I was recently sent a copy of The Sardinian Cookbook. I was struck by the author’s humble version of lasagna made with canned tuna and fresh pesto right off the bat. I’m a huge fan of oil-packed, Italian tuna fish. I’ll often spend 2 to 3 times the price of regular tuna to get a can of the really good stuff packed in olive oil. I’m pleased to say that this lasagna is worth a 2 can splurge.
Let me tell you something about cookbooks. There are a lot of them out there. Most come from expected sources with many of the same recipes that highlight whatever ingredient du jour is making the rounds of the Iron Chef circuit. Rarely would you find canned tuna in one of these books.
I tend to skip right past these when I’m choosing a cookbook to bring to you here. That’s because I love the cultural aspects of food and cooking as much as I do the eating. There’s so much to learn about other parts of the world and other people’s lives. How people eat and think about food provides a great entree to understanding other cultures.
The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktoija Todorovska (Agate Surrey) is such a book. Its focus is, of course, Sardinia which is the second largest of Italy’s Mediterranean islands. It’s a beautiful island, rich in Italian history. However, geographically speaking it’s much closer to the French island of Corsica than it is to any part of mainland Italy. And its landscape is highly variable. Deserts, snow-capped mountains, extinct volcanoes, and of course the ever-present sea all play a role in defining the lives of the Sardinian people. Diversity is present in its culinary tradition as well. Its history as a trading port adds a layer of influence from the Spanish, French, Italian and African merchants who have passed through these Italian islands for centuries.
The Sardinian Cookbook represents all of this diversity and more. This book is satisfying for me on many levels. It is colorful and simply laid out. The cultural sections of the book are as beautifully presented as the food sections. The author’s understanding of Sardinia’s diverse culture is what separates this book from other cookbooks and travel guides. In fact, the book is filled with enough interesting dishes and beautiful places to keep me glued to it for long stretches of reading pleasure. GREG