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If you have been following my blog, you will be aware of the impact that the city of Venice had on me during our first visit there last year – ever since, I have struggled to describe the indelible impression it made on me. I have been able to produce only single adjectives – breathtaking, beautiful, colourful, stunning but nothing that truly describes it.

By serendipity, I now have those words, albeit not written by me, but by someone far more eloquent, who has captured in one short paragraph what I believe to be the essence of Venice. Where did I come across this beautiful piece of writing? – well of all places,  in a cookbook. A friend who knows of my passion for Venice, recently recommended a cookbook called Polpo : a Venetian Cookbook (of sorts) written by Russell Norman. I was able to get my hands on the book sooner than I expected as I discovered a copy amongst my daughter’s burgeoning and ecletic collection. As I flicked avidly through it, looking at the recipes and beautifully styled platters of food, I knew I had to have it.

Recently, I curled up on the couch and began to read in earnest, rather than leafing though the beautiful photos, and I was amazed when I read these words: “Venice is a city built on water. It is preposterous. If you couldn’t see it with your own eyes and touch it with your own fingers, you would think it is some poetic fantasy. It shouldn’t be there at all. But it is. And it is beautiful beyond words.” There, in a nutshell, the author effortlessly captures my own first impressions of Venice – the beauty, the impact and the essence of it. Thanks for that Mr Norman! I love too, how he later describes it as a “city of mind-boggling Majesty.”

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the cookbook itself – Polpo is a Soho restaurant set up by Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, and is based on Venetian bacari (backstreet bars). The book of the same name is a wonderful read, with well explained recipes (often with fascinating anecdotal asides), and beautiful photographs of the tempting cicchetti (small plates) described within. I am now eagerly waiting for my own copy of the book to arrive so I can get cooking and tasting, plus I will have a little bit of authentic Venice in my home…

You can see a collection of recipes from the book here and another interesting article here.

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