I devoured this little gem of a book in one sitting. Not only that, but I came away with a whole new stash of recipes I can’t wait to try. I read a lot of “foodie” books, most dealing with the restaurant/culinary industry. And while I do like to cook, I like “cooking vicariously through others” just as much. I have no desire to make pot au feu, but I enjoy reading about Jeffrey Steingarten’s attempts. Likewise, I would much rather read about someone’s mishaps in the world of love than experience them myself. With this book, I got to sit back, relax and do both.
Giulia Melucci’s memoir, I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI, begins with Giulia’s first baby steps into adulthood. Recently graduated from college, she is living on her own for the first time, working at a hip magazine (though woefully underpaid) and, in the words of her editor, is probably ready for a new boyfriend. Giulia wonders “What new boyfriend? I never had an old one.” But this is Manhattan after all, and the world turns out to be truly her smoked oyster. Beginning with Kit, a similarly employed young man who only escapes being termed a “pouf,” to Lachlan, the adorable at-home-in-the-world Scot, to Marcus, the irresistible older man, Giulia runs a gamut of relationships to rival Carrie Bradshaw’s. Throughout, she does a splendid job of “fusion” writing, creating not just a memoir easily subtitled “looking for love in all the wrong places” but a chronicle documenting her journey in the kitchen. As added spice to the dish are the recipes --- some self-created, some adaptations --- that in Giulia’s memory are attached to various relationships or life lessons. (F.U. cupcakes, anyone?)
My copy of this 250+ page book doubled in size by the time I finished dog-earing all the recipes that will be tested in my own kitchen. Most are accessible to any caliber cook, appear to offer optimal flavor profiles with minimal effort, and utilize many ingredients found in most pantries. In fact, by perusing Giulia’s collection, you can come up with a pretty good list of how one should stock a modest, ready-at-any-hour (even 2am!) pantry.
Roll this one around on your tongue: Baby arugula and avocado salad. Seven ingredients --- and three are salt, pepper and olive oil! Four lines of instructions --- wash, slice, cut, toss. Et Voila! A simple, scrumptious salad. How about the Summerhouse Tuna Salad? Eight ingredients this time (yep, the same three basics mentioned above appear again). And only two lines of directions. Open tuna into bowl. Add everything else, and mix!
As the title implies, there’s plenty of pasta: spaghetti carbonara, orzo, linguine with “friendly little fish,” rigatoni with eggplant and more. There’s also coq au vin, Incendiary Sole, and yes, meatloaf. Giulia apparently has never heard my opinion that a person can either be a good cook or a good baker but not both, and includes recipes for muffins, frostings and cakes.
There are plenty of memoirs out there about the search for Mr. Right, some might even say too many. However, the result achieved when Giulia examines her past and present loves; peels away the rough outsides to reach the tender center; mixes it with hindsight, a terrific attitude and a rock solid character; and then seasons it generously with her culinary creations can only be described as a delectable dish of a book that will remain on my bookshelves for a long, long time. My only dilemma is whether to put it on my nonfiction shelves or nestle it amongst my cookbooks where I know it will fast become an oft-used, oil-splattered favorite.
Reviewed by Jamie Layton on January 22, 2011