Maria STELVIO (1878 – 1950).
Trieste: Stabilimento tipografico nazionale [National Printing Establishment ] 1942.
This fascinating cookbook in Italian language contains 1130 recipes for various dishes and alcohol beverages, typical for Trieste, a port city in the north Adriatic Sea, where North Italian, Slovenian, Croatian and Austrian influences meet. After centuries of being a part of the Habsburg Empire and Austro-Hungary, the city was annexed to Italy in 1920, and was soon affected by severe Fascist reforms, which suppressed all non-Italian elements.
The author Maria Stelvio (1878 – 1950) was working during the First World War as a reporter on the Italian Piave front and settled in Trieste after the war to raise a family. A curious journalist in the time of Fascist Italy, Stelvio smartly moved from political topics to more practical ones and started gathering local recipes, deriving from what is today Austria, Slovenia, Croatian coast, Friuli and Gorizia. The recipes, first published in 1927, are simple and composed entirely of local products, which were available at the time to any household.
In the introduction the author writes she gathered these recipes for her daughter, who recently got married, but was unsure about her cooking. The text should guide her not only to cook basic local dishes, but also to use ingredients rationally. Stelvio also dedicated the book to all the women, who gave up their professional careers to become housewives, so the recipes would bring happiness to their marriage.
The book encourages the reader to cook economically. The households of Trieste, although a prosperous port city, were often affected by rationing during the Fascist times and after World War II. Several introductions to the chapters give advises on smart buying of ingredients (such as coffee and pepper in grains are cheaper than grinded) and reusing leftovers (water of cooked vegetables is already rich in minerals and salt and should be reused for making soups by adding only scarce further ingrediencies).
Included are recipes for starters (antipasti), “luxury” soups, summer soups, winter soups, sauces (economical, normal and “luxury”), various salads, vegetables, meat, fish and shellfish, main dishes, including gnocchi, risotto, pasta, cannelloni, economical deserts (mostly with pasta ang gnocchi), dishes for children, snacks (mostly various versions of frittata), cold and warm beverages and bread. Especially intriguing is the chapter with desserts, where influences of Northern Italy and Austro-Hungary meet im mostly pastries such as involtini, panicelli / palačinke / palatschinken, frittata, sminuzzata / Schmarn / šmorn, fritelle, crostoli, panettoni, Kugelhupf /Guglhupf / šárkelj, pinza / pinca, potica from Gorica (potica is now Slovenian national pastry), presnitz from Kostanjevica / kostanjeviški presnec, struccoli (cooked short crust pastry, filled with walnuts, cheese, fruit or similar filling, typical for Gorizia and Friuli area, a version known as štruklji in Slovenian) etc. The last chapter contains recipes for canned and pickled fruit and vegetables, including alcohol beverages, such as Nocino goriziano (Walnut liqueur of Gorizia), rum, ratafià, fake sparkling wine, vino chinato (i. e. cinchona bark, wine, pure alcohol and sugar) etc.
The book became a classic, not only as a source but also as an inspiration for many modern recipes, and is was published in 16 editions until 2008. Despite of its being published over 81 years, the book remains rare in the libraries worldwide. Worldcat only records 10 examples of various editions, all of which appear to be published after the war (OCLC 780962323).
The present example is a fourth edition, published during World War II, in Fascist Italy, with Trieste being one of the strongpoints of the movement. A special introduction was inserted, instructing the reader how to approach the recipes at the time of the war and bombing, how to cook with one pot on the top of the other, to save energy, how to save scraps for heating in the winter and wash without soap.