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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Never Trust a Thin Cook...

Guest Blogger: Chris Manganaro

Every place in the World is known for something. This seems especially true when it comes to places like Italy, where the origins of foods are often aggressively debated between neighbors. What people would call the culinary capital of Italy would depend on their own experiences and preferences.
Modena is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. This is where author Eric Dregni decides to settle down in Italy as the place he considers having “the best food in the world.” To him, Modena is the culinary capital of Italy. This is why Dregni’s book is titled Never Trust a Thin Cook: and Other Lessons from Italy’s Culinary Capital.
According to Dregni, Modena was the answer to his quest and so the book describes his time in this paradise. Of course, Dregni does not overly romanticize Modena, but rather gives the facts about his time there. While he does seem to genuinely love the city, he is sure to talk about all sorts of things that make it real, such as how politics work, bike thieves and the dangers of demanding little old Italian women. Using his view as an outsider, he gives us a relatable point of view with which to look at his stories without forcing the picture into a frame.
Dregni even includes a dictionary in the back of the book to help the reader. While this is rather unnecessary as most words are explained in the story, it is a nice enough addition to help absorb the reader more into Italian culture. Language is a big part of the book, especially when one considers Dregni and his girlfriend, Katy, both try their hands at teaching English to Italians. This makes the dictionary feel like a clever addition. Whether or not one learns any language from the book is up to them.
Despite the fact that Dregni’s quest is supposedly centered on food, the actual book is not all about it. There are plenty of delicious foods mentioned and more than enough questionable pig dishes to keep the culinary reader satiated, but it is not the sole focus of the book. Dregni approaches many topics throughout his narrative in order to give the reader a taste of Modena and Italian culture. Due to his widespread focus, we are given only a taste of each topic, as most stories only go on for a few pages at most. They are anecdotal in nature and so some are more humorous and interesting than others. There is even some history thrown in throughout the stories, yet none of them are ever really boring. In fact, since they are only a small bite, they make one crave for more.
This book is one that can easily be recommended to anyone. It is not too technical in its descriptions of food or history or anything in particular and, as such, it should not scare anyone away. It is a set of humorous tales told through the eyes of an American living in Italy. Because of the way Dregni writes, it is enjoyable and easy to pick up and read. If you feel like taking a trip to Italy, why not try going to Modena?

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