Monday, October 17, 2016

Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-law by Katherine Wilson

If you are a fan of lighthearted, true-to-life experiences of the Average American moving to a foreign country on a whim and having endearing moments with eccentric-but-lovable foreigners…then this story will be right up your alley.  This memoir also gains extra bonus points for adding in the romance (the author falls in love with and marries a local) and requisite food writing (her mother-in-law teaches her how to cook food like a true Neapolitan).

Only in Naples:Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law, by Katherine Wilson, follows the author’s journey as a young adult from the suburbs of Washington, DC to becoming a wife and mother living in Rome, Italy. 

The story starts with Katherine beginning a 3-month internship at the U.S. Consulate in Naples.  Almost immediately upon arrival, she is introduced to the Avallone family.  She is quickly welcomed into the fold, which includes a Papa (Nino), a Mamma (Rafaella) and a son (Salvatore).  Soon, she is spending most of her free time at their home:  watching Rafaella cook, falling in love with Salvatore, and most importantly, eating.  As time goes by, she learns how to speak Italian like a local, goes to school in Bologna, and takes a variety of jobs such as acting and doing voice-overs.  Eventually, she “cajoles” Salvatore into getting married, they move to Rome and have children.

Instead of being a true food-writing piece, this book is more of a memoir with a focus on the relationship between Katherine and her mother-in-law.  It does; however, include some mouth-watering recipes at the end of the book, described with amusing anecdotes thrown in.  Although the author acknowledges that Naples is not usually the first choice of an Italian travel location, I think she does a fine job of describing it as an intriguing destination.  She shows the city, warts and all, but also manages to convince the reader (this one at least) that Naples has a beauty all of its own.

You may also enjoy similar food memoirs such as Lunch in Paris: a Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard, or A Thousand Days in Venice: an Unexpected Romance by Marlena de Blasi.

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