If the The Unprejudiced Palate were written today, it would be called The Locavore Manifesto: One Man's Commitment to Reducing Waste and Eating Seasonally. But Angelo Pellegrini wrote this classic book about growing your own produce, eating with the seasons, and celebrating food and life with family and community in 1948.
Pellegrini was ahead of his time in many ways, but his story is not unlike that of many immigrants. It is a valuable piece of food literature to revisit, however, particularly in today's tough economy--and because later this evening, the Pellegrini Award will be announced at the Voracious Tasting and Food Awards.
Angelo Pellegrini came to the U.S. with his family as a young boy, but reflects frequently about growing up in a hardworking but poor family in Italy. He would later become a professor of English literature at the University of Washington, yet celebrated frugality and believed that "simple fare enhances the enjoyment of the more refined, which should be reserved for all festive occasions." A generation before Seattleites were ripping out parking strips to grow their own vegetables, Pellegrini tore out his lawn to plant fruit trees, herbs, and an inordinate amount of artichokes.
Like immigrants from throughout the Old World, Pellegrini grew up eating nose-to-tail, foraging for wild foods, hunting, and tending to gardens large and small. Many immigrants from Ireland, Norway, and Greece were similarly resourceful, but not all continued this way of life upon arriving on the shores of a prosperous New World.
This book isn't completely unprejudiced. Pellegrini didn't think there was potential for American wines to achieve the quality of those in his homeland, saying "There are very few wines in America that improve after the fifth year." He was frequently amazed at the waste Americans produced and the decreasing importance of home cooking. His pesto recipe was printed in Sunset magazine in 1946--a time when Americans kept olive oil in the bathroom cupboard, not on the kitchen counter.
The Unprejudiced Palate is not necessarily a cookbook in the traditional sense. Pellegrini didn't believe in recipes. It does, however, serve as an important reminder to honor ingredients, live simply, and celebrate community. As Pellegrini says, "Good food, no matter whence it comes, should be enjoyed with gratitude and thanksgiving."
Read Part II of this week's Cooking the Books and a recipe inspired by The Unprejudiced Palate.