Taste by Stanley Tucci, Book Review: An Ode to Food and the People We Love Most
IIf you are looking for details on the career of great actor Stanley Tucci, you should probably pass on his adorable new memoir. Taste: My life through food. Nowhere in its 300 witty pages will you learn what inspired Tucci to become an actor or what it was like to wear a lavender puff wig in The hunger Games or to kiss Colin Firth in Supernova.
At 60, “approaching the middle to late fall” of his years, Tucci discovers that food – in particular, the way food connects him to the people he loves – means more to him. than show business. A handful of famous co-stars are making cameos in Taste, but only because they were sitting across from him at a memorable meal. This book focuses on Tucci’s more intimate dining experiences: the eggplant parm hoagies his mother packed in his childhood lunch boxes, the coq au vin he ate on his first date with his first wife, Kate (died of breast cancer in 2009), wonderful breakfasts on German film sets (“Someone please employ me there again”) and how he passes on family culinary traditions to his children, one salami sandwich at a time.
And what rich traditions they are. Tucci grew up in semi-rural Westchester County, New York, where he once found his immigrant Italian grandmother skinning a squirrel on the porch. Bottles of tomato sauce, simmered over an open fire and filtered through a pillowcase, lined the shelves in the damp basement where her grandfather made cloudy purple wine. “Was it the best wine in the world? Tucci asks. “No. Was it the worst? Very close. Did it matter? No. It was part of my grandfather, whom we adored, and it made it the sweetest liquid that ever passed between. our lips.
This fusion of love and nourishment is what gives Tucci’s book its sweetness. He lovingly writes his family’s rituals, from the Christmas timpani (a mighty pastry drum stuffed with ziti, salami, cheese, eggs and meatballs) to epic Independence Day picnics. during which the guests played pétanque, sang “Yankee Doodle”, drank a jug of wine and feasted on sausages and peppers. Of her mother, Tucci writes, “I can honestly say that on the four-burner electric stove that she used throughout my childhood and the gas stove that replaced it many years later, she never cooked a bad meal. Not once. ”The book includes a handful of recipes, including the meaty Tucci family stew that I can’t wait to try.
Tucci loves restaurants almost as much as home cooking. He lovingly describes the old Manhattan restaurants that supported him as a struggling young actor, places like Big Nick’s, which sold “huge fatty and bloody burgers on plump buns.” There will always be a place in her heart for Carnegie Deli, where towering pastrami sandwiches nourished body and mind ‘when you came home late at night from a few too many at a cheap downtown bar. town, on your way to the one bedroom apartment that you thought you would live for the rest of your life if someone didn’t give you a job soon ”.
Apparently someone gave him a job pretty quickly because within a few chapters Tucci dines at glamorous restaurants in remote places like Vancouver, Normandy, and Reykjavik. Even when the food isn’t fabulous – he’s not a fan of Icelandic puffins – it makes for a good story. In one of the funniest scenes in the book, in a Norman bistro, Tucci and his companions, including Meryl Streep, recklessly order an andouillette, a mysterious French sausage. Tucci looked down at her plate when she arrived and announced, in colorful language, that she looked like the private parts of a male horse. Streep nodded. Scented with cow intestines, it tasted even worse than it looked and everyone shyly sent back their andouillette and ordered omelets.
Since 2012, Tucci has gradually placed food at the center of its professional life. He has written two cookbooks and earlier this year won an Emmy for his television series In search of Italy, a tantalizing tour of the country’s distinctive regional cuisines. But in the darkest irony, in the book’s penultimate chapter, Tucci reveals that in 2017, he was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer. The horrific treatment not only made him sick to his stomach, it also made his mouth burn with the water “like battery acid”. For six months, he poured his food directly into his stomach through a feeding tube. Fortunately, Tucci is once again able to savor his favorite dishes which he lists on a page towards the end of the book, from “chili con carne (extremely sweet!)” To “a fried egg on a very fine toasted bagel”. Reading this book will make you more aware of the glorious – or modest – food at your table, and the people you have the privilege of sharing it with.
Jennifer Reese is the author of “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter”.
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