“Taste: My Life Through Food”
by Stanley Tucci
“Perhaps the most precious heirlooms are family recipes. Like a physical heirloom, they remind us from whom and where we came and give others, in a bite, the story of another people from another place and another time. Recipes are a part of our history that can be re-created over and over again. The only way they can be lost is if we choose to lose them.”
In the spring of 2021, Stanley Tucci’s show Searching for Italy presented a welcome reprieve from the long year of Covid lockdowns and general uncertainty. In the show, Tucci traveled throughout Italy, visiting restaurants and home kitchens, sampling old Italian recipes and modern fused dishes popular along the country’s majestic landscape. The most compelling element was simply Tucci’s love affair with food, its preparation, and the relationships enriched around the dinner table. In Taste, Tucci centers this food obsession, exploring his own family history in relation to cuisine and a personal cancer battle that compromised his appreciation for food.
In Taste, Tucci chronicles his upbringing in New York, where his mother and father worked outside the home and traded kitchen duties. His mother dominated the space, preparing intricate dishes of Italian fare, making the most of affordable ingredients. Tucci blends household memories with family recipes, focusing on his parents’ dedication to the art of cooking. The author’s wit and humor radiate throughout the elaborate descriptions of the food’s preparation and consumption. Tucci understood the power of food as an integral building block of his family dynamic.
Tucci describes his life as a working actor, a filmography which includes hits like Big Night, Julie and Julia, and The Devil Wears Prada. Having formed a close relationship with Meryl Streep, his co-star on the latter films, Tucci shares stories of their culinary escapades off set. A particularly humorous story features the twosome ordering andouillette at a bistro in Normandy. Like his show, Tucci’s book features some social commentary, particularly his gratitude for chefs and small restaurants he fell in love with during his treks across the globe. He admittedly judges a place by its cuisine and how much its people value mealtimes.
In the final chapters, Tucci details his battle with oral cancer, which required a feeding tube and resulted in an aversion to most food smells. After intense radiation and chemotherapy, Tucci slowly regained his ability to swallow and acutely focused on the pleasure of tasting. His intense affection for the fifth sense saturates each story and shared recipe, making this book essential reading for fellow foodies and memoir enthusiasts.
“When my parents are no longer alive, I will always be able to put their teachings and all the love they gave me into a bowl and present it to someone who sadly will never have had the good fortune of knowing them. But by eating that food, they will come to know them, if even just a little.”