The Independant Weekly
July 28th 2007 - Ann Oliver
"This is a book to cherish for the generosity of people who have given their recipes.
It takes the full gambit from preserving oil and vinegar, salt and sunshine through to making use of the last of the pig fat in soap.
Preserving the Italian Way chronicles the old methods for the current and future generations. There is some very useful information that can be put to good use in commercial kitchens, including a cheese section.
This book goes to the depth of wine making and most interesting are the liqueurs that are so common especially in northern Italy. If you are looking for the high volume alcohol to make some of the recipes then try Sydney’s Chefs Warehouse 02 9211455 where they have Marc at 60% alcohol at very reasonable prices....."
3AW - The Ernie Sigley Show
"This is one of the best books that I have read. Everyone should go out and buy one !!....."
Date: February 21, 2007
Protecting a heritage
Date: June 5, 2007
Author: Richard Cornish
A Melbourne doctor has resurrected the tradition of Italian preserving, writes Richard Cornish.
WHEN Melbourne GP Peter Demaio started collecting old Italian preserving recipes nearly 20 years ago, he had no idea that the book he would eventually produce from them would cost him more than $60,000. During the past two decades Demaio has been on seven research trips to Italy, spent $20,000 on editing and printing and dedicated thousands of hours to collecting stories and testing recipes. The result could have been an expensive exercise in vanity publishing. Instead, the book, Preserving the Italian Way, is important because of its documentation of Australian immigrant food, preventing, perhaps, a slow erosion of heritage.
When we meet Demaio, he and 20 of his family, friends and neighbours are halfway through grape harvest on his small farm at Merricks North on the Mornington Peninsula. As the men and boys pick grapes, some older women and children make marmelada d'uva (grape jam) and mostarda (grape juice pickle). Later the men will crush the grapes into the fermenter. In the kitchen, Demaio's wife Lynne makes schiacciata con l'uva (sweet grape bread). On the table are last year's olives, some dried salsicce (sausage) and bottles of merlot and shiraz from last year's vintage. A fillet of beef is cooking over a charcoal fire on a rotisserie. When asked why he spent so much time and money on a book of archaic recipes, Demaio responds with a question. "How do you put a price on this?" he says, referring to the bucolic scene around him. "You can't!"
Demaio was born in Australia in 1949 to Calabrian parents. He grew up eating the food his parents had eaten in their village of Varapodio. To preserve these flavours and others like them, Demaio collected 400 recipes from Australia and Italy, including 18 ways to preserve olives, eight for cheese and 51 for smallgoods.
"To my shock," he says, "when I was researching in Florence there were huge food book shops but there was not one book on preserving food.
"There were small books on preserving olives or making preserves but not a book on the preserving culture of Italy. And why should they? They (the Italians) have 16 different prosciutti hanging from the ceiling in the local deli, 20 different local cheeses, they have scores of pickles - it is all available to everyone in the shops.
"With this bounty of industrial and artisanal preserved food, there has been a sad loss of skills in Italian home preserving."
The story for preserving in Australia has been slightly different. When Italians came to Australia just before and after World War II they carried on their preserving techniques and continued to do so because the flavours of their homeland, such as prosciutto or pancetta, were not available here. "Aussie Italians continued making their melazane sott'aceo (pickled eggplant) and giardiniera (pickled vegetables) long after many Italians stopped making them in Italy," Demaio says. He is concerned that this Italian-Australian preserving tradition could be lost.
"When I was interviewing Italian families in Australia," he says, "they would say 'ooh salami, we made them as children but we're third generation so we don't make them any more."
When collecting his recipes and stories, Demaio came across some practices that were less than appetising. In the north of Italy, where cattle are stabled in wooden stalls over winter, he uncovered a method for keeping preserved meat pink that involved scraping the crystals of dried urine off the wooden stalls to add to the meat. "In the south where my family are from," he says, laughing, "we use capsicum paste instead." Other recipes in the book include the eclectic rosamarina sott'olio (Calabrian Caviar) in which 100g of baby whitebait are preserved with 2 tablespoons of ground hot chilli and 1 tablespoon of salt. There is also a recipe for carciofi selvatici (pickled Scottish Thistles), the preparation for which is described as "like kissing death adders - it must be done with care".
Preserving the Italian Way has a handmade feel, with scant regard for modern layout or stylised photographs, and is without ordered ingredient lists or an index. This somehow adds to its authentic feel. At present there is discussion of translating the book into Italian and Demaio will shortly travel to Italy to find a publisher. Even with a European book deal, he may still barely cover the cost of printing the book.
"You see this?" he asks, referring to his family and friends preparing the post-harvest meal together. "This is reason enough to write and publish this book. If my children and grandchildren can preserve food to serve to other people, they are being involved in a tradition that is more than sharing. It's a sign of friendship," he explains. "As my uncle used to say: 'You never go to someone's home unless you are hungry.' "
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Food for thought (Gene Cuisine)
Date: May 2-8, 2007
Author: Joanne Sim
Fairfax Community Newspapers
(Click Page 1 and Page 2 to view the article)