In the sun-soaked hills of Tuscany, Italy—where farmers have been living off the land for generations, a simple and slow life is celebrated—instead of whipping up whatever is easiest in the kitchen, they cook for the pure pleasure of eating well. Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking by Pamela Sheldon Johns shows us into this world, one of quality ingredients, minus the high prices and culinary hubbub of today’s world.
The book features more than 60 dishes collected by Johns over her 20 years of living in Tuscany. All of the recipes, from a simple panzanella bread salad to a traditional cimbellone ring cake are the kind of everyday “peasant” fare that is rich in flavor and lean on costly ingredients.
Johns profiles locals, neighbors and friends from various Tuscan villages and shares not only their favorite meals, but also their stories of survival, despite what is often depicted as overwhelming poverty. These folks didn’t have the luxury of eating exotic cuisines, shopping at the grocery or wasting even a scrap of food—yet their meals were still clean and tasted good.
The book’s photography alternates between lushly saturated images and black and white stills of hard-working personalities of the past. The author’s message is a clear one—respect and remember the hardships of the past, and be ever thankful for one’s daily bread.
—By Emily Arno