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The Four Risotto Weekend: A Review
By Stella Challer-Hocker

There is nothing I enjoy more on a lazy Sunday than to settle down with a good memoir exploding with delicious tales of food and wine. Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme's My Life in France takes the four-layer Meyer lemon cake with cherry marzipan fondant roses and blueberry buttercream tulips as far as I'm concerned, but others in the genre include Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Jacques Pépin's The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, Bill Buford's Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany and Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.

Many in this genre seem preoccupied with whining about life in a culinary career: hours on one's feet, sacrificing time with loved ones, the demanding bosses, years of mincing onions. In this current economic climate, those tales ring hollow and do not make for fulfilling vicarious Sunday lounging. Who wants to be reminded of the nightmare that awaits us on Monday (for those of us lucky enough to still have a job)?

So it was a treat to find Fiore Ubriaco's The Four-Risotto Weekend, recently translated from the Italian. Not once does it mention a foam or molecular gastronomy. There is no whining about amateur chefs without knife skills. Instead, it is simply page after page with lush descriptions about eating and making risotto.

Boring? Not one bit. But isn't risotto simply a lot of standing around and stirring? Not one bit. Ubriaco has made risotto her life's passion. From describing the role risotto has played in her family's history (from simple home repairs to the unification of two Italian city-states!) to examining the subtle differences between modern attempts to reduce the time spent making risotto (slow cookers, automatic stirring machines, special stirring spoons), Ubriaco fully explores the topic. This reviewer appreciated the tips for Zen-like meditation when making one's own risotto, as well as the generous amount of recipes. Both savory and sweet are included, from the traditional parmesan saffron to chocolate espresso.

The back flap is tellingly absent any gushing blurb from a pompous restauranteur or showman chef. Instead, Ubriaco's memoir -- sure to be overlooked, as risotto often is as -- is likely to be praised only by those who recognize the value of patience, balance, and comfort in the face of pretension, "modernity" and entertainment. Highly recommended.