I bought Mario's new book today, Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals From My Home To Yours, as part of a resolution I recently added to a long New Year-inspired list, which is to break out of my tried's and true's and do what I essentially make a living hoping other people do, and that is to cook from (or at least to buy) cookbooks.

The reasons I chose this particular book are first, that I love Mario's food. His sweetbreads at Babbo rocked my world the first time I ate them nearly 15 years ago. ("It's all about the duck prosciutto," he said when I interviewed him for my book, Foods of the World: New York). And then there was the book's subtitle, which contains both the words "simple," and "home," two words that should warm the heart of any home cook.

Which is why the first question I asked him in an email today, was whether it was even true...

1. Are these recipes really from your home?  ABSOLUTELY! THESE DISHES HAVE ALL BEEN PERSONALLY TESTED BY MY WIFE AND KIDS. thereby assuaging my first Fear of Cooking New Things, which is that I am working with recipes that don't work.
2. Seriously though: do you cook at home? YES! I COOK BREAKFAST FOR MY BOYS EVERY DAY. I DO COOK DINNER A FEW TIMES A WEEK BUT MY KIDS' BABYSITTER, LEO, IS AN AMAZING COOK AND I CAN'T MATCH HER MOLE – SO SHE COOKS ON THE DAYS I DO NOT. gotta love a man who loves mole, and who has a woman babysitter named Leo.
3. Would you ever cook dishes from The Babbo Cookook at home?  I WOULD, OF COURSE, BUT ITS SO MUCH EASIER TO JUST GO TO BABBO! Since I don't plan on making duck prosciutto in this lifetime, I'll take his suggestion. Now if he can please help me with a reservation...

Questions 4 and 5 were just the sort of stupid questions I'd have a wisecrack at a blogger for asking. Grazie, Mario, for sparing me by ignoring them.
6. What's the best piece of advice you could give to me, the skilled home cook, cooking for friends at home? LEAVE IT ALONE! HOME COOKS ALWAYS WANT TO SHAKE, STIR AND RATTLE UNNECESSARILY. IF YOU LET YOUR COOKWARE DO ITS JOB IT SHOULD COME OUT WELL WITHOUT THE ADDED ENERGY. Or: why I love my All-Clad.

Number 7 was a question that I lifted directly from the handbook of Narcissists Anonymous. Mario did answer it, but I deleted it to save myself from my worst enemy: me.
8. And from the Dept. of It Really Is All About Me: What do you think of The Mozza Cookbook? No, really....  IT'S BRILLIANT – NANCY IS SO TALENTED AND YOU HELPED HER SHINE. COULDN'T BE HAPPIER WITH HOW IT TURNED OUT. ah, shucks...

Looking through Molto Batali, the first thing that struck me (other than how exciting it was to imagine cooking things I hadn't already made hundreds of times!) was just how many words and terms I didn't know in the table of contents alone. Bra tenere? Scafata? Farsumagru? This was exciting! I thought as one by one, I looked them up. The thrill of learning! Which brings me to the last reason I chose this book, and that is that for no one particular reason, I have long since decided that Mario Batali, born and raised in Washington and having lived most of his adult life in New York City, knows more about Italian cuisine than any other human being on the planet. Which is why, even though I have the book, I am going to Mario's Los Angeles book signing on Friday afternoon. To play Stump the Chef, that is, and find out if there is anything about Italian food the man doesn't know.  In the meantime, I'll be drumming up a question... Any ideas?

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