The "best balm for a broken heart is nourishing food you make in your kitchen", writes Giulia Melucci in her charming new memoir/cookbook "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti". With candour, humour and an enticing array of recipes (Calming Coq au Vin, Frugal Frittata, Spaghettini in a White Truffle Oil Peignoir), Melucci recalls the menus that accompanied years of romantic hope and heartache in New York. Despite moments that leave a sour or bitter taste, this is a nourishing book, full of spice and comfort food.
More Intelligent Life: How did you come up with the idea for this book? How natural is it to interweave stories of love and loss with tasty recipes?
Giulia Melucci: After the last relationship in the book ended, the one with Lachlan--a writer from Scotland for whom I landed a prestigious New York agent, who landed him a six-figure book deal with Random House--I started writing. I had never written anything since college, but in the months leading up to his leaving I started thinking about writing some kind of book.
Lachlan had suggested I write a "cookery book" because I was such a good cook. I liked that idea but that's not what I was doing at first. I started writing about what happened with him, the icing on the cake of 20 years of failed relationships. As I wrote that story I flashed back to other boyfriends, such as Mitch Smith, who agreed to a "friends with benefits" arrangement after he told me didn't want a relationship. When I remembered going home to bake a cake to serve him with post-coital coffee I realised what was unique about my story. I cooked my way through each and every romance hoping that the right culinary combination would correct a bad romantic combination. It was easy for me to tie in the recipes because cooking has always been my way of showing and trying to win love. The two are inseparable for me.
MIL: To what extent then was writing this book therapeutic? Do you feel you've managed to purge these romantic demons, or does chronicling your frustrations make it all feel awkwardly fresh? Were you concerned about making public your intimate feelings?
GM: I must be a chronic oversharer because it didn't seem that intimate to me. At least on a conscious level. Though it must have had some effect because ever since I saw the book in print it has been an emotionally draining roller coaster, beyond the ordinary stress of having a book out. I soldiered through the writing. I'm not sure if the romantic demons are purged, I've made the same mistakes in relationships since. The only thing that's different is that I'm now a person who has a book out, and though my feelings about that are complicated it's an accomplishment I'm quite proud of. It make me feel like I'm on a better path, which I think will be reflected in my behaviour in the right relationship. If some such thing happens to come along.
MIL: In so many of these relationships you seem to be the victim of frustrating, commitment-phobic men; meanwhile you're in the kitchen, serving up deliciousness. Looking back, what are the mistakes you felt you made?
GM: I felt compelled to be suzy homemaker while in non-conventional relationships. I don't want to say I was a victim because I most certainly volunteered, for all of it. Sometimes I wish I had given less and then I stop and I tell myself that that's what I am. I like to cook and I like to share food with people and I enjoyed doing that in all my relationships. In fact the cooking and the eating are the moments I look back on without cringing.
MIL: What's so impressive about this book is how tangible and real your voice feels on the page. You have a knack for capturing the casual colour of personality in your storytelling. Given that this is your first book, how did you end up discovering your voice?
GM: That's very good to hear and I could hear it again and again and again. I've been telling these stories to friends for years; my biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to get my speaking tone on the page. If I succeeded I'm thrilled.
"I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti", Grand Central