Smart cooks realize that the easiest cookbook to use is the Yellow Pages and the handiest appliance in the kitchen is the telephone. ~ Miss Piggy
I came to Campodimele hoping I might learn how to live longer, but discovered something much more important -- how to live well.For over three years, she visited with the residents, was allowed into their pastures, their gardens, their vineyards, their olive orchards, their kitchens, their cantina, and their hearts. By observing, then working as she was instructed, she was able to see the value in living off the land, eating seasonally, but still preserving the bounty for times when fresh was not available. She pressed olive oil, made sausage, shelled beans, picked various greens, made goat cheeses, rolled pastas, and climbed mountain roads with 80 and 90 years old residents to tend the goats, pick the olives, and call the hens home at night to roost.
Her month by month description of food, recipes and traditions brought back many memories of the Italian kitchen of my Nona, and gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the hows and whys of many of the foods. It held a few surprises. The inhabitants of Campodimele, who regularly live well into their 90's, use very little salt, but are very generous with peperoncino, a red chili pepper they grow, dry and sprinkle liberally on everything. I don't remember that ingredient in my grandmother's repertoire, (although my mother assures me that the shaker of red pepper flakes was ALWAYS on Nona's table) and she did love her salt. It's a perfect example of regional differences. Each area used what grew well there and was readily available.
Subtitled The Lifestyle of Longevity in Campodimele, Italy, it's a treasure of a book - particularly if you love Italian food, have an Italian ancestor, or just want to learn, as Lawson says, "to live well." It's yummy, it's interesting, and it's a definite plus for your food collection. Even if you don't want to try the recipes, the philosophy of living off the land, living simply, and looking at your food as an enjoyable gift will light up your reading and eating day.