This week on Mammaprada I’m delighted to welcome award-winning author Andrew Cotto. Andrew has written three novels and is a regular contributor to The New York Times.
He has just finished his latest book Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure and is kindly giving away 2 copies to two Mammaprada readers. (See below to enter).
Andrew has spent time living in Italy as an expat himself and immersed himself in Italian life. Find out what to expect from his latest wonderful novel.
The “adventure” in my new novel, Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure, is the quest for an expat life. The protagonist, a disheartened American, arrives in Italy on holiday and decides he never wants to leave. Most of what follows - the food, the wine, the travel, the romance, the friendships, more food/ more wine - is rooted in a fun, decadent, page-turning novel that those - with a fondness for such things - devour with relative ease and great enjoyment (my sincere wishes on the latter). But there’s a certain depth at work, as well, involving said adventure and expat life, and it’s really the heart of the novel.
I’ve lived in Italy on two occasions: once for a year in the hills south of Florence (where I wrote my first novel and set this most recent one) and in Rome for a summer where I taught travel writing at John Cabot University. On both occasions, I was able to escape the trappings of a tourist, even a seasoned one, and settle into the rhythms of regular life in Italy. And, oh what a life. There’s no time in my adult life I can remember such sustained happiness as those extended stays in Italy.
Beyond the obvious Italian appeals of gastronomy, topography, architecture, and history (not to mention the glorious people and their lovely language), there’s just something uniquely liberating about living somewhere as a non-native. I live among the Italians but am not one of them. I like this.
There’s a relief, especially in times of relentless civic absurdity and intensity, to disengage from such nationalistic awareness. You can’t escape completely anymore, but there’s a different level of exposure to American politics and culture when overseas, especially for extended periods. I recognize politics in every country is messy and emotional and frustrating, so it’s a relief not to have a dog in the fight. I love not being bludgeoned by news reports and newspaper covers or heated conversations of friends or strangers. I am not privy to the context when abroad, so I am not bothered by the happenings and arguments. Oh, well.
On a more subtle level, being an expat requires an astute maneuvering, an awareness of status that is the practice of a courteous guest. I immerse carefully in Italian life without being (too) intrusive. I observe more than I engage, and this requires a sharpness not practiced nor required at “home.” I am, at best, an apprentice who dutifully studies the work of a master. I will never reach that status, but it takes courage to try.
And most of the courage mustered abroad is in the form of real engagement. Speaking another language is not easy for anglophones since so much of the world accommodates our native tongue. Learning what I generously deem “functional Italian” as an adult and practicing it successfully with Italians is a source of great pride for me, not only as an accomplishment but also as a gesture of respect to the people of a country that I adore. I am also certain that my cognitive abilities have been enhanced along with my self esteem.
I must also note that my immersion in another country has been immensely useful to my vocation as a writer since observing and recording is a requisite of the job. My imagination and sense of wonder being so constantly engaged can’t hurt either.
And it’s really all of these benefits of expat life - both obvious and subtle - that inspire my character in Cucina Tipica. It’s what inspires me as well.
I’ll be back…
If you’d like to find out more Andrew Cotto follow him here:
We’re delighted to announce we have two lucky WINNERS, Sarah M and David W!
I will be in touch with you shortly to send your copy of this incredible Italian adventure.
Thank you to everyone who entered!