Casa Artusi is in Forlimpopoli (Emilia-Romagna ITALY), the hometown of Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911) father of modern italian cookery.
Artusi published La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well which is the first italian national cook book (i.e. the first italian cook book after the unification of Italy in 1861).
Artusi devised his recipe book as a contribution to the building of the national culture, destined to profoundly influence the everyday life of the Italian people. Artusi created a national cuisine which collected and synthesized the many local traditions, composing a sort of mosaic in which diversity was not lost but rather exalted.
Artusi’s book has been translated into English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Polish (Japanese 2020).
Two hundred years have passed since the birth of Pellegrino Artusi, and nearly a hundred and thirty since the first edition of his masterpiece, the cookbook he worked on for twenty years. This anniversary is not a mere biographical detail, but rather concerns the history of an entire country and its cultural identity. In fact, Artusi wanted to give – and did indeed give – a highly personal contribution to a newly united Italy with his cookbook La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiar bene (Science in the Kitchen and Art of eating well).
He believed that sharing cooking habits was an important part of the project to unify national culture, along with sharing a common language. Said language did not only belong in salons or newspapers, but was also spoken in the kitchen when naming ingredients and procedures. This is where a thin thread lies, linking the history of Artusi with that of Italy. A thin yet deeply-rooted thread, just like the historical background the Italians drew their strength from when they imagined the unification. Somehow they had always been united. The oldest cookery books written in the country during the Middle Ages or Renaissance had never been the expression of a ‘local’ culture. However, broader horizons now lay ahead: cooking was made of exchanges, loans, quotes, it put local knowledge into play but it was,
and indeed felt, so completely Italian. In the same way, artists like Raffaello and Michelangelo were also Italian, since they put their art at the service of anyone the country, and definitely did not perceive themselves as ‘local’ artists.
The idea of a united Italy, which came to the minds of many intellectuals and patriots during the 19th century was new and unprecedented. Throughout its thousand year history, Italy had never been united as a state; it had been united under the Roman Empire, but this was within a broader imperial context which left no room for a truly independent political identity. Italy had never existed as a state. Since the Renaissance, however, and even since the Middle Ages, it had existed as a common space for artistic, literary and economic experiences. It had existed as a physical space, divided into a number of political entities, where ways of living and thinking were shared around the country through the movement of people, goods, ideas and tastes. Italy was not merely a ‘geographical expression’ as Prince Metternich liked to define it, but much much more. It was a cultural expression, although limited to closed social circles, initially the aristocracy and then the bourgeoisie, who would not limit their activities and movements to their own town or state. There is no doubt at all that the artists of the Renaissance were Italian, regardless of whether they provided their services in the Papal States, the Gran Duchy of Tuscany, the Kingdom of Naples or the Republic of Venice. Writers were Italian, as they could write in local dialects but also in a language accessible to every- one; musicians were Italian, as the styles they pursued were universally recognized as typical of Italy; the chefs working for renowned families were Italian, as they gathered recipes from all over the country. Italy had existed for centuries in the minds of intellectuals ranging from Francesco Petrarca to Niccolò Machiavelli, from Dante Alighieri to Carlo Goldoni, and it was mainly a cultural entity. Thinking of it as a state was a big, but not difficult, leap. If Italians existed, why could Italy not? Pellegrino Artusi, too, brought an important contribution to this new Italy with a cookbook that is still today a fundamental reference point for national culture and Italian identity around the world.
This is why remembering Artusi 200 years after his birth means celebratingall Italians.
Massimo Montanari (Department of History and Cultures, ALMA MATER University of Bologna)
Casa Artusi is the very first centre of gastronomic culture to be established, devoted entirely to Italian home cookery. Casa Artusi – library, cookery school, bookshop, restaurant & wine cellar and location for events - is a living museum to home cookery.