It’s a shame that it took me so long to read this, and in the course of full disclosure I should say that I know Mark through our work together. So what took me so long to read it? A backlog of books to read, for one, and the fact that I have no history with Italian culture and so I was not sure that I would be able to really immerse myself in this. But this book isn’t so much about a love of Italian culture or food as it is a memoir of one man’s journey to his Italian heritage, learning the language and the food (which might be considered a language to the Italians) during his month-long visit, which opens him up to a number of revelations. The book is lovingly sprinkled with recipes because … well … Italian.
Author Mark Leslie is very open through the course of the book about a number of things – from his being a gay man, to his visitation by the spirit of an old friend while staying in Italy – and it is this openness that is most appealing and charming and what pulls the reader in. It is interesting to note, however, that in all the private matters that Mark shares with his Italian family, being gay is the one thing that he keeps to himself. He comments on this more than once through the course of the narrative and it is strange that as close as he is to his Italian family, he doesn’t feel like he can share the true nature of his self with them.
But I should acknowledge that I can empathize without fully understanding. I am not in his position but I suspect I would find it difficult as well.
Leslie’s opening up to the reader about a nighttime spiritual ‘visitation’ is one of the things that I will think about for a long time after reading this book. It is extremely personal and revealing and it is honest in a way that you won’t typically find in a memoir of this sort. It is a very powerful few moments.
I haven’t made any of the recipes myself (I’ve book-marked a few for later) but I’ve been fortunate enough to try a few items that Mark has made himself. Supremely satisfying!
The book really is a journey of discovery and growth and it happens in the course of a month. Mark is changed by the experience and reader will be too.
Looking for a good book? Beyond the Pasta by Mark Leslie is an extraordinary memoir of one man’s journey immersing himself in a culture and language very foreign to himself and the perspective he takes away from it.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language and Life with an Italian Family
author: Mark Leslie
publisher: Gemelli Press LLC
hardcover, 352 pages