The Complete Book of Italian Cooking

The Complete Book of Italian Cooking, edited by Anne Hildyard

Once upon a time, when I was very young, my parents left me in the care of a family friend, Kevin. I was, in fact, too young to remember the events in this story, so everything I’m relating to you is effectively second-hand. (For example, was my sister there too? I just don’t know.)

Kevin very kindly made me spaghetti for dinner that night. While I know better now, I apparently hadn’t yet learned some of the finer points of etiquette as regarding visiting another person’s home. So when he put the plate of spaghetti in front of me, my response was the appropriate and polite “Thank you; looks delicious!”, but rather, “Yuck!” My understanding is that I then insisted I didn’t like any spaghetti but what my mother made and refused to touch his. And, frankly, if young Natasha is anything like grown-up Natasha, Kevin was a saint to put up with my starving self for the rest of the night. Actually, considering it, young Natasha was probably a lot worse than grown-up Natasha, because I now know I have to make an effort not to be extremely crabby1 when acutely hungry.

So, I have heard this story all of my life, and have no memory of it. However, this secondary memory still allows me to connect with Kevin (and his wife Suzie) over time and is just one of those things in a family/group that you know you’ll never live down.

And my theory that I would never live down “Yuck”? Kevin, Suzie and their children confirmed this for me with their gift to me and my ex-husband for our wedding. Two cookbooks, this one and the Complete Book of Cookies I’ll write-up next. The card included with the book said something akin to, “So you’ll never have to say yuck again!”

I didn’t make a lot out of either book before our divorce, but I did make a few. The mushroom stroganoff, for example, which I really enjoyed. I definitely couldn’t let these two books go in the divorce or subsequent moves, given their origins. They still make me smile, and I enjoy cooking out of them to this day. Also, this book saved me when I wanted a tomato sauce recipe for fresh tomatoes. So, really, all around win.

Number of recipes in the book: 350
Number we’ve cooked: 1

You can click the “complete italian” tag on this entry to see everything we’ve preserved out of this book.

fn1. “Extremely crabby” is Grandma-safe code for how I occasionally get when I haven’t eaten. The other times I just get extremely tired. In both cases, I get extremely headachey. It’s never pretty.