The first copies have been spotted in Toronto. In a bookshop of all places! An eagle-eyed friend send me a picture of what looks like a real huddle of books, two of which are brazenly facing out to show off a picture of my table, a little Duralex glass of coffee, my faithful Moka pot, a piece of a Roman Christmas cake called pangaillo (yellow bread), a bowl of oranges and lemons, and the words My Kitchen in Rome, Rachel Roddy. The picture came through with a beep and then it glowed through the screen breaking the absolute darkness in the bedroom at my parents house deep in the Dorset countryside. I have written another book I thought! I am prolific. Then I remembered it was the same book, just with another cover and title. A book that is now in a bookshop in Toronto and soon to be in more bookshops all over Canada, and on the 2nd of February in America. My American edition! I feel so international, and proud that my book has the chance to do what I have always longed for, that is travel all over a vast, thrilling land on the other side the Atlantic. I haven’t seen a real copy yet, so my next thought was to check they had airbrushed the dirty mark off the wall behind the table, which of course they have. Wide awake, I came downstairs to write this in the middle of the night. Now the wind is howling what sounds like congratulations outside the kitchen window, I have a celebratory coffee in my hand, and feel extremely happy.
The cover and name maybe be different, but inside is just the same, give or take the odd cup. Actually lots of cups, as the recipes have been patiently converted. The baking though is in both cups and metric, which is thanks to my brilliant testers and their conviction that offering both was right. I think we have also changed the words palaver and draining board. In short, little changes, but the book, whether Five Quarters with a sink, or My Kitchen in Rome with a table, remains the same.
Many of you know the story. I didn’t intend to stay in Rome. I was set on returning to Sicily to finish the clockwise journey I’d interrupted. Then I visited a part of the city called Testaccio, which – for want of a better description – tripped me up with its cocky charm. I decided to stay for a while and rented a flat above a breadshop, across a courtyard from boisterous trattoria and seconds from the burly old market. My front door opened onto a narrow balcony overlooking an internal courtyard which was sort of vortex of cooking smells and vigorous Roman life.
There is a wonderful Elizabeth Bowen quote (that we were given permission to use on page 252) pointing out the injunction to do when in Rome as the romans do is superfluous: what else is there to do? Of course I was going to eat pizza bianca just pulled from the mouth of a baker’s oven, flowers dipped in batter and fried until golden, carbonara, spaghetti alle vongole, gnocchi with tomato sauce, whole braised artichokes, bitter greens cooked with olive oil and garlic, wobbly cream puddings, wild cherry tart. Seasonal, uncomplicated, bold, and with flavours that are undisguised and definite: Roman food was a revelation. And I didn’t just want to eat these dishes, I wanted to try to understand them, to make them. I have always cooked and written, but the two met, collided really, in a small wind ventilated kitchen on Via Mastro Giorgio.
I’d left everything behind in order to travel. I adopted a similar approach to cooking, allowing myself to watch, taste, experiment and learn things all over again, especially the blindingly obvious things. Such as how to make a soffritto, the simplest tomato sauce and bean soup, how to braise vegetables and meat in wine and their own juices, to boil pasta and soak chickpeas, all things I ostensibly knew how to do, but then again didn’t. Things that, once re-learned and better understood changed the way I cook. I cooked and kept notes, and cooked and kept notes. In 2008 my notes found a home here on this blog, and now seven years later a new home in this book.
My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian cooking is the full name of the US/Canadian edition. Nick Seaton, a photographer whose work I like and admire very much, came and more-or-less lived with us and our chaos for a days at a time in order to capture Testaccio. His pictures, which feel like acute sideways glances at this distinct part of Rome, are honest and beautiful and add another dimension to the book. The rest of the pictures are mine, taken over the course of the year in our small kitchen as I cooked my way though the seasons and the 120 recipes.
Swelling the fact that a book is the hard, dedicated work of many, I now want to thank the brilliant team at Grand Central, especially my Editor Brittany McInerney. I would also like to thank my first editor Sara Weiss, the first person to approach me about a book, years before anyone else. Sara, you planted the seed.
Above all though, Thank you to you, for reading, cooking, commenting and for the real sense of community that exists here. Without you, this book, in two editions, would quite simply never have happened. I know some of you have bought the UK edition, but for those of you who have waited long eight months, cheering me along all the way, you can now buy a copy if you wish, from a bookshop, or here on line. Please let me know if you do, one of the joys of the glowing, beeping, inter-batty-web is that so many of us can keep in touch, send me a message here, or on twitter, or instagram, I want to know. I am finishing my second book now, but just as soon as that is delivered I am planning to come the US, visit some bookshops if they will have me, and hopefully meet some of you. It all feels very exciting.
Now it is light, and although a grey Dorset day, feeling very bright, and I need more coffee. More soon. R