Last Friday, accomplished food writer, Carol Field, died at age 76. Field was known as an expert on Italian food and traditions and went on to write many cookbooks on subjects from Nonna's recipes to merende (snacks). But it's The Italian Baker, first published in 1985, that undeniably remains her most treasured work as an indispensable guide to regional Italian breads and a favorite Italian cookbook. David Lebovitz said of her, “She was one of those people who was there, when Americans were rediscovering fresh ingredients, home cooking and baking, and authentic foods from other cultures—and was a major influence on me, and many, many others.”
The Italian Baker, which was even included in the James Beard Foundation's “Baker's Dozen” in 2010 as one of the essential books on the subject of baking, was the result of two years of research, where Field stood beside artisan Italian bakers from Milan to Florence to Lecce, observing, tasting, testing, and then retesting the recipes in America with American ingredients.
It is a cookbook that constantly provides inspiration at any moment, but it is also a book to look to for its stories and for Field's passion for preserving artisan recipes. “Knowing the story and tastes of the regional breads that come out of these ovens is like taking a trip through the Italian countryside,” Field writes in her introduction. “Saving and honoring them is like preserving the stone villages on the hillsides or their churches and frescoes, for saving the taste of the past keeps it alive in the present.”
Here are some of our favorite recipes inspired by (or authored by) Carol Field: