Stanley Tucci’s ‘Life Through Food’ is a tasty treat

Stanley Tucci’s ‘Life Through Food’ is a tasty treat

Taste: My Life Through Food

by Stanley Tucci

(Gallery Books)

Stanley Tucci is having a moment. Who knew that the Oscar-nominated  actor — who’s turning 60 this month — would be exactly what the world needed, mid-shutdown, but he has been all that and more. 

Town and Country Magazine pointed out this past winter, “Actor, bon vivant, and noted internet boyfriend Stanley Tucci hardly needed another claim to fame, and yet, in the depths of the first wave of COVID-19 shutdowns, he added a new accolade to his sizable resume: viral video sensation. Back in April of 2020, when many of us were struggling with spirals of anxiety, boredom, and depression, desperately seeking some mental reprieve from the flood of news about the unpredictable virus claiming a tragic number of lives, Tucci shared a simple, understated video detailing his method for creating the perfect negroni, and just like that, a social media darling was born.”

Future demos included a margarita, an old-fashioned, and a Christmas Cosmopolitan. 

He shares the recipe for the latter in his new book, Taste: My Life Through Food, concluding it with advice to “garnish with a raspberry wrapped in a mint leaf and skewered with a small stalk of rosemary. Drink it and have a happier holiday.” 

Also included is the recipe for the Tucci family timpano, which launched a thousand food movies when it served as a central plot point of Big Night, the 1996 movie Tucci starred in and co-directed with Campbell Scott. 

Tucci revisits the recipe in this Sicily episode of this summer’s docu-series, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (now streaming on HBOMax). Miraculously, Princess Stefania di Raffadali has her chef prepare not one, but three timballos, which are served to her guests by a white-gloved butler. (Spoiler alert: Tucci’s favorite is the eggplant.) In the memoir, he catalogs the long marital history of the exhausting Christmas timpano, and how both his late wife Kate, and his wife Felicity Blunt, rarely reference the dish without a well-chosen expletive preceding it.

As much as this is a feel-good food memoir, Tucci also doesn’t shy away from chronicling his recent battle with oral cancer, which profoundly threatened his ability to continue to live his “life through food.” There are parallels to chef Grant Achatz’s award-winning 2011 book, Life on the Line.

The actor writes of his diagnosis, “my greatest fear was that one of the most important and vital parts of my life would or could be severely compromised, perhaps permanently. That important and vital part being the ability to taste, eat, and enjoy food.” He’s unflinching in sharing the details of six months with a feeding tube, but he also doesn’t leave out the comic relief, like the impact friend and fellow actor Ryan Reynolds has on the medical team when he comes along for a scan.

And as sick as he was, he points out the “WTF masochism” of his determination to watch cooking shows during his recovery.

Of course no food memoir would be complete without recipes, and this one includes all the cocktails and pastas you’d hope to find, along with wife Felicity Blunt’s celebrated ‘Rule Brittania!’ Roast Potatoes (made famous when her sister, actress Emily Blunt, prepared them alongside Ina Garten on Barefoot Contessa). Spoiler alert: there are only three ingredients… four if you count the need for a functioning smoke alarm. He follows her death-defying take on potatoes with his parents’ more conventional and traditional recipe. 

This isn’t Tucci’s first book. It follows The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, but it is the most personal and satisfying of the three.

Come for the ragù; stay for the pasta pet peeves. Grown adults who cut their spaghetti? He relies on David Mamet’s lesson in moderation from American Buffalo: “the only way to teach these people is to kill them.”