Il Re Dei Cuochi; ossia, L'arte di mangiare al gusto degl'italiani con cibi nostrali e stranieri; opere contenente quanto è necessario per saper bene ordinare e servire un pranzo, non chè i migliori metodi per fare confetture, rosoli, liquori e gelati. [The King of Chefs; or, The art of eating, after the manner of the Italians, our own and foreign dishes; containing what is necessary to know about ordering and serving a meal, as well as the best methods for creating preserves, spirits, liqueurs, and ice creams.]

Firenze: Adriano Salani, Editore, 1901.

Small octavo (17.5 x 12 cm.), 359 pages. Frontispiece (see description below) and one diagram (a banquet table, from above, set for twenty-four persons). First edition. The earliest recorded copies of this title were printed by Salani in 1904, and there were numerous subsequent printings (see Orazio Bagnasco, II, pages 1406-1407). A recipe collection and guide to the Italian peninsula. L'arte di mangiare presumes a certain focus on batters, grains, creams, and sauces. One might linger over Fritelle di Erbe Odorose (fragrant herb fritters, no. 293) or a regional Sfogliatine with candied fruit (no. 672). But the seven hundred ninety-six numbered recipes insistently embrace fish (tench, bream, mullet, paraghi, carpione), game, and the full complement of bovidae – not to forget hooves, stomachs, testicles, and tongues. The indispensable note "salateli allora quanto basta" ("then add salt to taste") recurs, but precision of measurement is enlisted when needed: Scorzonera (salsify) should be cut in eight or ten centimeter lengths (no. 221); Gelato di Crema alla Mandorla (no. 776) requires three hundred grams of almonds to fourteen egg yolks. And, for those who desire the carmine effect, one needs ten grams of the scale insect cochineal to prepare the liqueur Alkermes (no. 767) – which, in turn, will be needed for the Zuppa Inglese (no. 659). A small host of Italian cookery companions appear in the middle half of the nineteenth century with names of their author(s) omitted, evidently as promise that the cuisine advocated therein would be found to be communal, "of the people" – in a word, national – and not, therefore, the concoctions of a chef in the employ of nobility. They might be either men or women, or even both, as in the case of Il cuoco milanese e la cuciniera piemontese (Milan: Lombardi, 1853). Chefs of noble houses, by contrast, advertised their names and co-opted the language of hierarchy. Probably the most successful cookbook of this milieu was that by Giovanni Nelli: Il re dei cuochi: Trattado di gastronomia universale (Milan: Legros, 1868; and reprinted many times); though later followers raised the royal banner, trumping Nelli's The King of Cooks with The King of Kings of Cooks (Jean-Marie Parmentier's Il re dei re dei cuochi [Turin: Bietti, 1895]) and The Emperor of Cooks (Vitalino Bossi's L'imperatore dei cuochi [Rome: Perini, 1894]). An anonymous sovereign, then, is something of a hybrid. Il re dei cuochi (originally published in 1881) appropriates from Nelli the opening phrase of its title and reproduces on its frontispiece the image of a cook holding a saucepan and slotted spoon that had appeared on Nelli's cover (a popular engraving in neither the first nor last of its sightings). It may have been intended as a less expensive alternative to the Trattado. Recipes occupy center stage: general instructions (obligations of the host, table service, preliminary ingredients notes) are dispensed with in twenty-two pages. Thereafter the impression is one of an attempt to embrace the regions of the peninsula, supplemented with a nod to the Mediterranean beyond, with suffixes such as all 'uso toscano, all'uso di Napoli, alla romagnola, alla veneziana, alla cremonese, alla milanese, alla lucchese, alla triestina, alla perugina, alla genovese, alla lombarda, alla tirolese, alla torinese, alla marchigiana; and all' Istriono, alla provenzale, all' uso di Levante. One leaf loosened, two pages very slightly chipped; otherwise text block solid and pages clean. rebound in lightly worn, publisher's dark green pebbled cloth. Spine rubbed, with gilt short title on spine. Still very good or better. Owner's plate "Ex Libris John Fuller" inside front cover. Very rare. [OCLC locates no copies of the 1891 printing, but two copies dated 1894 with similar pagination, LOC & Texas Tech].

Price: $500.00

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