Diary of an American in Italy

Never Trust a Thin Cook is best described as an epicurious travelogue. It focuses more on the joy of food and cooking traditions than on specific recipes. Essentially, it is a diary of an American living abroad. Author, Eric Dregni puts this tale in play when he walks away from the popular south Minneapolis eatery, Leaning Tower of Pizza, and follows his heart to Italy.

This culinary memoir is set in the quaint town of Modena, which, like every other town in Italy, has its share of crazy drivers, soccer fanatics, and corruption both political and mundane. Waking up to find your bike stolen, working illegally to earn low wages, and knowing your mail has a better chance of being lost or rifled through then actually making it to its destination are just facts of life. Dregni gives us an impartial and entertaining look at his experiences. He sets himself apart by not overly-romanticizing Italy like so many other authors have done.

Short, colorful chapters examine spirited personalities and odd rituals, such as the etiquette of enjoying a shot of espresso with friends. Some of the most interesting sections are on Dregni's two jobs and his run-ins with pushy, old Italian ladies. Between avoiding these demanding grandmas, he makes a paltry living as an Italian journalist and English teacher. Both jobs give him more access to the culture of Italy than an idle tourist. Food is not left out of this book, but it is not overwhelming it either. For the gourmands, there are sections on cooking tortellini from scratch, the art of aging balsamic vinegar, and a plethora of pork encounters.

Even though I'm in a warehouse with delicious cheese stacked two stories high as far as I can see, the subject of the conversation inevitably changes to pigs. 'The leftovers from making Parmesan are given to the pigs. This is what gives prosciutto its special flavor,' the guide notes. 'Not only are wheels of Parmesan in the bank, but also legs of prosciutto.' Even the cheese is somehow related to the pigs in Modena.”
-pg 34

Dregni shows his competence both as a journalist and as a writer. Never Trust a Thin Cook will hit you with culture shock the moment you start reading. It is a much more than a cookbook; anyone with a love of travel or who is thinking about teaching English overseas should pick up a copy. This lesson on life will most certainly leave you wondering, 'what's for dinner?'

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