Food for Thought

Local’s blog is a literary feast

Photographs by Brian Ziegler

Eric and Daniella in action

Have you ever been reading a book and the author’s description of a dish or a memorable dinner has got your mouth watering and left you thinking, ‘Oh I fancy a bit of that!” If that’s you, then Village resident Daniella Rossi’s blog, Parbake and Prose (parbakeandprose.com) is a must. Created by Daniella, who moved to the Village a year ago, and her brother Eric, who is a chef in New York City, the blog is a fascinating mixture of literature and cookery, w here Daniella studies novels for significant culinary moments and then gives the references to her brother, who creates remarkable recipes for you to try. There is everything from soul cakes taken from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to the Dr Seuss-inspired Green Eggs and Ham Amuse Bouche. There are even a couple of recipes for gruel.

 

The siblings started the blog in January 2017 but its origins date from seven years ago when Italian/ American Daniella had finished her PhD in medieval and modern literature and art history at Cambridge. While there, she started reading for pleasure as well as honing her skills in the kitchen. That’s when the idea burst into life.

“I realised there was a really interesting intersection between literature and food where recipes could be created,” says Daniella. I took the idea to my brother and he loved it. For about seven years it was just something we did for fun. We were living in different countries and it was a nice way to keep close. Eventually we started talking about whether or not it could be a cookbook and finally decided to turn it into a blog.” Then came the task of turning years of notes and scribbles into a compelling project.

In January 2017 they did their first postings and turned to American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis’s infamous satire on the excesses of the ’80s. The result is an examination of the book’s notoriety and a recipe for red snapper pizza, mentioned in a scene where the characters have a meal ata trendy Manhattan restaurant. “The novel is a really rando m source,” says Daniella, “but it’s a great inspiration. He’s mocking ’80s New York City, including the restaurant culture, and in the book there’s this huge competition about who can get the best reservations at the hottest restaurants. He’s really descriptive about what food they eat.”

Next came Pride and Prejudice and white soup, Dracula and chicken paprika stew, followed by dozens of meditations on an eclectic selection of literary greats from Emma to The Divine Comedy. And, of course, the accompanying recipes; a list that includes starters, mains, desserts and cocktails. Eric, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, spends a great deal of time developing the recipes and often tests them out at ‘family meals’ – the dinner kitchen staff have before starting service at the restaurants where he works.

“We have quite strict rules when it comes to what we feature,” says Daniella. The food can’t be mentioned casually, it has to have meaning in the book, whether it’s central to character development or the plot or it’s an historic dish. And for Eric it needs to be an interesting recipe that he can play around with to create his own interpretation.”

The pair hope to turn the blog into a cookbook, although the realities of cookbook publishing make that a tough task, with publishers often expecting a large social media following before even considering turning a blog into a book.

An unexpectedly decadent gruel

Daniella’s favourite recipe so far is the one Eric conjured up for the gruel in Oliver Twist. “It is absolutely amazing. It only has four ingredients – onions, water, bread and seasoning and is like an Italian bread soup. I know gruel shouldn’t be delicious but this one is,” she says.

If you’d like to help Daniella and Eric realise their dream of a cookbook, get online and follow the blog. And try Oliver’s gruel. Daniella’s right – it is, bizarrely, very tasty.

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