Sadly, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon but I have one now. It’s not in my mouth but on my bookshelf. The Silver Spoon, or as the Italians call it, Il Cucciaio d’Argento, is the mamma of all cookery books. It is the Italian national food bible with over 2,000 recipes and there is nothing like it in English. Delia? Nah. Jamie? You’re joking.
Where in British cookery books can you find a dozen recipes for cooking with brains (followed by more for pluck and lights) and where porridge is included among the soups?
The Silver Spoon was first published in 1950 and they say every Italian bride is given a copy so she knows how to cook dishes just like his or her mamma used to make. Italy’s food is a kaleidoscope of local and regional ingredients and dishes and all are reflected in here. In fact, most of the dishes you’ll never see in an Italian restaurant in England.
The book was first translated into English in 2005 and I was given a copy then as a present. ‘Eating is a Serious Matter’ it says in giant print on page 7 and it should be for the British as well as Italians. It’s not a straight translation. Italian recipes assume more of a background knowledge of cooking than British ones so the translators have had to take that into account. But the recipes remain brief and to the point.
I reached for the Silver Spoon last night when making spaghetti carbonara. I recalled an intense Italian chef in a long gone Sheffield restaurant telling me he made it how it should be made, not how his stupid English customers knew it. And that meant absolutely no cream. Shortly after he emigrated to Australia.
The Silver Spoon is succinct.
“Serves 4: 25g butter, 100g pancetta sliced, 1 garlic clove, 350g spaghetti, 2 eggs beaten, 40g Parmesan, 40g pecorino, both grated, salt and pepper.
Melt butter in a pan, add pancetta and garlic and cook until garlic turns brown. Remove and discard the garlic. Cook spaghetti in a large pan of boiling, salted water until al dente, then drain and add to the pancetta. Remove pan from heat, pour in eggs and half Parmesan and half pecorina and season with pepper. Mix well so the egg coats the pasta. Add remaining cheese, mix again and serve.”
It worked perfectly.