Title – La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture
Author – Lily Prior
This is the tale of Rosa Fiore, a peasant Sicilian girl who grows up in a passionate household and who in her way finds her own passions. From the men she loves to the cooking she does.
Rosa’s family has always been suspect in her small village. Her mother’s powerful and lustful ways the stuff of much gossip. Until the birth of her brothers, Siamese twins, proof of her mother’s wickedness the gossip was always in whispers.
For Rosa, in her youth she falls in love with young Bartolomeo, the son of a local Don of the Mafioso. A relationship that would not be permitted.
“..Then you may begin the rolling. Dust the table lightly with flour and divide your dough into eight equal pieces. Taking one piece, begin rolling by moving the rolling pin in a motion away from you, pressing evenly to create a rectangular shape. Continue thus until your sheet of pasta is long and thin and about the thickness of the blade of a knife. The knife that slit Bartolomeo’s throat. Slicing through his beautiful young flesh like coltello through lard…”
In her grief, young Rosa cooks and cooks. Her recipes and abundance of food feeds her family and the village. She cooks herself into exhaustion.
No longer able to stay in the village where her young love was murdered she leaves to become a librarian in the small town of San Domenico. Twenty five years pass and she has settled into a new life of her own. Far from her village, from her family and from the two passions in her life. Until one day a foreigner comes into the library looking for manuscripts on the recipes of the cultures that had built the city and the island of Sicily.
With the arrival of this L’Inglese, the passions that had laid dormant in Rosa would re-ignite. Her love and her cooking.
“..Of course, signor,” I said very quickly, as if afraid my courage would desert me at the last moment, “if you really want to know about our food, you will not find it in books.”
“No?” L’Inglese read the signal.
“You, um, you need someone to show you.” I looked at him squarely while blushing like a beetroot.
“You mean you cook, signorina?” he asked, his eyes bright with a sudden fire.”
“Signor,” I said, “I cook…”
Together, with her L’Inglese, Rosa comes alive again. But will the disapproval of her family reach out to take her happiness away once again?
La Cucina is very similar in its telling as Like Water For Chocolate and if you loved Like Water for Chocolate, you will love La Cucina. If you didn’t get Like Water for Chocolate, you will not get La Cucina.
It is romantic and passionate but not erotica in a obvious way. It is subtle yet powerful. Prior chooses to be descriptive about the passion and dreams of her characters rather than the acts themselves. The influence of family and small village life is also interesting and adds another dimension to the happenings in this novel.
All around a very good read.