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Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food


Someone preparing ravioli

Author: John Dickie –

Publisher: Tantor Audio –

Genre: History, Cooking –

Overall rating: 5/5 –

Writing: 5/5 –

Duration: 12:03 (long) –

Narrator: Simon Vance –

Narrator/performance: 4/5 –

Impressions: n/a –

Performance errors: 1/5 –

Complexity/reading level: 5/5 –

Audience: General


Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food is based on some really interesting research. There are recipes written by Italian prisoners of war, by a Jewish housewife indirectly embracing fascism (no exaggeration from my part), by a cook preparing dinners for a cardinal during a very long conclave. There is the fascinating history of pasta intertwined with the evolution of pastimes and the unification of Italy.

The book is rather original in its approach to its subject. John Dickie looks for traces of the contemporary Italian cuisine across the ages, in the end not really finding it anywhere. The resulting conclusion is so striking that it would be a spoiler to provide it in a review. This observation can be, however, seen as proof of the book’s originality and ingenuity. What a risk to take, not providing the expected answer but one based on deliberation and inference.

This book may in a way destroy the myth of a traditional Italian cuisine, leading to the question of origins in general. Are origins of anything what we think they are? Do we really “have” the time we think we have? Or is it running straight towards the next challenge that will change us forever? If so, what is tradition and why does it matter? Quite a lot of questions for a book about food, I reckon.

Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food, John Dickie

A lovely cover but not a very clear one for the small format of mobile audiobooks. It shows a still life with food in it. It is great that it reminds not only of produce but also of design, so important in the Italian culture. I would go, however, for a completely different letter design.

Cover Photo by Food Photographer on Unsplash