Based upon the title, you might naturally assume that this wonderful book is all about Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It is not. You then read further, it is sub-titled A Brooklyn Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family. “Ah – this must be a cookbook,” you then exclaim. Well…you would be partially right…
It is actually difficult to define exactly what the book is. Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn-Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family is a love letter to Brooklyn! Through the memories and reminisces of the author, Daniel Paterna, Brooklyn neighborhoods, primarily Bensonhurst, are explored through words and photographs. Food is the central theme, the glue that binds the tales together. Family is the backbone this book is built upon. Heart and soul are the objects evident within each treasured page.
Author Daniel Paterna shares his memories and recipes from the Brooklyn neighborhood of his youth, vividly documenting the shops and products in an era before large retailers, supermarkets and box stores dominated shopping experiences. In one respect, the book is a celebration of these family-owned businesses and the specialties that they provide. In the 1970s, the decade of the author’s coming of age, many of these vendors had already been established for three, four or five decades. Today, more than forty years later, many are still thriving, still providing the quality and service traditions that now span the generations.
Readers of the Italian Tribune will find many familiar names in the book’s pages that rank among our list of valued advertisers, such as Queen Ann Ravioli and D. Coluccio & Sons. While shoppers have been able to find a remarkable array of imported Italian products for the past 55 years, it was not always easy to obtain such authentic ingredients. Carefully selected photographs of recipe cards from the author’s mother Anne and his grandmother Louisa, make this point clear. The older cards were entirely handwritten, while the newer ones had been painstakingly typed. Part of the charm of the book and you cannot help but smile at these highly personal notes.
If you grew up in an Italian American household, you will compare the recipes in this book to your family’s traditional ones. If you were not fortunate enough to grow up in such a household but want to learn the Brooklyn-style of Italian American cooking, this is the place to start. Buy a copy for yourself and buy a few for gifts. This is a book to be cherished. It may be a love letter to Brooklyn, but every reader will be wrapped in the warmth that rises from each and every page.
About the Author
Daniel Paterna grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He studied photography at City University of New York. Upon graduating from the Pratt Institute with a degree in Art and Design, he embarked into the world of design. Selections of his work can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art, in the permanent collection of “This is New York,” as well as in the “September 11th Photo Project,” published by Harper Collins. Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn-Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family is published by Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn and is available through Amazon.