Stanley Tucci's engaging memoir, Taste, leaves you satisfied, not stuffed

Stanley Tucci, lifelong food lover. Picture: Getty Images
Stanley Tucci, lifelong food lover. Picture: Getty Images
  • Taste: My Life Through Food, by Stanley Tucci. Fig Tree, $45.

One third of the way in to Stanley Tucci's Taste, which is subtitled My Life Through Food, the third-generation Italian-American actor points out that we've been doing pasta-sauce pairings all wrong.

This news is hardly surprising given the bastardisation that foreign cuisines tend to undergo when they touch down in America.

I remember ordering pasta with "meat sauce" at a New York deli years ago. It was basically Bolognese.

At least, it was what I've grown to know as Bolognese sauce. Turns out I've been doing it all wrong, too.

The Tony Award-winning actor, and star of the foodie hit Julia & Julia, reveals that the truest recipe for rag alla Bolognese can be found in a thick tome titled Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which was first published in 1891.

Interestingly, the recipe features no tomato sauce.

Spaghetti Bolognese, as it turns out, was confected as a culinary symbol of unification after Giuseppe Maria Garibaldi brought the Kingdom of Italy together in 1861.

Ultimately, the novelty of pairing a sauce from the north with spaghetti from the south lasted as long as most novelties do. In Italy anyway.

I'm here for the name-dropping as much as the food and the evocations of unspoiled Italian vistas.

"Today, were that original pairing ever to transpire on any part of the peninsula, especially in Bologna, the cook would be outcast, and possibly be-handed," Tucci writes.

Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana fame agrees wholeheartedly.

Apparently, Tucci and his three-hatted pal have discussed the matter at length, a revelation that causes the memoirist to apologise for the bragging which seasons this moreish memoir.

He needn't apologise. I'm here for the name-dropping as much as the food and the evocations of unspoiled Italian vistas.

And, sure enough, a few more do crop up along the way. We get Meryl Streep, Oliver Platt and Ryan Reynolds, among others. What we don't get is any real gossip.

As the sub-title suggests, this is a tightly-focused book, which means there are a few gaps and omissions.

For example, Tucci touches on his two marriages only briefly, yet spends a good amount of time introducing us to the Casa Tucci of his youth.

Taste opens with Tucci's recollections of his tomato-sauce-soaked childhood in upstate New York, before we move on to Florence where his family spent a year on sabbatical in the 1970s, and then onto Manhattan and beyond.

At one point, Tucci describes food as the connective tissue that keeps immigrant communities together.

It performs a similar function here, helping Tucci tie seemingly unrelated episodes together in a memoir that leaves you feeling satisfied, not stuffed.

This story Tucci's tome leaves you satisfied, not stuffed first appeared on The Canberra Times.