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b. brought me back an amazing book from her recent European travels titled "Made in Italy Food and Stories" by Giorgio Locatelli, the chef at Locanda Locatelli in London. It's a cook book, but that's selling it quite short. Between recipes he writes at some length about Italian history as it relates to both ingredients and techniques. So you end up learning how and why various food stuffs as well as specific dishes are the way they are.
For example, there are some risotto recipes, of course, but also a couple of pages describing all the regional variations along with some remembrances from his childhood in the north. And then a couple more pages on the different kinds of rice, going into the history of their cultivation as well as some scientific explanations of what happens to the rice as it cooks. Then more pages on the history of Parmesan and Grana Padano. And only then comes a discussion of risotto technique. And only after all that are a few recipes offered.
By far the most interesting "cook book" I've ever read. Really informative. Highly recommended.