2004, ed. Holly

Hughes. New York: Marlowe & Company: 2004. Pages 87-92.

Camporesi, Piero. "The Consecrated Host: A Wonderous Excess." In Fragments for a

History of the Human Body. Part One. Ed. Michel Feher with Roman Naddaff and Nadia Tazi. New York: Zone, 1989. Pages 220-237.

N.B. See two alternatives regarding relationship between title and editor's name.

C. Title of Book

1. See the entries above for the general format of all parts of entry that follow the author's name, especially in terms of spacing and punctuation.

This is where Anglo model differs from that of the European countries most familiar to me. It's always in italics, now the standard vs. underscoring formerly used. The format is also different from what you'll find in print journalism.

2. Romance languages do not capitalize all the words in the title, only the initial word and all proper nouns, such as Toscana for Tuscany, if not the adjective for Tuscan.

You'll see two ways of following this rule. Strictest: La cucina della casa maledetta. Alternative: La Cucina della casa maledetta.

D. Location

1. Of publisher vs. printer. Sometimes this is hard to determine with Italian books, so check an online catalog to see what librarians have been able to determine if you're not sure.

2. If the country is foreign, it is, unfortunately, standard practice to use the Anglicized form of the name such as Rome for Roma, Cologne, etc.

3. Major city, generally well known? City alone suffices. Paris, Texas? Write the name of the state so it's not confused with Gay Parie. I took a risk with Ann Arbor, above, but I figure someone in Poland will be able to figure out that it's in Michigan given the name of the press. It's a judgment call.

E. Publisher

Cf. comments above regarding fact that publisher is not always indicated. However, this current trend in academic publishing is something that should be used across the board. Librarians will tell you surely that it is good to have as much information as possible. It's useful when Mark Bittman, for example switches to Wiley from Macmillan when the proof-reading of his recipes at the former house proved abysmal (don't quote me; just a personal observation about first edition of a book I own).

F. Date

Of the publication you are citing. If it's a revised edition, cf. first example I gave you. Were I to be utterly kosher, I might have added the following after the title & number of edition: Rev. by John Grossman & Alice Bennett.

II. Articles

I've written enough, so let me just give you a simple example and comment upon it thoroughly. URLs, I will leave up to someone else when it's needed.

Fant, Maureen B. "Roma Primavera." Gourmet 63 (March 2003): 74-85.

Here, I chose not to use the magazine's "Seasonal Kitchen" heading, one of several that highlight sections of its special edition on Rome. I stuck strictly to the title.

Articles in periodical literature are treated like articles or essays in edited volumes, i.e., their titles are placed within quotation marks.

Terminal punctuation separates the name of article from that of the magazine or journal.

Nowadays, even if the publication uses Roman numerals for the number of its volume, it's become standard to use Arabic numerals for easier access. You don't even need to use comma, Volume 63 or Vol. LXIII.

NEVER punctuate directly before a parenthesis. (2003) is sufficient, though we tend to think of food magazines in terms of the month, so I added this.

While March would indicate this is No. 3 of Volume 63, rarely do citations bother with the information.

Punctuation after second parenthesis can be a comma, but colons are more where it's at. The two superimposed dots are sufficient to indicate you are about to provide page numbers.

Always provide all page numbers in an article. That way, if your reader needs to order a photocopy, s/he can indicate all the pages that should be sent. If your publication sends you from page 74-76 to pages 114-117, make sure you add all the pages, separating each set by commas. Use semi-colons if you have a very long series, especially when text is involved, e.g.

Culpa, Mea. "Why You are Right About Ragu and I am So Very Wrong." Purgatorio

Gastronimiche 666 (November 2005): 32-33; 47-62; notes 112-243; illustrations 254-261.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Eh. My eyes are crossing just trying to read all this.

I imagine it must be like practicing the piano though. Just do it.

How does one handle books that are in private libraries/out of print? Are these to be included or not - and are the location(s) of such rarities to be disclosed in the annotation and if so where and how?

(I guess where this question is leading to is what the final use of this bibliography on Italian food would become - something that would be more of use for actual cookery or general reading/inquiries or something with a goal of providing source to the entire scope of Italian food literature as a genre. . .)

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Thanks for your interest, Karen.

The bibliography's use is up to the people who contribute to it and read it and watch it evolve. (See initial posts above.)

To respect the wealth of resources, as Hathor as indicated, there are bound to be entries that are accessible only to someone in Cortona, Naples or London along with books readily available from Amazon.com or other online sources, whether cookbooks, histories, memoirs or other genres.

There's no special way to write an entry of older publication. Providing the fullest amount of information helps track down sources (publisher, year, etc.). If you're not familiar with WorldCat, an online database that compiles information from international, participating libraries, you should speak to the librarian at your local university or college. It's a great resource.

Manuscripts and archival material are handled differently, but libraries and archives have cataloging systems and your best bet is to check the bibliography and notes in recent publications that include such sources (such as Scully's work above) as a model. Few of us would ever encounter that need. Most libraries do not have comprehensive online catalogs of the earliest sources in their collections, however, since these enterprises are time-consuming and expensive.

Were a database employed, it would be wonderful if a generous number of keywords were permitted for each entry to facilitate research on a number of topics.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 3 weeks later...

What a great idea! I will help in any way I can while I am in Italy. Unfortunately I don't speak Italian but I would be happy to spy on the Slow Food office's front window in Bra and report all of the titles I see. There is also a fantastic book/gourmet food store in Alba that will have some interesting stuff too. They might get "twitchy" if I sit there and copy all of the detailed information, but at least I can get the titles and the authors!

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  • 2 months later...

Thanks to a very witty food blog by Tim Hayward, I just discovered the following tool: Library Thing.

I have linked the URL to Tim's own list of food-related books--I hope he doesn't mind--to give readers an example of what the resource does.

Looking at the Home Page, etc., I was quite impressed.

Does the initial enthusiasm for starting a joint bibliography on Italian cookbooks and publications on Italian food still linger?

If so, we might consider becoming a collaborative member, sharing the same moniker and password and then enter data as the spirit moves us, especially as we move from one new region of cooking to the next in 2006.

There is also a place for adding reviews which is where the person entering the book would be able to offer a synopsis or helpful comments, especially about books that are no longer in print and therefore not linked to summaries provided by Amazon.com.

What I have not yet established is if Library Thing provides a means for organizing entries in subject categories or by author or date. Please note that Silverbrow also offered a link in January to a different tool.

Nonetheless, we could establish a URL link on a thread here without burdening anyone other than ourselves.

We might even come up with a creative way to overcome limitations of Library Thing should organization of books prove difficult. For example, Kevin72 might be associated with regional cookbooks and each time we find new ones, we'd log into his account. I could assume responsibility for books on Italian food history, Adam on seafood, and so on.

Please send a PM or post here if this proves of interest.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'm still interested, and Library Thing does look promising to me.

There is also a place for adding reviews which is where the person entering the book would be able to offer a synopsis or helpful comments, especially about books that are no longer in print and therefore not linked to summaries provided by Amazon.com.

What I have not yet established is if Library Thing provides a means for organizing entries in subject categories or by author or date. 

The book list can be grouped by Author, Title, Date, or Tag simply by clicking on the word at the top of each column. For example, if you click on "Author", the book list is then sorted alphabetically by author. The "Tag" column is where we would designate subjects and provide other pertinent information, such as the publisher, regions, and the location/owner(s) of the book.

From Library Thing:

What are tags? (short answer)

Tags are a simple way to categorize books according to how you think of them, not how some library official does. Anything can be a tag—just type words or phrases, separated by commas. Thus one person will tag the The DaVinci Code "novels" while another tags it "trashy, religion, mary," and still another only "summer home." Tags are particularly useful for searching and sorting—when you need a list of all your novels or all the books at the summer home.

I had missed silverbrow's link, so I need to go look at that, and then compare the two.


One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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