I once asked a Campanian chef which book I should pick up to learn Neapolitan cooking. His suggestion was Frijenno Magnanno. I’m not quite sure what I was looking for when at the bookstore, but I do know I passed over the cover at least 10 times.
I was living with 3 other people under the age of 35 at the time and they were all very fascinated with my excitement of finding this collection. “Oh, that book? My grandmother has that book.” At least they were nice enough to explain to me that frijenno magnanno essentially means “fry it and eat it” in Neapolitan dialect.
Although they seemed not to care, for me it was perfect. It feels like the cookbook one would get at a county fair in Nebraska. There are no chefs involved, its a collection of recipes that came from the neighbors, complete with the names of those who submitted the recipe. I didn’t really know any Italian grandmothers at the time and thought this would be a grand way to learn the traditional recipes and take advantage of the Pignasecca market that was a short walk from my apartment.
Needless to say, I spent far too much time trying to find the best way to attack the project, seeking The Perfect Apostrophe, and before I ever got started, it was time to leave Naples for low season.
I’ve decided there is no perfect or elegant way to execute this project. Quite a few of the recipes are in dialect, some ingredients are amazingly hard to find in the standard American supermarket and some of the recipes seem a little to simple to highlight in a blog post (Rabbit in Beer: open beer, pour beer in pot, boil rabbit).
So starting next week, I and the contributors are flipping coins, drawing straws and just opening to a random page and hoping to bring you a classic Neapolitan recipe.
Does anyone have a dialect dictionary I can borrow?