If ever a book will make you crave lemons, it’s this one. I bought some and made lemon cake. This isn’t the first fruit-themed tome I’ve read. Previously, I’ve read four of them – two about unusual fruit, one about pineapples and one about apples.
Helena Attlee is an expert on Italian gardens and her book is a culmination of exploring Italy’s citrus history over the years. It’s a blend of travel writing, food writing, history and memoir. Lemons are the star of the show, supported by their relatives, such as bergamots, citrons, mandarins and blood oranges. Beautifully written and always interesting, the narrative is intensely flavoured and so I read a little at a time. The locations cover different parts of Italy but with the most focus on Sicily and the link between its Mafia and citrus industry. There are a few authentic recipes included, although you probably wouldn’t be able to source the local citrus ingredients unless you were in Italy. The only ‘sour’ note for me is the complete absence of images (other than basic maps). Arguably they’re not required, as the writing is so evocative, but I really would’ve liked some. I’m not ‘bitter’ about it though.
In summary, this is a very a-‘peel’-ing book, ‘citrus’-t me. If you have a ‘zest’ for oranges and their friends, it should be on your TBR. I hope I haven’t ‘pith’-ed anyone off with all these puns, but like a lemon cake, I can’t resist it.
First published in 2014. This edition by Penguin Books, 2015.