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The Italian Way

Food and Social Life

Outside of Italy, the country’s culture and its food appear to be essentially synonymous. And indeed, as The Italian Way makes clear, preparing, cooking, and eating food play a central role in the daily activities of Italians from all walks of life. In this beautifully illustrated book, Douglas Harper and Patrizia Faccioli present a fascinating and colorful look at the Italian table.

The Italian Way focuses on two dozen families in the city of Bologna, elegantly weaving together Harper’s outsider perspective with Faccioli’s intimate knowledge of the local customs. The authors interview and observe these families as they go shopping for ingredients, cook together, and argue over who has to wash the dishes. Throughout, the authors elucidate the guiding principle of the Italian table—a delicate balance between the structure of tradition and the joy of improvisation. With its bite-sized history of food in Italy, including the five-hundred-year-old story of the country’s cookbooks, and Harper’s mouth-watering photographs, The Italian Way is a rich repast—insightful, informative, and inviting.

320 pages | 160 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2010

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

Food and Gastronomy

Sociology: Sociology--Marriage and Family


The Italian Way is a deep, rich, and complex analysis of food practices and the way they implicate and are involved in every aspect of society. The descriptions of the meals are elegantly informal, but probing and informative. The photographs are integral to those descriptions—not illustrations of some points the authors make, but points in their own right. Along the way you gain a complicated understanding of the nature of a ‘proper’ Italian meal: what it has to contain, how it has to be served, what the acceptable limits of variation are, and many other things. I’ve seldom read a work of sociology that left me feeling I had learned so much I didn’t know.”

Howard S. Becker, author of Tricks of the Trade and Telling About Society

“In The Italian Way Harper and Faccioli present an intriguing discussion of Bolognese foodways that reveals much about Italian culture. The authors focus on how food reflects Italian identity, on the contrast between Italy’s history of scarcity and its present abundance, and on food’s expression of sacred and profane value systems. Historical and contemporary photographs complement the interviews to make The Italian Way an original look at eating in Bologna.”

Carole Counihan, author of Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family and Gender in Twentieth Century Florence

"An engaging and informative book, complete with photos and lively records of personal conversations."

Times Higher Education

"Offers interesting and often amusing snapshots of how Italians feel about their food, successfully showing how it sustains body and mind."

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents


Setting the Table

Frames of Reference

Part One




Part Two

    Constructing Food the Italian Way

    Food Combinations, Meal Sequence, and Bodily Well-Being

    Class, Regionalism, and Commitment

Digestivo          by Patrizia Faccioli

Cibo per la mente (Food for Thought)


Glossary of Italian Terms



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