Manno’s debut is a memoir which chronicles his love of food and family and his restless search for purpose.
What would Mama say? The surprising answer to this question—posed by Italian chef and restaurateur Manno as often as garden-ripe tomatoes and olive oil grace the pages of this memoir with recipes—comes at the end of a long journey that begins in poverty in Calabria, Italy. There, as a young boy, Manno runs barefoot tending his small herd of goats before the chance for a better life takes his family to Milan. After several dissatisfying jobs, including a lengthy stint as a delivery boy at a butcher shop, teenage Manno seizes on the idea of becoming a chef. A surprise visit from his American cousin Al alters Manno’s life forever when Al offers to sponsor Manno in California. At 20, Manno becomes an immigrant in the San Joaquin Valley and begins life anew again. The author’s primary loves are his mother and food, the latter unquestioned. Food, and the high he gets from “working the line,” informs his thoughts and writing, and leads to metaphors such as: “the dreadful feeling of not fully sucking the marrow out of life persisted.” Like other foreigners before him, Manno shares keen observations about American food habits and culture, both good and bad. He provides a mirror through which readers can see their own culture reflected back, whether discussing abundance and the sense of infinite possibility, or waste and the unsettling feeling of impermanence and lack of tradition. Throughout this heartfelt memoir, readers will be anxious to discover what’s next as the author takes on new challenges and straddles the divide of two cultures.
A compelling glimpse into modern American food and immigrant cultures.