I received a stack of food-centric fiction from the library recently and since this title was such an obvious fit for this space, I read Anthony Capella’s work first. The story is set in Italy which also checks off another box for me. The premise is a Cyrano de Bergerac tale and I adore stories of unrequited love: “to love pure and chaste from afar….” The sexual recounting was a wee bit too explicit for my liking, but keep in mind that I grew up on Harlequin romances, where somehow the single kiss and embrace at the stories’ end was the hottest thing that I could imagine. What kept me reading through the uncomfortable pages was the author’s ease with the character’s culinary adventures. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 9, pages 111-112 (photos are mine).
He had placed a large wooden bowl on top of his work surface. Handmade pasta is never prepared on marble; its coldness stiffens the dough and prevents the breakdown of glutens. A pile of Tipo 00, the finest grade of flour, stood to one side, light as ash, its top gently flattened to make a small crater.
Into this he poured some beaten eggs. Drawing the flour over the egg mixture with the tines of a fork, he worked the two together a little at a time.
Then he put the fork aside and started to use his fingers.
Gradually the sliminess of the eggs and the dryness of the flour became one smooth, muscular mass, worked and reworked until there was no trace of stickiness.
After he washed and dried his hands, he was able to press his thumb into the mixture and pull it out again without the dough clinging to his skin at all.
Using the heel of his palm, he pushed the dough away from him, then folded it over. A quick half turn, and then he did the same again, slowly breaking down its inner resistance. Push, fold, turn. Push, fold, turn. Pasta making is a ritual, both in the kneading and in the stretching, the same hand motions performed over and over again, as automatic and precise as the movements of a master plasterer or a pianist. Bruno kept up his kneading for exactly eight minutes. It was hard, physical work, and he was soon perspiring freely, but slowly the dough became elastic, its surface as smooth as Laura’s skin.
After about fifteen minutes, he returned to his dough, squashed it down a little, and picked up his pasta rolling pin. It was as long as a sword-thirty-two inches, to be precise-and thinner than a conventional rolling pin, so that it would spin more quickly between his hands as he pushed it over the pasta. The trick was not to use force. You were not so much squeezing the pasta flat as pushing it gently outward, like spreading icing across the surface of a cake.
When the rolled dough was the size of a pizza base, he changed the movements of his hands, letting them slide sideways along the pin as he worked, distributing pressure evenly along its length. This was the hardest part. Bruno knew he was not as good at this as a housewife somewhere in Emilia-Romagna, who did it every day of her life, but there was no time to be cautious. If he went too slowly, the pasta would lose its moisture and crack before he was done. He felt his way into the dough, stretching it little by little off the table each time he rolled it. It was time to stop and cut the pasta into tortellini.
Kath’s quote: I remember the meals that were meant to dazzle you, to excite you, to comfort you, even to seduce you. But there was never a single dish or recipe that was designed to tell you the simple truth….I’ve always loved you.” Anthony Capella
Love-that is all. Photo taken at the Valentine’s day dinner that D prepared for me…