Taste – Stanley Tucci

Published By: Penguin, Fig Tree
Pages: 320
Released On: 07/10/2021

Before Stanley Tucci became a household name with The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games, and the perfect Negroni, he grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the table. He shared the magic of those meals with us in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, and now he takes us beyond the recipes and into the stories behind them.

Taste is a reflection on the resection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about growing up in Westchester, New York, preparing for and filming the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia, falling in love over dinner, and teaming up with his wife to create conversation-starting meals for their children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burnt dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last.

*****

This is a hard review to write as I’m not sure I’ll be able to fully convey the emotions this book has brought out of me, but I hope to give it justice.

Can we all just stand up and admit that we all love Stanley Tucci a little bit? Or not even a little bit. I love him a lot. And I admit it to anyone who will listen – and those who don’t. Not only is he a fabulous actor, director and presenter, it is clear he is a superb writer too (I’d also say cook, but as he hasn’t yet cooked for me, I cannot pass judgement). Food is a hard thing to write about well, because it is something that physically needs to be seen, smelt, tasted to fully appreciate, but he manages to put so much passion that you experience these senses just through his words.

You can hear his voice in every word of this book. It is informative and entertaining and enjoyable, and with his distinctive humour and wit thrown into every sentence. Hearing the words in your head is like hearing him sat reading it out loud next to you.

There is no way of reading this without instantly salivating and feeling very hungry. His way with words is second to none. As someone who has lived in England all her life, it’s fascinating to see it – and the food – written about by a non-native. It brings a new shine on British food. But I will agree with Stanley (yes we’re on first-name terms) that Italian food, simple Italian food, can not be beaten. It’s light and delightful in the summer, but warming and indulgent in the snow.

(Minor spoiler alert – although he has talked publicly about it)

The chapter on his mouth/tongue cancer journey was so poignant and hit home – hard. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, my dad died in 2017 after a short battle with oesophageal cancer. Before this, food was one of his greatest pleasures, and to see that get ripped away from him was heartbreaking. Stanley doesn’t pull any punches in this chapter. He is honest about the ups and downs, and you come to realise just how important food is. Not just for sustenance, but for love and pleasure.

I collect numerous cookbooks, and whilst most are simply recipe after recipe, my favourites tend to be by Nigel Slayer, as he merges recipes with stories of his life, and that’s what Stanley has done – to great affect. We can really see why food means so much to him.

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