Everyday Paleo Around the World: Italian Cuisine

Saturdays are usually my Get-Your-Life-In-Order day. I generally reserve it for catching up from the hectic week that preceded it: clean the apartment, get the laundry done, sort and pay bills, run errands, wash and gas the car, organize my purse, make my to-do & shopping lists for the week … and on and on it goes.

This weekend was a little different. My body was exhausted from the long week of work, my new-ish workout routine, a new blogging adventure, and of course cooking healthy, satisfying meals for two morning and night. I woke up this morning with every intention of diving right into my normal organizational tornado, but found myself laying in bed for an extra hour browsing my RSS feed on my phone and thumbing through the book next to my bed I had started the night before. My copy of Everyday Paleo Around the World Italian Cuisine (Authentic Recipes Made Gluten Free) by Sarah Fragoso had arrived from Amazon on Thursday, and last night was the first time I had to flip through it. I had turned over to the back cover and the first words I read were:

Part travelogue, part lifestyle guide, this is not just another Italian cookbook.

Yeah-yeah, I thought to myself. Truly, I had ordered it for two reasons: 1) I have a cookbook addiction that has only become worse over the last couple of months, and 2) I saw a way to satisfy my Italian cravings without gluten and I ordered it without further research. So, upon reading the ‘differential’ first line on the back cover, I decided that I wasn’t going to just flip past the introductions and stick post-its on recipes to try in the future. I was going to do something I have never actually done: sit down and read a cookbook in its entirety, cover to cover.

Warning: The following review may make me sound like a total fangirl, however may I remind you that I hadn’t knowingly made single paleo meal nor had I purchased a paleo cookbook up until about two months ago. 

I can easily see this becoming not only my favorite paleo cookbook, but quite possibly one of my favorite cookbooks in general – maybe it is because the culture is so beautifully illustrated through Sarah’s eyes, maybe it is the actual food that is expertly prepared and photographed in the most mouth-watering way possible, or maybe it is that this peek into the way of life in Italy reminds you that most of us are way too caught up in the day to day grind. In the spirit of this, I decided my Saturday errands could wait. The chores could be put off a little longer. I settled into a chair by the open window with a fresh cup of coffee and a cat curled into the back of my knees.

Everyday Paleo Around the World: Italian Cuisine really is about so much more than just food – it’s about the approach to life. The first 57 pages take you on Sarah’s tour of Italy with her family through five different destinations, each one with its own unique qualities and people. Then she includes a guide to travelling Italy, recipe origins, and suggested kitchen tools/ingredients to work through the recipes on your own. As I poured over the pages, I felt a strange connection to every page of this book. I felt as though I were there – in the rental Fiat soaking in the scenery, in the rustic kitchens tasting the food of the world-class chefs, by the seaside enjoying a glass of wine and fresh calamari. It’s impossible to read the first part of this book and not feel more connected to the people of Italy and the food that follows.

One section that I adored was the wake up call from their Italian guide who tried to quiet American Sarah’s racing mind upon a late arrival, “Why are we in such a hurry? We have all the time in the world, my friend. We have all day! … Italians, compared to Americans, we are lazy, yes, but we still get it all done. We are hard workers, but we know how to rest and live and eat!” Ingredients are grown or hand-selected (including the live animals in some cases) by the chefs themselves. Butcher shops are passed down from generation to generation and their products are handled with pride and great care. There aren’t cans and boxes of ingredients mucking up the cabinets – whole, real foods decorate the kitchens and tables in both restaurants and homes. Every dish is prepared with thought, love and incredible flavors. Cooking isn’t a chore (as it has started to feel for me) – it’s an important part of their lives.

THiS is the way we are meant to live and eat! Not driving up to a window and shoving something in our faces because we’re in a rush to get somewhere! Enjoy. Savor. Live. Rest. In our go-go-go culture and demands placed upon us from work and home life, I feel that the happiness simpler living can bring is lost on so many people. Can you imagine grabbing your Starbucks and being one of those people that actually sits in a chair and enjoys it for fifteen minutes, rather than racing to your next destination when your name is finally called by the barista? I couldn’t. How about relaxing at a two-hour lunch where you enjoy your family or friends? What? I don’t get up from my desk most days for lunch except to microwave my food in the office kitchen. We need to slow down a bit. We also need to remember to feed ourselves with more than just food – with rest, leisure and enjoyment of the little things in life now and again.

My familiarization with a widely-varied list of ingredients over the last few years really helped me imagine the flavors of the recipes in this book. I devoured each and every one in a single sitting (figuratively, of course). I love the simplicity of the recipes, a number of them having fewer than five ingredients (excluding the staples of olive oil, salt and pepper) for an entire dish. There are more ingredients than that in a jar of tasteless marinara sauce from your grocery store! The fresh ingredients used to prepare these dishes pop off the pages, and I really was able to see myself sitting down in Sarah’s welcoming kitchen and sampling each one (maybe someday!) and “mmm”ing over every bite with my eyes closed in sheer bliss.

The only thing more I could ask from this book is that it were a sturdy hardcover, as I foresee my paperback getting much use and abuse in the future. Otherwise, I consider it a perfect staple for my bookshelf and Kitchen Arsenal. Thank you, Sarah, for taking me to Italy this afternoon. One day, I will make it to Sardinia myself and say hello to Roberto for you – until then, I will be cooking my way through the country with your help.

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Book hoarder. Red lipstick aficionado. Compulsive shopper. Crazy cat lady. Adores alliteration; couldn't give a @$%& about an Oxford Comma.

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