Live to eat another day… when food is life | Books

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Food has never been a form of creativity for me, but I enjoy it (probably too much). I love a good restaurant and am curious about the recipes and the preparation they require, but what I really enjoy are the books on “foodies” and their gastronomic adventures. There are so many books on food and travel that the genre has been referred to as “bloated … with a high bar”, referred to by Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, Barbara Kingsolver, Laurie Colwin and Marcus Samuelson. Now that bar is raised, once again, by movie star Stanley Tucci. Her new book “Taste: My Life Through Food” is an unconventional memoir about her love – and occasional hate – to eat and drink. It is, in a nutshell, delicious.

Tucci is primarily known as a character actor who has appeared in a number of independent films. He has also appeared in blockbusters such as “The Devil Wears Prada”, “The Hunger Games”, “The Lovely Bones” and “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” by HBO. It has been around for decades, won numerous awards, and has a huge fan base. We learn in “Taste”, that the world almost lost him.

Tucci grew up in the town of Katonah in Westchester County, New York, in an Italian enclave 60 miles north of Manhattan. The child of first-generation immigrants, he wrote about the traditions of hunting, butchering and rendering, attributing his love of food to his family. Her mother, an outstanding cook, prepared her school meals with eggplant parmigiana sandwiches from the night before, while Tucci actually coveted her friends’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Tucci’s big, big-hearted Italian-American family spent every night around the kitchen table and he shared the enchantment of those meals in “The Tucci Cookbook” and “The Tucci Table”. In this latest book, he takes readers beyond the mouth-watering recipes and into the compelling stories behind them. The dissertation is a reflection on the link between food and life, full of anecdotes about his childhood; prepare and shoot the gastronomic films “Big Night” and “Julie & Julia”, fall in love over dinner and join his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Every detail of Tucci’s culinary journey through good times and bad, five-star (and one-star) meals, is as simple and delicious as the last.

Now 60, Tucci is recovering from a terrifying battle with cancer. Four years ago, he started having sharp jaw pain, which became unbearable. He went to see a doctor in London, who found a huge tumor at the base of his tongue. The treatment plan seemed horrible and ultimately unnecessary: ​​radiation therapy, chemotherapy, extensive surgery. “I would never be able to eat or speak normally again,” Tucci writes. The removal of a large part of the tongue, as well as the salivary glands, would mean that Tucci was doomed to lose his sense of taste and smell. He would also be unable to swallow and would need a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. The only other option, suggested by oncologists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was to avoid surgery altogether, in favor of 35 days of very high-dose targeted radiation therapy, one session five times a week for seven weeks, with the Tucci’s head and neck oppressed and encased in a webbed mask. “I did it because I had to do it,” Tucci remarks grimly.

The side effects were inevitably horrible. The food tasted like “old wet cardboard”. Her mouth was riddled with ulcers and everything smelled disgusting. Tucci needed large doses of morphine, resulting in chronic constipation. Even a sip of water “burned like battery acid.” Therapy was essential in stopping the atrophy of the muscles in the tongue. Tucci must have regained the suppleness of his jaw and for a long time he could not eat steak because there was not enough saliva to facilitate swallowing. Throughout this terrible experience, Tucci said, he was not afraid of death. He feared losing his sense of taste. “I mean, if you can’t eat and enjoy the food, how are you going to enjoy everything else?” ” he asks.

His tongue has been saved and he claims he is on the verge of a full recovery, aided by visits to his London home by his old friend and fellow actor Colin Firth (they recently worked together on the movie “Supernova”) . Tucci also praises his wife, literary agent Felicity Blunt, sister of actress Emily Blunt, whom he married in 2012. Felicity introduced him to “plucked pheasant” and roasted potatoes. with goose fat. Instead of a wedding cake, they had a wedding cheese board.

Although Tucci underwent the treatment over three years ago, he told the New York Times in an interview that he was still feeling the side effects in the fall of 2019 when he started filming the famous travel diary. CNN’s culinary guide, “Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy.” Tucci told The Times his smell and taste returned before the shoot, but he still couldn’t swallow. ‘I had to chew it for 10 minutes to get it into my throat,’ he said. he said, recalling a moment on set where he ate Florentine steak, a Tuscan dish. For those times when it was impossible to swallow, he admits he “just had to get rid of the food.” his inability to eat regularly, he said there was no doubt in his mind that he would put on this show. “I have wanted to tell the story of Italy and the disparate cuisine of each region for a long time.

For the most part, “Taste” is a pleasure to read, but one of the themes is loss. In 2009, Tucci lost his first wife, Kathryn, to breast cancer. She was only 47 years old. “His death is still incomprehensible to me,” he said, “his unreal absence”. There were three young children who were to be devastated a second time by the cancer dramas in Tucci. (Tucci and Felicity have two children, one born while undergoing cancer treatments.)

There’s also a loss when Tucci talks about his years of wrestling in New York City, trying to find work, before his genius as a character actor was recognized. He mourns the demolition of the city’s majestic old buildings, restaurants and theaters, entire neighborhoods that have been replaced by “ill-designed housing for the next generation at prices most people cannot afford.” He describes his beloved haunts like Carnegie Deli, Luchow’s, and the Oak Room at the Plaza: Slice it up. “

Tucci says he discovered, after his illness, that food was not only an important part of his life: “It was basically my life”, not only to keep him alive, but also to make him better. . “Taste” enriches readers and establishes Tucci as one of the wisest and most generous personalities today.


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