Besides chocolate, nothing makes me happier than a good read so I was tickled to bits when, recently, I was given a copy of a new book to review. Published by Adelaide’s own Wakefield Press, it is by an Australian writer called Victoria Cosford whom I coincidently met up with while in Canberra for the Slow Food weekend. This is her first book and was quite some time in the making but, I think, worth it – I enjoyed it immensely! It will be officially released at the Byron Bay Writers festival in August, but is available in the shops now and if you like food, men or Italy you won’t be disappointed. I particularly loved the gorgeously seductive cover photo, which Victoria told me was a photo she took herself while wandering through the Boboli Gardens in Florence. If it is as cold and windy wherever you are, as it is on our hill today, then you could do far worse that to curl up with a copy of this book!
AMORE AND AMARETTI by Victoria Cosford
This memoir, published by Adelaide’s Wakefield Press, is a lively, but vulnerable account of Victoria Cosford’s love affair with Italy. As an Australian student, studying the Italian language in Florence, a young Victoria meets and falls in love with the mercurial chef, Gianfranco and thus begins her seemingly unbreakable ties to Tuscany and its people. In a matter of months she has moved in with her romantic and charming Italian lover, who teaches her to cook as they work together in his restaurant. Fairly soon it becomes clear that Gianfranco’s volatile nature, combined with Cosford’s below ground-level self esteem, will make this relationship turbulent and ultimately unworkable. She falls into another, equally passionate relationship which eventually fails, too, leaving her without the amore of the book’s title, but with bonds that time and distance never sever.
While lacking in the love that Cosford so desperately craves, the book is filled with enormous fondness for the food and the region and locales of Florence and Tuscany, which are vividly evoked on every page. Her deft descriptions of the hectic pace of restaurant kitchen life in full flight are interspersed with the scenes of quiet beauty and peace that Cosford seeks out on her early morning walks, or the sophisticated Florentine cafes and shops that she visits on her days off.
While her Italian life may have been short on love, it most definitely was not short on passion and it is Cosfords passion for the food of Tuscany that is so brilliantly displayed in this book. There is hardly a page that does not have some mention of the regional foods, either being prepared by herself or one of the other chefs. She lovingly describes meals that she shares with her friends and manages to make even a scratch meal eaten in a dingy bedroom sound appetising. She clearly learned much about the pleasures of food and shares some of the more tempting recipes throughout the book. Whenever I put the book down, it was usually to wander into the kitchen to concoct something either directly from her pages or inspired by them.
Throughout her story, we watch as Cosford struggles with her relationships, her poor self-esteem and her weight. It is with some relief that we see her make her way towards the confidence and happiness that she ultimately finds back home in Australia as a journalist, loved partner and – unsurprisingly – a teacher of Italian cooking!