Mar 16, 2015

TCMFF Prefunc: Cooking with Sophia Loren

While I've yet to check out Sophia Loren's new memoir, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, I have had the pleasure of reading her cookbooks. She wrote two of them, one published in 1972, the other over twenty years later in 1998. Both books are lot of fun, very autobiographical and full of that joy for life that Loren exudes so delightfully.

The most glamorous pizza chef ever
Loren wrote the notes that would become her first cookbook, In the Kitchen With Love, when she was pregnant with her son Carlo, Jr. She was under doctor's orders to rest. To calm her anxiety about the upcoming birth and fill long days of confinement, she began to cook the recipes she remembered from her childhood.

The book has dozens of these recipes, all traditional Italian cuisine, arranged in neat little paragraphs. She also adds snippets of advice about eating and entertaining called Digressions. Her insights are among the best parts of the book. They're revealing, charming and timelessly practical. Over forty years later, her thoughts about taking care of guests, sourcing fresh ingredients and smoking at the table (she thinks it's yucky, as most people do now!) are still useful.

Some of the recipes had me drooling. Fried artichokes? Fried pizza? And on the healthier side, Polenta with Gorgonzola.

Loren making sauce, with full cat eyes and her cook
I wasn't so sure about the Beans with Caviar, though Loren insists it is divine. The Tuna Fish Loaf and Kidneys and Bacon kind of disturbed me too, though if Ms. Sophia were making it, I'm sure I'd be game for anything.

And her sandwich recipes are so fancy! I'd pass on the celery and almond sandwich, and the lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich, which is laden with butter too, sounds a bit much. But her salmon sandwich with anchovies and egg yolk intrigued me, as did the combo of mozzarella and pimiento or tomato.

There's also lots of photos of Loren at work in the kitchen, looking every bit the star you want her to be. Full eye make-up, big, gold hoops in her ears. This is how you cook darling!

Unfortunately, the book is long out of print, but it's out there if you're willing to pay a bit for it. I was lucky to find a copy at the library, but I adore it so much that I am sure I'll eventually track down one of my own. Check it out if you can!

Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories has a lot of the same kinds of recipes, but is overall a much different book. It's more elaborate, with photos on every page, more details about Loren's personal life and the sort of detailed cooking instructions more commonly found in modern recipe books. While it doesn't have the fascination of a 40-year-old viewpoint, it is equally as charming as her first book and the recipes are a bit more palatable for current tastes.

While there are many new recipes, the Fried Pizzas make another appearance. My goodness that sounds delicious. Loren also sings the praises of caviar and beans again in this volume. Maybe I'll have to give that a try after all?

This book is also out of print, but used copies are much more affordable. It's worth tracking one down if you have any interest in Italian cooking. The recipes seem practical to make, and look delicious.

Be forewarned that it doesn't matter how stuffed you think you might be, reading these books will make you hungry!

Now I need to track down Sophia's book about beauty. Who better to give tips on that?

Oh to be a guest at this party!

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