Beginning with his childhood in the 1960s suburbs of New York City and continuing through the pandemic, Tucci traces his own growth as an eater, cook, actor, and professional name-dropper. His mother, obviously an exceptional Italian cook, introduced him to the joy of eating and the power of a home cooked meal to bring people together. His book covers the same decades that Americans discovered food-ism, initiated by black & white transmissions of Julia Childs, an early influencer on the young Stanley.
Tucci’s recounting of family conversations before, during, and after meals feels universal, and are hysterical. Take your time to savor the interaction of Tucci’s adult sister and their mother, now a grandmother, as each, tries their hardest to offer food as a proxy for love to the other. Mother and daughter are confronted by the other’s obstinate refusals to accept, even so much as a small package of cheese. “Why, should I take this?” they each retort at some point during a prolonged and testy conversation. “I have plenty of food of my own, already at home.”
Tucci’s descriptions of his favorite foods made me want to convert to Italian on the spot, and for a while, pushed me toward becoming an unapologetic carnivore. Until, that is, his description of slaughtering and roasting a suckling pig persuaded me to stick to cannellini beans as my primary source of protein.