"An Italian Palate" is St. John's eighth cookbook as well as a compilation of short stories on the 10-week sojourn of his and his family's travels through Italy.
The book also features watercolors by Wyatt Waters as illustration, as he traveled with the St. Johns and provides a sense of both the surroundings and tastes experienced on their adventure.
Many Mississippians are familiar with Wyatt and fun to note is that Robert and Waters’ first collaboration, “A Southern Palate,” sold out completely in three weeks and, according to Robert, this is their finest work yet.
The Wednesday signing at Cotton Row Books will feature 60 of Wyatt's original watercolors that can be found in the book.
According to a press release, the St. Johns had decided to replace six months of the children’s conventional education with an extended tour of Europe, and, together, they were rewarded with a priceless family experience – and in-depth culinary research.
Taking in the history, arts, and architecture along the way, they ate their way through Italy, in the finest – but not necessarily the most expensive – restaurants of Rome, Florence, Milan, and neighboring towns and villages, as well as in the kitchens of new-found friends. The whole family was involved in seeking out the very best, the “book-worthy” dishes.
“I paid attention to what our kids and companions were responding to, in looking for the most approachable dishes,” he says. “My daughter’s go-to pasta and my son’s favorite gnocchi were clearly keepers – although it was usually hard for me to get a fork in edge-wise.”
Waters, meanwhile, was soaking in the Italian vistas and transferring his vision to his heavy watercolor paper at the rate of two a day. St. John would drive him to a spot every morning and collect him in the evening, and Waters’ tales of his adventures with, say, fishmongers, or the police force of Siena, told in the captions of his images, are every bit as compelling as his friend’s musings on truffle hunting and white beans.
The recipes themselves are a generous offering of St. John’s favorites from a cuisine he finds enchanting in its simplicity.
“True Italian cooking is uncomplicated, uses minimal, fresh ingredients, and in most cases is light and healthful,” he writes in his introduction. One chapter, “Dispensa,” meaning “larder or pantry” in Italian, provides insight to all the basics worth mastering, from “Pizza Dough to Marinara Sauce to Roasted Garlic Aïoli.”
The book signing will begin at noon on Wednesday at Cotton Row Bookstore downtown.