On My Shelf: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

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I Loved, I Lost, I Made SpaghettiIf the way to a man's heart is truly through his stomach, Giulia Melucci has tried every trick in the book.

Or, at least in her book, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. As the title might imply, she's still looking for the right stomach.

In her memoir of loves won and lost, Melucci takes us on a culinary tour of her love life-- from the loss of her virginity to the near regaining of it, with several interesting but ultimately wrong-for-her men showing up in between-- the notable ones being given their own chapters, as they were, in fact, chapters in the author's own life.

Though none of the men may have lead her down the aisle, Melucci's natural instincts lead her into the kitchen with excellent results: the recipes woven into the chapters read like a kind of food diary and are alarmingly accurate indicators of the author's state of mind-- or heart, as the case may be.

For example, in the chapter "The Ethan Binder School of Cooking," Melucci's Seder menu and the time devoted to its preparation read as serious commitment. To anyone who understands the meaning that often lay beneath cooking beyond the need for basic sustenance, the meal says "I love you and want to be part of your life" more clearly than any love letter. By substituting Broccoli di Rape for bitter herbs, the Brooklyn-born Italian-American author subtly injects her own identity into the menu, suggesting a desire to share her life with Ethan rather than totally sublimate it.


In the following chapter, "Mitch Smith Licked the Plate," there are few recipes and those that are speak of disappointment and compromise (Italian Grilled Cheese for Teenage WASPs, String Bean and Potato Salad for Gringos). What else can be expected when writing about a man who could only go as far as admitting that he was "deeply drawn" to Melucci, but could never mention the word love?

Oh, and the F***-You Cakes (yellow cake, of course) that follow the break up of another relationship are priceless.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, is alternately amusing, frustrating, heartbreaking, and hopeful. It would have lost me, had the author chosen to blame her marital status woes solely on the shoulders of her lovers. Fortunately, she doesn't:

...I had a remarkable ability for turning any picture into the picture I wanted to see: me with a husband. My imagination had the flexibility of a thirteen-year-old Chinese gymnast.

I found myself rooting for Melucci, but cringing a bit with each new chapter thanks to the giveaway in the title of the book-- that each new relationship would ultimately end. For anyone who has ever loved and lost, and who loves good food, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti is worth a read.

Even if it's just for the F***-You Cakes.

Meet Giulia Melucci to discuss her book in person at Omnivore Books Saturday, July 11th from 3 to 4 pm.

Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street (at Church)
San Francisco, CA 94131