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January 31, 2008

Artusi, Science in the Kitchen…

Filed under: Cookbooks — Mr. Henry @ 2:10 pm

January is the time when Mr. Henry hides from creditors and curls up to read the books he received at Christmas.libro-artusi_001.jpg

From the marvelous Maria came Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi, a book so full of wit and style, even cookbook haters will love it. First published in 1891 and never out of print, it is an essential food source book unavailable in English translation until 1997. Here are some sample quotes from the introduction:

Cooking is a troublesome sprite. Often it drives you to despair. Yet it is also very rewarding, for when you do succeed, or overcome a difficulty in doing so, you feel the satisfaction of a great triumph.

If you do not aspire to become a premier cook, you need not have been born with a pan on your head to become a good one. Passion, care, and precision will certainly suffice.

Life has two principal functions: nourishment and the propagation of the species. Those who turn their minds to these two needs of existence, who study them and suggest practices whereby they might best be satisfied, make life less gloomy and benefit humanity.

But let me tell you, and I say this reluctantly, that with our century tending toward materialism and life’s enjoyments, the day shall soon come when writings of this sort will be more widely sought and read than the works of great scientists, which are of much greater value to humanity.

Blind is the man who cannot see this! The days of seductive, flattering ideals, the days of the hermits, are coming to an end. With greater eagerness that it ought to, the world is rushing to the wellsprings of pleasure, and those who know how to temper this dangerous inclination with healthy morals shall take the palm.


Some of Artusi’s ingredients are rare in today’s markets – ox marrow, for example. Most recipes, however, seem quite contemporary. He chose representative dishes from every corner of Italy but did not fall victim to local hype. On typical regional specialties he lavished praise or criticism in equal measure. Some dishes will surprise the experienced gourmand. His Bolognese sauce, for example, has no tomato. Pensa!


  1. Ox marrow is not as rare as you may think. I’d be willing to wager that you may procure some in Chinatown.

    Comment by Amelia A — February 2, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  2. Ox marrow from Chinatown and Lox marrow from the Lower East Side.

    Comment by Paul Chaleff — February 7, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  3. I am so happy you have come to our local bible of the kitchen! When trying to unweave an Americanized recipe for something reputed to be Italian, I often pick up Artusi to seek the key thread that once pulled away allows the rest to become what it was meant to be.

    When I do not teach I work occasionally as a private chef and people will try to explain something they’ve had in a restaurant that they’d like to experience here. I use P.A. to help explain why I cannot cook something Italian from ingredients one cannot buy in Italy.

    Did you notice that all the cooking instructions are for cooking in a fireplace? It takes a minute or two to figure out how to use a stove!

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — March 2, 2008 @ 8:04 am

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