Thursday, December 10, 2009

La Cucina: A Novel of Raptures, Lily Prior

Another great read! I'm on a roll this month!

"La Cucina" by Lily Prior has been in my nightstand pile for about a month now - I finally cracked it open a couple of days ago. I wasn't feeling so hot and took a sick day - it was snowing and the other book I had just started was in the car so I grabbed La Cucina. It turns out this was a terrific decision!

The story is centered around Rosa Fiore - a Sicilian woman with a passion for more than just cooking. For all of her life, Rosa has felt truly grounded in her family's kitchen - la cucina. After a short and tragic love affair, Rosa leaves her family and the village of Castiglione and ventures out into the world on her own - obtaining a small apartment in the city. Twenty five years later, she meets l'Inglese - a man who awakens all of the passions she thought she had lost. They spend one intense summer together - in the bedroom and in the kitchen - until he vanishes as suddenly as he had appeared.

It seems like as a culture we are trying to insert sex into everything - so we describe things as "sexy", "sensual", or "sensuous" far too often.

"La Cucina" was all three of these things - and not the Hollywood version of sexy either. We're talking imperfect bodies. Feeding each other bites of Sicilian food. Cooking side-by-side delicious concoctions that are far from low cal, and while it bakes having sex on the kitchen table. The book was racy - there's no way around it.

And the food...

Just hearing about the dishes in this story has inspired me to cook more. Tonight I made chicken stuffed with fresh sage and fontina cheese, mashed potatoes with crumbled bacon and chives. Mmmmm. You will love the descriptions of the food in this book. That being said, if you're looking for a book about Italian cooking... you will be disappointed. Cooking was a vital part of the story, but not the main focus. Rosa is the main focus - and part of that character is the amazing dishes she creates, and the way in which she finds solace in her kitchen.

The narration was fantastic. The reader felt like a fly on the wall through the story. You were invading moments of sorrow, joy, and intimacy. It was easy to become immersed in this novel. Plus, I identify with Rosa using her cooking time to really think and contemplate life. I do the same - usually with some music and a glass of wine in the mix.

One other thing that I really loved - the story was divided into four sections.

L'Inverno (The Winter)
La Primavera (The Spring)
L'Estate (The Summer)
L'Autunno (The Fall)

I found this so clever because this was the outline for the seasons of Rosa's life as told in this novel. Now - I know what you're thinking. If you're talking about the evolution of a human life, spring should come first, ending with winter - rebirth through death. In the case of Rosa, her life began with a horribly tragic love affair, thus making the winter of her life at the beginning. Following this is meeting l'Inglese - resulting in the re-awakening of her sexuality. Her spring. Their love affair - her summer. Her life after his disappearance. Autumn. This was an added touch that I really appreciated.

A great story! More than just cooking and sex - this is the story of a woman finding herself, and loving who she is. Thank you to Christy for letting me borrow it, and thank you to our glorious New England weather for bring snow which deterred me from going to the car on my sick day. I'm glad I stayed in!

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