Italian food is arguably one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It’s hard to find a major city which doesn’t boast at least a few “Italian” restaurants, featuring quality pizzas, pastas and lasagnas. However, when actually visiting Italy, you’ll soon discover that the country’s culinary diversity is much more complex. Before the final unification of Italy in 1871, the peninsula was divided into various states in which different languages were spoken, different lifestyles and custom followed, and most importantly, different kinds of food comprised the local cuisine.
In the early years following unification, people from different regions continued to live very differently from their counterparts in other regions, despite the fact that they were now a unified population. This status quo remained until two decades later when a man named Pellegrino Artusi stepped onto the stage and helped unite Italy in its most important cultural aspect – food.
At the age of 71, Artusi completed his first and most important book, La Scienza in Cucina E L’arte Di Mangiar Bene (“Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”), which he had to publish on his own as no publishing house was interested in it. Fortunately for Artusi, the cookbook caught on and eventually sold over 200,000 copies.
For the first time, a single cookbook included recipes from different regions of Italy. As a result, Artusi has been credited as the creator of the modern national Italian cuisine. He later published two other cookbooks, which were both immediate successes.