Poet, novelist, comedian, raconteur, occasional radio presenter and the inspiration to two decades of kids who have discovered through his school visits that literacy can be fun, Gez Walsh is a complex person. We are all, in part, shaped by our upbringing, and Gez is no exception. Although his upbringing may be described as unconventional. Born in Yorkshire, he is actually of mixed Irish-Italian descent.
We’ve all seen the Irish love of fables, fantasy and storytelling come out in his work over the last twenty years, but this is a book which pays homage to his Italian side, and particuarly his Italian granny, known in the family as "Nonna”. Italian cookery is sometimes seen as "fancy” or pretentious in some way. If you had to devise simple, nutritious and cheap meals, would you automatically think of Italian cookery? Probably not. These days, though, we are saddled with austerity, and all it implies. Do the delights of Italian cuisine have a part to play in feeding a hungry family on limited resources and a shoestring budget?
Gez is convinced they do. And not only those basic staples, but the rest of the Italian cookbook as well, plus a few of his own (non-Italian) favourites. Drawing on recipes which Nonna used to cook for him in his childhood, this book is also an affectionate portrait by Gez of a remarkable woman, and a reminder of some of the non-culinary ingredients which make Italian cuisine so special: family, sharing, caring, taking time for each other, thrift, and the fun of remembering family tales and anecdotes around the table.
As Gez himself says in his introduction, this is not a book which has been put together by a team of dietitians and food technologists. It’s more like a slice of pizza topped with a further, generous, slice of family history. Had Nonna been alive today, her eccentric personality, her failure to grasp basic English idioms and her delicious cooking might well have made her a TV personality. Her Grandson has picked up the torch she lit, and carries it on into the future. Buon Appetito!