What a great concept! Let’s take a slightly overweight, definitely middle aged and slightly balding Brit. Put him on a 50cc Vesper scooter and let him amble from the very southern tip to the northernmost parts of Italy, while he enjoys the food, drinks, sights and smells. I think his publicist summed it up well in an email she sent to me “I thought you would like this book, and to be honest I am slightly envious of Mathew”. Well I am more that slightly envious, I am green with envy. I want to know how I can get a job like this!

Matthew Fort has produced a fascinating book, part travelogue, part cookery book, and part discussion about the state of the human culture. This is all done using the wonderfully dry humor that only the English have. Being a ‘Displaced Brit’ myself, I was hooked on this book from the very first page.

Matthew starts his travels in the very southern tip of Italy, an area known as Calabria, and finishes his sojourn in Turin. He splits his journey into three stages, each one taking about a month. Although there is no description as to the why, I did notice that the 50cc Vesper that he named Ginger, was replaced by a more robust 150cc Vesper in Naples. I can only assume that the pasta was taking a toll on the 50cc engine!

The humor in this book is everywhere; and one of my favorites is Matthew’s description of arriving in Naples.

“When a man has ridden a scooter in Naples, he does not need to boast. When others drawl on about wrestling with crocodiles, killing wild boar with their bare hands and bungee jumping from the top of Niagara Falls, the man who has ridden a scooter in Naples has only to say, in a quiet voice, ‘I have ridden a scooter in Naples’, and if they have any sense, these other thrill-seekers will fall silent and simply look at him in awe”.

One aspect of Italy that I had not known was the huge difference between the southern parts which still are very rural and steeped in the traditional way of life, while the northern areas are much more reliant on modern technology, and at least in my mind have lost some of the family traditions. Both areas have their classic cuisine, but I must admit that I will be heading south when I pluck up courage to do the 50cc Vesper adventure.

The idea of fresh baked bread, and a few simple ingredients, salami, cheese, and vegetables is my idea of heaven. The Italians have elevated simple fare to heights that surpass many other cuisines. Who can turn down fresh made pasta with a fresh made tomato and herb sauce, or a homemade smoked meat? I know I could not. 

Each mouth watering chapter is accompanied by several recipes of foods that Matthew has sampled. They all look really yummy. This is not a book for anyone on a diet! You can get fat just by reading this book! I have always had a fascination with cooking, and Eating Up Italy is the ultimate cook book, it has the story, it has the ‘show and tell’, and it has the recipes.

Although it is unlikely to get a rating from the US Heart Association, I will give it a five piggy rating. It is a fabulous book, funny and informative. If you want to try some real Italian food, pick this one up from Amazon.

Simon Barrett




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