A Late Tribute to The Silver Spoon

It’s been 7 years since The Silver Spoon, the Italian bible of cooking, was translated into English. I remember hearing a segment on the cookbook on NPR when it arrived on American shores. Somehow I missed opportunities to check it out of the library, and never quite wanted to dedicate the Manhattan real estate to purchasing the tome. I finally hauled home a copy from the New York Society Library (NYSL) last Thursday. See my post on my favorite New York library here.

The NYSL has old fashioned stacks, and up on Stack 11, I had been peering through books about railroad station design (alas, I did not bring home a book on the destruction of Pennsylvania Station – too depressing). Around the corner, I found the tome of The Silver Spoon. I didn’t have an extra bag to haul it and the 4 other books I wanted. I knew I’d get a little prod from the lady at the front desk to take a bag from them. They rightly want to protect their books.

Feeling strong, I lugged my finds down to the desk. “Do you want a bag?” she asked. The book is nearly 3 inches thick.

The very organization of the book is beautiful. Graphic block letters proclaim various challenges:  Barquettes! Rice Salads! Sweetbreads! Quail! Charlottes! My 2005 self, listening to the NPR segment on The Silver Spoon, remembers the commentator remarking that Americans would be hesitant to try a number of the foods presented in the Italian book. It was four years before my trip to St. John in London, two years before my first trip to Paris. The American palate has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last seven years, and all of the recipes now seem possible.  I love a cookbook that has sections for specific vegetables, and not just the 1950s American supermarket variety vegetable. Buck’s Horn Plantain! Cardoon! Chestnuts! Salsify! Pumpkin! (Mozzarella Pumpkin Sandwich anyone? I don’t even like winter squash, but I’d try it with that tang of parmesan). Unlike my saccharine American cookbooks, only a sliver, 115 pages out of 1,263, of The Silver Spoon is dedicated to desserts. That suits my savory tooth to a T.


About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.

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