Summary and book reviews of La Cucina by Lily Prior

La Cucina

A Novel of Rapture

by Lily Prior

La Cucina
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2000, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 288 pages

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Book Summary

Exuberant and touching, La Cucina is a magical evocation of life's mysterious seasons and the treasures found in each one. It celebrates family, food, passion, and the eternal rapture of romance.

Since childhood, Rosa Fiore -- daughter of a sultry Sicilian matriarch and her hapless husband -- found solace in her family's kitchen. La Cucina, the heart of the family's lush estate, was a place where generations of Fiore women prepared sumptuous feasts and where the drama of extended family life was played out around the age-old table.

When Rosa was a teenager, her own cooking became the stuff of legend in this small community that takes pride in the bounty of its landscape and the eccentricity of its inhabitants. Rosa's infatuation with culinary arts was rivaled only by her passion for a young man, Bartolomeo, who, unfortunately, belonged to another. After their love affair ended in tragedy, Rosa retreated first into her kitchen and then into solitude, as a librarian in Palermo. There she stayed for decades, growing corpulent on her succulent dishes, resigned to a loveless life.

Then, one day, she meets the mysterious chef, known only is I'Inglese, whose research on the heritage of Sicilian cuisine leads him to Rosa's library, and into her heart. They share one sublime summer of discovery, during which I'lnglese awakens the power of Rosa's sensuality, and together they reach new heights of culinary passion. When I'Inglese suddenly vanishes, Rosa returns home to the farm to grieve for the loss of her second love. In the comfort of familiar surroundings, among her, growing family, she discovers the truth about her loved ones and finds her life transformed once more by the magic of her cherished Cucina.

Exuberant and touching, La Cucina is a magical evocation of life's mysterious seasons and the treasures found in each one. It celebrates family, food, passion, and the eternal rapture of romance. 

Chapter One

Tip the flour in a heap on the table. The old oak table, legacy of Nonna Calzino, smoothed to a brilliant luster by all the years of daily use.

Not too much flour. Not too little. Just the right amount. Fine flour milled from durum wheat by Papa Grazzi at Mascali. Sprinkle in some sea salt, a good measure. Add some fresh eggs and some extra egg yolks, sufficient for the amount of flour, and also some good olive oil and a very little cold water.

Using your fingers, mix the liquids into the flour, combining your ingredients until a smooth paste is formed. The eggs may feel slimy to the touch but this is natural. Knead well, using the heels of the hands in a forward, downward movement.

Knead just until the arms begin to ache and the small bead of sweat starts to trace its way down the spine from somewhere between the shoulder blades to the cleft between the buttocks. This, of course, in winter; in summer the sweat pours down the face and neck, dampening the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

"La cucina is the heart of the fattoria, and has formed the backdrop to the lives of our family, the Fiores, as far back as, and further than, anyone can remember. This kitchen has witnessed our joys, griefs, births, deaths, nuptials, and fornications for hundreds of years.

Even now the ghosts of our forebears gather in the kitchen, sitting around like old friends, participating in discussions and passing judgment on the activities of the living.

La cucina bears the scents of its past, and every moment in its history is recorded with an olfactory memorandum. Here vanilla, coffee, nutmeg, and confidences; there the milky-sweet smell of babies, old leather, sheep's cheese, and violets. In the corner by the larder ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

People magazine

Succulent saga...with a sensuous tone, a folkloric narrative style and a most original set of characters, La Cucina could well satisfy the hungriest of appetites.

Library Journal

Reminiscent of Laura Esquivel and John Irving, mixed with a healthy dollop of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Prior's debut is clever, untamed, funny, and at times shocking.

Publishers Weekly

Sumptuously appointed, celebratory and sensuous, this debut novel is a mouth-watering blend of commedia dell'arte and Greek tragedy. Prior cooks up a cinematic yarn full of characters so rich you'll fear they're fattening, but readers will be sure to splurge on this saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes, and murder.

Author Blurb Valerie Martin, author of Mary Reilly and Italian Fever
La Cucina is a heady concoction, like a long meal with relatives, by turns funny, frightening, sad, and joyful. I've rarely seen a first novel of such originality and confidence.”

Author Blurb Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine
A wonderful novel; a festival of life and all its pleasures, bursting with passion and extravagant color. Similar in some ways to Like Water for Chocolate, this novel celebrates love, the family, the body and food with a joyous, hopeful exuberance.

Reader Reviews

Maria T. Miranda

Reader
I enjoyed this novel because it represents all cultural identities reflecting on food, family, morals, economic status, and yes love & romance that most people like the character Rosa seem to think is impossible. Although, I am not Italian, I love ...   Read More

Carol Ann Green

This was a laugh out loud book. I don't know when I have enjoyed a quick read more.
Rosa has all the innocence and comfort within her skin that we all wish we had. A more than perfect example of the disfunctional family. And aren't they all. I ...   Read More

Alanna

This book is a colorful story of true Sicilian life. La Cucina is a truly captivating and beautiful story. I haven't read such a wonderful story in years. I look forward to enjoying yet another novel from Ms. Prior in the near future.

Patricia Floro

For the first time in 10 years, I have found a book that I could not put down. I am of Italian decent and married a man right off the boat from Italy. With each page I was reading parts of my life and about my family. I laughed until it hurt, I ...   Read More

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