As an enthusiastic fan of food, history and Italy, I was impressed with reading Delizia! by University College London professor, John Dickie. Dickie is well know for being somewhat of an expert in Italian history and culture. He has written many books and papers on the subject, a favourite of mine being Cosa Nostra, which explores the Sicilian Mafia and Italian organized crime.
Delizia! comes across very much as a labour of love on Dickie’s part. As opposed to a book on Italian food with facts popped in, Dickie delves into the history of Italy’s best known dishes and ingredients, whilst putting them in the context of the period. You might think tracing the origins of pasta is simple, but boy, will you learn otherwise. Such is Dickie’s in-depth discussion of the topics at hand that you get the impression he could write several more books on the subject. Indeed, this book made me come away wishing he would.
As is normal with books detailing the history of an entire area or entity going back thousands of years, he devotes more of the book to more recent times, notably post 17th Century. Unless you are particularly picking about certain periods of history, this should not be a problem. Besides, Dickie’s writing is the best kind of historical narrative writing – informative, but not sterilisingly so.
All in all, a treat of a book I was delighted to read and absolutely enthralled by. I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in the humanities – and even the sciences!
Now, which cable network wants to create a gritty but gripping post-watershed series based on this book? I’m game for it.