“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci is the kind of book you pick up on a whim at a bookstore, because the title has to do with spaghetti, there is spaghetti on the cover, and there’s a promise of recipes inside… being written by an Italian-American woman, you assume there’s going to be at least one spaghetti recipe and, if you haven’t noticed by now, I have a thing for spaghetti. Who doesn’t?
Melucci’s book, for me, is just as I described above- that impulse buy because it was about food and love and that was all I needed to know. The recipes were an added bonus. But here, just so you’re not left in the dark, is what this book is really about.
From failure to fusilli, this deliciously hilarious read tells the story of Giulia Melucci’s fizzled romances and the mouth-watering recipes she used to seduce her men, smooth over the lumps, and console herself when the relationships flamed out.
From an affectionate alcoholic, to the classic New York City commitment-phobe, to a hipster aged past his sell date, and not one, but two novelists with Peter Pan complexes, Giulia has cooked for them all. She suffers each disappointment with resolute cheer (after a few tears) and a bowl of pastina (recipe included) and has lived to tell the tale so that other women may go out, hopefully with greater success, and if that’s not possible, at least have something good to eat.
Peppered throughout Giulia’s delightful and often poignant remembrances are fond recollections of her mother’s cooking, the recipes she learned from her, and many she invented on her own inspired by the men in her life. Readers will howl at Giulia’s boyfriend-littered past and swoon over her irresistible culinary creations.
Okay, so it’s exactly what I described- food and love. It’s also about a woman in the book business (!!!) who managed to cook delicious food using cookware she picked up at REI (a camp stove, wasn’t it?), and fell in love with as many men as she did types of pasta. (by the way, you will come out the other side of this book being a pasta snob and thinking you can make your own from scratch)
My favorite part? She’s completely shameless about it all. … her love of men and pasta.
The older me and my friends get, the more I feel the pressure to be “cool” about dating. As if we’re somehow supposed to mature overnight to the ridiculous extent that an attractive guy checking us out is not cause for a breath check, but rather a dismissive look as we wait for him to approach.
Somehow getting more mature the more you date and not acting like a lovesick teen girl is an old wives tale and having just finished reading Melucci’s book (scratch that, I’m calling her Giulia), I think she’d agree with me. Because no matter how bad the last heartbreak was, and no matter how not-so-prospective the next one looks, Giulia lets herself dream. She can have the house and the names of the kids picked out before date number one and yes, she is a grown woman who gushes to her friends about all the details and the fantasy dream house she’ll have (with a gorgeous kitchen, of course), and I love her for that. I love that she’s fearless in her love life as well as her cooking life. (homemade pasta from scratch? with no recipe? hats off.)
I also love that, although this is a memoir about “good food and bad boyfriends,” Giulia never digs at the exes. This book does not read like a bad breakup song, but rather one woman’s story about all the relationships that didn’t work out (despite winning over the man’s stomach, no matter how delicate) and how she’s still hopeful she’ll meet The One. But also, there comes a point where Giulia completely accepts herself, her singleness, and decides to be happy. She stops waiting for Mr. Right, the big wedding, the picket fence, and just buys her own place. She makes “fabricated” (factory made) pasta for her boyfriends and decides to save her homemade pasta for The One, enjoying it herself until he shows up. She’s not shy about her love in any area of life and that’s the kind of woman I aspire to one day be. (also, I want to write about food the way she writes about food, because it sounds less like a meal and more like an old, dear friend who can solve any of your problems)
To wrap it up, I’m a fan of endings, and I particularly liked Giulia’s. I try not to skip ahead, because I want the ending to be a surprise, and while this ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, it is, nonetheless, perfect.
Giulia’s recipes are interspersed throughout the book, tying in with the narrative at appropriate times. She concluded the book with this recipe:
I don’t know the exact measure.
I’m still trying to figure out the steps.
Five stars, you guys. Or maybe five bites? Five plates of spaghetti?
Until next time.