Beyond the Pasta by Mark Leslie
Publication Date: December 30th, 2013
Several years ago, on a break between theatrical gigs in Alabama, Mark traveled to Italy and fell in love with the people, food and culture. Armed with just enough courage, minimal Italian language skills, and a certain proficiency in the kitchen, he enrolled in a full-immersion cooking and language program. He would travel to Viterbo, Italy and live with an Italian family. His teachers were beyond his wildest dreams-he learned to cook from the grandmother, or Nonna, of the family, who prepared every meal in a bustling, busy household, as women in her family have done for generations. Her daughter, Alessandra, taught him the language with patience and precision. Besides culinary secrets and prepositions, they opened their lives to him, and made him a real part of their extensive family. Though the book contains authentic, delicious family recipes Nonna shared with Mark, Beyond the Pasta delves into food memoir subject matter not found in a typical cookbook. It was the day-to-day shopping with Nonna, exploring the countryside and le gelaterie, where he truly developed his language skills, and a new, more joyful and uniquely Italian way of looking at the world.I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Find it on Amazon for $9.99 today (4/7/14)
"Beyond the Pasta" was written journal style by Leslie. I love journal styled books of all sorts, so this was a plus for me. It shared his personal journey and growth. Leslie was completely honest and open about everything. Anything he wrote down while in Italy was shared here. Thus, we got to experience things in 'real time'. If Leslie didn't know something, we didn't know it either. And of course, since it was set in Italy, "Beyond the Pasta" satisfied a small part of my ever-growing wanderlust.
As you might imagine from some of my 'pluses', they were also negatives. Because the journal was so personal and 'real time', I was frustrated by not knowing. I would have like some tighter editing, cutting out the things that pertained to just Leslie and focused more on Italy and the cooking. I would have LOVED more recipes! We got one for each chapter, but Leslie mentioned dozens more that I would love to have.
Overall, it just wasn't the book for me. I found Leslie's voice chunky and repetitive. I wanted so much more, more travel aspects, more recipes, more! Perhaps it will be the right book for others, but it wasn't for me. 2 out of 5 stars from me.