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The new Italian cookbook celebrating an incredible family story

When the Tomatoes Are Ready is a recipe book meets novel. 

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Behind every dish there’s a story; a town, family, garden, and journey of how it all came about.  So wouldn’t you like to know who’s shaping your gnocchi – how she grew up, fell in love, and migrated to Melbourne all those years ago when culture hit the shores? Well, that’s exactly what brand new cookbook and short story, When the Tomatoes Are Ready, sets out to achieve in its self-published and illustrated glory. The author began learning her Nonna’s recipes a few years ago when her Nonno had passed and taken a secret recipe with him. Fearing her family’s traditions would soon fade, she spent an entire year in her Nonna’s kitchen, learning how to cook just like her. She made sure to write the recipes down in a journal. One day she wrote a story about her family, in particular, about her grandmother and how she met her grandfather and migrated from Italy to Australia. It was then she discovered she was holding onto something quite incredible: her Nonna’s traditional Italian recipes flowed through her very own life story.

The book is now complete and it’s a beautiful hardcover work of art in which every single detail has been thoroughly thought through, even down to the sweet pattern taken from her Nonna’s tablecloth. Illustrated and designed by the ever-talented Melbourne based James Fox Rodgers, the artwork speaks an honest language. Take cottoletta for example, a recipe on how to cook Italian crumbed chicken – the author talks about how her mother enjoyed this in her school lunchbox each day, with a thick slice of Pasta Dura bread. In the illustration accompanying the recipe, you’ll find a sweet lunchbox, with an apple, a pen, and a crumbed cottoletta. Other recipes you’ll find in the book span Italian classics likes gnocchi and fresh pasta, pomodoro sauce and ragu, to the more intricate regional specialities like honey balls (a Calabrian Christmas treat), and borlotti bean soup.

The book just celebrated its soft launch at the Salami Festa at Northcote’s Welcome to Thornbury over the weekend. Across the two days, readers were able to purchase a copy amongst free salami, homemade Italian wine and listen to the Italian choir (who were just adorable) and could chat with the author. Now the two-day soft launch festa is over, you can purchase a copy online at whenthetomatoesareready.com. It makes for a wonderful Christmas gift, celebrating all things food and culture. Oh, and by the way, the author is myself. Women in print prevail.