The Passage of the Frog and the Wild Strawberries of 1942
I recently had the pleasure of attending a series of evenings celebrating the gastronomic delights and wines of Italy. Our chef, and the author of the book the subject of this review, used the preparation of a cross-section of signature dishes as a vehicle to introduce our assembled company to many facets of Italy, its history, geography and cultural triumphs.
Beniamino Petrosino has the ability to command interest as he shares intimate knowledge of his homeland. He commands interest both as a speaker and as the author of this engaging family saga. We are transported back to the early years of the last century, and situated in the ancient but bleak and unforgiving territory of Basilicata in the south of Italy. Beniamino introduces us to his forebears with great erudition and humanity. The shadow of the Count lies heavily over the family story. Is there a curse? The affection of the author for his siblings is obvious throughout as is his concern for them.
Though a chronicle of one family we learn effortlessly of the time and place. The rural setting is bucolic but for its privations. Difficulties in survival abound but are described through the experience of the characters with a light touch. Food features frequently in the narrative, not just its scarcity but its nature, composition and preparation. The author is after all a master chef but this is not as presented in some popular television culinary contest. The cuisine is a part of the people's life, their mood, their achievements, their aspirations.
If you want a special snapshot of a special part of Italy, its culture and a glimpse of inside the mind of a special self-made expatriate Italian, then read Beniamino's story.