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The 100 Books of Italian Cuisine

History of food writing in Italy

“No one who cooks, cooks alone.
Even at her most solitary,
a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past,
the advice and menus of cooks present,
the wisdom of cookbook writers."
 Laurie Colwin 

Thanks to Italian culture, gastronomic literature has developed significantly over the course of the centuries. At the European level, Italian food writing holds a prime position due to the support of chefs, writers, scientists, historians, scholars and moralists, who were dedicated to strengthening their knowledge and skills – giving birth to a sort of ideal gastronomic library.

In fact, every civilization, even the most ancient, has produced written documents relating to cooking. These documents have taken the form of dietary guidelines, food safety regulations, treatises on agriculture, particularly with regards to food production, and cookbooks. Historically, Italy has been a leader in producing works tied to the theoretical and practical aspects of gastronomy.

This is certainly true at least until the apex of the art, which occurred during the Renaissance, but also afterwards when French culinary tradition was destined to prevail. However, French food writing would have been inconceivable were it not for the Italian art of treatise writing that developed in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

It is our desire to document, as much as possible, the rich history of Italian gastronomic culture.
Our collection of cookbooks, culinary treatises and documents about important elements of Italian culture, including wine, the role of the scalco, or a banquet organizer, and the trinciante, or carver, is a presentation of food writing spanning an arch of seven centuries.

The collection offers the reader a survey of the historically significant works and lays the groundwork for building “the” Italian gastronomic library. The collection is so rich and interesting that the “100 books” referenced will hardly be able to perfectly represent the subject. The 100 books presented here allow us, in a synthesized way, to follow the evolution of the culinary arts.

The curious reader can access the full content of the main works, by clicking on the links embedded in the document. For the first time, thanks to Academia Barilla, these books are available in their entirety in digital format with a bibliographical reference card.

Liberally taken and adapted from: M. ALBERINI, Gastronomia, in Enciclopedia Europea, Turin, Garzanti, 1977, V, pp. 249-250; DI CARPEGNA C., Miti e realtà nella letteratura gastronomica italiana, in Gastronomia e società, Milan, Franco Angeli, 1984, pp. 75-148; E. FACCIOLI, L'arte della cucina in Italia, Turin, Einaudi, 1987, pp. VII-XXXI; M. MONTANARI, Leggere il cibo: un viaggio nella letteratura gastronomica, in La cucina bricconcella: 1891-1991 Pellegrino Artusi e l'arte di mangiar bene cento anni dopo, Bologna, Grafis, 1991, pp. 23-40.