Cucina Povera

By , March 7, 2020

Recently, I learned a lovely Italian term that has special meaning for our family: Cucina Povera.

Cucina Povera can mean “poor kitchen” or “poor cuisine”—peasant food, in other words.

I’ve long been enamored with peasant food, particularly since it makes a virtue of necessity.

Cucina Povera Cookbook

The cookbook at the heart of it all (Image: Amazon.com).

Our way of life, voluntary simplicity, intentional poverty, whatever one wishes to call it, relies on the type of cooking one won’t find in most Michelin-star restaurants, rather at the dining table of peasants, relying on gardens and wild crafting for flavorful ingredients (see Work Like Peasant, Live Like a King, Bitter Greens, or Foraging: Finding Food for Free!).

I learned about Cucina Povera from an enlightening article about the role of garlic in Italian cooking. I recommend the read, it’s fascinating! I particularly found the sections on Mussolini-era poverty enlightening. From this, I found a cookbook: Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking (paid link), (Check your local independent bookstore). It’s just the kind of cookbook I like, full of excellent recipes, but also including lots of stories, history, and related photos (as opposed to just shots of the dishes) as well.

Cucina Povera Back Cover

The back cover of the cookbook (Image: Amazon.com).

The problem here is that it’s the wrong season. We have so much of the ingredients listed in the cookbook growing wild around here, like bolete/porcini mushrooms and dandelions (see Dandelions and Mushrooms!) but we have to wait to try many of the recipes till these ingredients and others are in season. Still, with a little patience, we’ll add a whole new dimension to the “simple” fare on which we rely, and which we enjoy so much.

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