We do a lot of research for our trips, and we carry a lot of material with us.
Two country-specific books on food have become bibles to us for their respective nations.
We affectionally and respectfully refer to them by their authors’ first names — Faith and Penelope.
Faith refers to Eating in Italy by Faith Heller Willinger.
Penelope is Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide by Penelope Casas.
We first heard about Faith Willinger two decades ago when we read an article in The New York Times saying that among foodies she was the most highly regarded expert on Northern Italian food. We ordered the book in the original 1989 edition and liked what we saw: good summaries of the regions, sensible tips, and reviews that seemed to reflect the same points of view we had. A revised edition was published in 1998.
The book deals almost exclusively with food and wine. The only problem is that it is a bit out of date in — restaurants are gone and there are, of course, no references to some wonderful new ones. But, overall, we have gleaned an enormous amount of useful information from it and check it first when we are headed for the areas covered. It is still a trove of great information. We found several of our still-favorite places from it. If we had only discovered Luchin in Chiavari, the book would have been worth the price. But we got much more.
Penelope Casas’ book is different in that it covers a lot more than food — scenery, historical context, and art and architecture. It is more of a complete touring guide. On a recent two-week drive through northwestern Spain we found it very useful. and, even though we were using the original 1992 edition, it was still very accurate. Most of the eating places mentioned were still operating. There are later editions or printings listed on the internet, but we have not seen these.
An interesting gastronomical footnote to our Spanish trip is that the menus had changed very little from what we had almost two decades ago, whereas in France, where we spend a majority of our time in Europe, the menus have changed dramatically. Unfortunately, the changes have been in the dreaded direction of inventif. The traditional in Spain seems to be held in higher regard than in France.
Copyright © 2012 Jean & Peter Richards