by Kate Heyhoe
Like many other ancient small cities and towns of Sicily and Italy, the future of Polizzi is obscured in the fog of transition. When it clears, some of these places will have perished. But the city Polizzi Generosa and its people stand as a benchmark of history, art, and culture. As they say, "Before Rome, there was Polizzi."
A perspective on the life of Polizzi can be gained from the yeast starter that is used there to leaven bread. The starter is called criscenti, "the growing thing." I have tried to learn how to make it, asking many home cooks and all the professional chefs of Polizzi for a recipe. Everyone said the same thing: "How to make criscenti? I don't know, but I could lend you some... We never make criscenti. It's always been here. If ours runs out for some reason, we borrow from someone else."
— from Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa, by Vincent Schiavelli
On a chilly winter night, a book with tales of family gatherings, and anecdotes of savory and sweet characters alike, can speedily warm your spirits. When that same book also contains recipes of dishes home-cooked by loving hands, and served with heaping dollops of hospitality, it's hard to resist rushing into the kitchen to bring those same dishes into your own home. Once again, Vincent Schiavelli, actor, author of the acclaimed Bruculinu, America, and third-generation Italian cook, has brought us just such a memoir with recipes.
You'll probably recognize Vincent's unforgettable face from such movies as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and about a million television episodes, which is where I first met him during my former career in Hollywood film production. As a character actor, he usually plays a nut-case, or at least someone a bit off-kilter, but in reality Vincent is full of charm and far away from the droll characters he portrays. Not surprisingly, the book jacket includes praise-quotes from fellow Italian-Americans in Hollywood, Martin Scorcese (whose own family hails from Sicily's Polizzi Generosa) and Danny DeVito. It's also praised by culinary pros like Alice Waters.
What follows is the publisher's description of Schiavelli's latest book, and three recipes guaranteed to warm heart and hearth with the simple foods and colorful folks of Schiavelli's Sicilian heritage, as told in Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa.
Many Beautiful Things
Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa
By Vincent Schiavelli
Illustrations by Santo Lipani
Published by Simon & Schuster
$26.00; 240 pages
1/03/03 Around the World: Recipes 2002
1/10/03 The Essential Chicken Stock
1/17/03 Chicken in a Global Bowl: Broths & Soups
1/24/03 Food of Love: Schiavelli's Sicilian Connection
1/31/03 Chinatown Dining & New Year Feasts
Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created January 2003
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