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COOKSTUFF

Cookbook Watch

September 17, 1997|RUSS PARSONS

After 25 years, we know what to expect from a Marcella Hazan cookbook: definitive versions of classical home-style Italian dishes rendered in explicit--if fairly dry--textbook form. But with her valedictory effort, "Marcella Cucina" (HarperCollins, 1997), in stores this month, we get another picture entirely.

The food in this book is frequently inventive without ever going over the edge into chef-like histrionics. The recipes feel much freer, more spontaneous and somehow even joyful. The prose is actually quite affecting: "We need to recognize ourselves in the dishes we prepare," she says in her afterword. "Good cooking is not fantasy, it is reality; it's not theater, it is life. If the table to which one's dishes come is a stage at all, it is the kind where, uncostumed, one plays just one character--oneself."

Marcella, we hardly knew ye.

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