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Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa

by Matthew Fort

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1033211,551 (3.5)3
Italy's tumultuous history can be traced through its food. In an epic scooter trip from the Ionian Sea to the far north, distiguished food writer Matthew Fort explores the local gastronomy and culinary culture of a country where regional differences are vibrantly alive. In no other country is food so much a part of everyday life as it is in Italy. Matthew Fort's plan is a simple one: to travel by scooter from Melito di Porto Salvo - the southernmost town in Italy and where Garibaldi landed in 1860 to begin his conquest of Naples - to Turin in the north, eating drinking, talking and noting as he goes. Passing through Calabria - rich in spices, Arabian-influences of almonds and dried fruits, as well as Spanish chocolate (Fichi al Ciocolatto, mostacciolo) - and on to Campania - from where the historic Nepalese pizza has become infamous - Fort discovers the rich connection between historical tradition and cuisine. The Italian genius for combining abundance and thrift is evident from the economy of the mountainous and sparse landscape of Molise, where much use is made of pastas and chillies, and adjoining lush Abruzzo, with its delicious cheeses and risottos. Fort travels on to Emilia-Romagna, where much of what we have come to love in Italian food can be found: prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, ravioli, taggliatelle and zamponi...In Piedmont, the wine-and-truffle country stretching from the shadow of the Alps through arable flatlands, the cooking of France and Northern Europe fuses with that of Italy. This enticing sum of parts - the dishes, producers, ingredients, consumers and eating occasions - make up nothing less than a contemporary portrait of the country.… (more)
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A series of vignettes loosely tied together by strips of road along the Italian countryside. At its surface, it would be easy to dismiss this work as a hedonistic and indulgent (if well-worded) sample of literary food porn, but the subtext in Fort's travelogue ripples with a didactic undercurrent.

The socio-political and economic change Italy has seen over the last century, and may well see in the next, is traceable in the small stories he details throughout his journey, and make this work core complex than it is simply indulgent. Mixed in with recipes for things you will likely be content to simply drool over are subtle jabs that may nod gently in Michael Pollan's direction as much as they pay respect to the rustic appeal of the many foods and faces he encounters.

Like a well-crafted menu, there's a little something to amuse anyone in this offering. If you've read it before, it will likely one day be worth a revisit in years to come, either for escape or to rediscover the richness of an Italy that exisits not in pasta, but in its distinct and stubborn pastorality. ( )
  dowswell | Jul 25, 2021 |
“Happiness depends on sound sleep, orderly bowels and regular meals.”

Travelogues are not really my usual reads as I find most of the author's who write them are just not as funny as they and their publishers seem to think they are but as I happened to find this book on a train and as such cost me nothing I decided to give it a go. I am rather pleased that I did especially as it centred predominantly about food and Italian food in particular. Yummy.

Fort's leisurely gastronomic journey around Italy starts at the very South of the country wending its way North finishing in Turin avoiding the usual tourist trap of Florence, Tuscany and Rome to name a few along the way visiting instead more less frequented, by the English at least, spots. along the way he shows not just the variety of Italian food, but its deep connection with local and regional traditions.

In the South most of the landowners are really little more than subsistence farmers in tune with the land and climate making artisan foods where no corner of land,even road verges, is wasted as they produce local produce. Further North the larger International conglomerates have taking over with their mono-cultivated land but wherever he went Fort seems to have met warm, welcoming people who like to eat and talk about food. Fort concentrates on this rather than getting into the politics of the country which can only be a good thing.

Along the way Fort encounters no supermarkets so this becomes a heart warming occasionally hilarious critique of a way of life which certainly seems to have been lost in Britain where we have lost touch of where our food actually comes from. Where shops and restaurants open their doors where it suits their customers rather than when it suits themselves but nor does he pretend that every meal that he ate was good. Interspersed throughout the book are some interesting and mouth- watering recipes that help to keep the juices running. Overall a very enjoyable read. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Feb 11, 2016 |
I have never read a book that made me hungry until I read Eating up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa by Matthew Fort. Eating up Italy is an entertaining and fast paced read about Fort’s travels from the southernmost tip of the mainland of Italy to the northernmost tip. What makes this different from other travelogues I have read is that Fort focuses on the food he eats along the way to truly understand the country. Eating up Italy is full of rich descriptions of everything Fort experiences, with the most focus on the experience of his meals. To make the book even more enjoyable, recipes of some of the foods Fort writes about is included at the conclusion of each chapter.

What I enjoyed most about Eating up Italy were some of Fort's clever insights and I found myself giggling at some of the situations he got himself into. I also appreciated the honest and truthful descriptions of the places Fort visited and foods he ate. There was no sugarcoating of descriptions of any foods that were not to his liking or places that were less than stellar. But even with these blunt descriptions and after finishing Fort’s story, my desire to travel to Italy and experience the country the way it was meant to be experienced has deepened. ( )
  sapphire314 | Aug 19, 2007 |
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Italy's tumultuous history can be traced through its food. In an epic scooter trip from the Ionian Sea to the far north, distiguished food writer Matthew Fort explores the local gastronomy and culinary culture of a country where regional differences are vibrantly alive. In no other country is food so much a part of everyday life as it is in Italy. Matthew Fort's plan is a simple one: to travel by scooter from Melito di Porto Salvo - the southernmost town in Italy and where Garibaldi landed in 1860 to begin his conquest of Naples - to Turin in the north, eating drinking, talking and noting as he goes. Passing through Calabria - rich in spices, Arabian-influences of almonds and dried fruits, as well as Spanish chocolate (Fichi al Ciocolatto, mostacciolo) - and on to Campania - from where the historic Nepalese pizza has become infamous - Fort discovers the rich connection between historical tradition and cuisine. The Italian genius for combining abundance and thrift is evident from the economy of the mountainous and sparse landscape of Molise, where much use is made of pastas and chillies, and adjoining lush Abruzzo, with its delicious cheeses and risottos. Fort travels on to Emilia-Romagna, where much of what we have come to love in Italian food can be found: prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, ravioli, taggliatelle and zamponi...In Piedmont, the wine-and-truffle country stretching from the shadow of the Alps through arable flatlands, the cooking of France and Northern Europe fuses with that of Italy. This enticing sum of parts - the dishes, producers, ingredients, consumers and eating occasions - make up nothing less than a contemporary portrait of the country.

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