Alberto Capatti and Artusi: between real and unreal

The year of Pellegrino Artusi also in the bookstore
25/03/2020
Revisiting Artusi between past and future
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The historian of Italian cuisine tells “The (his) Ghost” of the Italian table. In the recipes of the gastronome, we can find many spaghetti, without going further south than Naples

When we read a story, we live it. The story of Pellegrino Artusi has gone through 200 years of history and still lives in the homes of many Italians. Above all, Alberto Capatti has studied this mythological character, a historian of Italian cuisine who has dedicated the last 30 years of his career to reading and rereading the gastronome. Capatti, in a book published for the bicentennial of his birth, has recently defined him as “The ghost of Italian cuisine”.

Why this title?

“The continuity and reprints have mythologized him to a little known character and at the same time close to many Italians. Artusi is still perceived as a real and at the same time unreal presence”.

When did your relationship with the character begin?

“Between 1993 and 1994. I accidentally met his autobiography in Switzerland and was harnessed in this document. At the time, I was working with Ferrero and I was a consultant for “Il Saggiatore” as well. I proposed to the editor to publish it. My domestic relationship with the volume of Artusian recipes was born in the Ferrarese house thanks to my grandmother Giulia: the most cooked dish was the Rustic Spaghetti made with parsley and tomato “.

What legacy did your literary work leave today?

“The very fact that we are here talking about it, attests its great cultural legacy. It was also the inspiration for a line of collectible pans with the Esselunga stamps, for a total of 1.5 million pieces sold”.

Is there a contemporary chef that revives his teachings?

“I would say absolutely nobody. Artusi addressed directly to the people who cooked at home, he didn’t speak to the professionals and had no interest in involving high-had chefs”.

Can a new Artusi exist today?

“The main problem of the past 10 years is the profound mutation of language. To exist, he should communicate with totally different tools”.

Which are the most “copied”recipes among the 790 recipes of Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well?

“Artusi’s is the first recipe book that inserts a substantial number of spaghetti preparations and many recipes have been repeated without the original name. For example, he has never been to Sicily; on the contrary, he has never been southern than Naples during his rail journeys. However, he was an advocate of an important unification work, by collecting letters and cooking notes from distant and close readers”.

How much has his thought contributed to the creations of an Italian cuisine awareness?

“From a linguistic point of view, the choice of the Florentine was a forward-looking cultural operation. He had a real stroke of genius that involved the postal communication system, the Institutions and the State. Army officers took him into their canteens. Today, it is translated all over the world: for instance, in November I went to Japan to present the Japanese edition of Science in the kitchen”.

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