Hungry For More:
Nonfiction Reading Series Welcomes Anthony Di Renzo
Anthony Di Renzo, author of Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen, was the featured speaker at April 1st’s Nonfiction Reading Series event. In introducing Di Renzo, Writing Program Chair Eileen Schell referred to him as “Antonio,” as she noted the two have known each other for years. Schell described the acclaimed author and friend as someone who lives to feed people; she recalled a time when she attended a dinner party and, before her coat was off, Di Renzo was offering her a spoon and urging her to try his risotto. Schell expressed to the audience that “Antonio’s work, like his cooking, has the ability to transport you.”
Di Renzo read from the preface and various essays in his book, choreographing his reading with perfectly timed background music. Quotes from the preface brought some audience members to laughter, as he read such lines as, “My liquor cabinet is stocked with irony, different brands of irony. . . I keep plenty on hand since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers.” In discussing his decision to create a book of food-based reflections, Di Renzo noted, “Nietzsche said that he could not believe in a god that could not dance. I couldn’t believe in a god that I couldn’t eat.”
Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen is a “political satire, cultural criticism,and culinary memoir,” with essays ranging from the love of deep Italian chocolate to the story of how Chef Boyardee came to be. The title of the book is inspired by Roman dinner tables, which Di Renzo described as having canopies placed over them to represent the sky, a fruit bowl in the middle of the table to represent the earth, and scraps of food dropped from previous meals on the floor to feed the dead. Di Renzo explained how, as time passed, the scraps on the floor were replaced with mosaics of food. “Rome is always with me. Once you see the eternal city you never forget it—it stays with you forever. And so much history is present there, and that’s what I love about the culture that shaped me.”
After the reading, Di Renzo responded to questions from people in the audience, who were eager to learn his views on ethnic markets, the slow food movement, and even gardening at home. Di Renzo also offered details about his childhood in Freehold, NJ, where he was cracked on the knuckles by Catholic school nuns for reading Voltaire. Di Renzo, who earned both an undergradute degree and a PhD at Syracuse University and is now a professor at Ithaca College, noted that the event felt like a homecoming. He ended the talk by saying, “If we think of history as a pantry, we get a much clearer sense of who we are as people.” His reading left the audience hungry for more, and Di Renzo continued the conversation over lunch at the Faculty Center with Writing Program instructors and students.
—story by Samantha Paige Stark
||Samantha Paige Stark '11 is a dual major in Writing and Rhetoric and Sociology. Her public relations internship in the Writing Program is providing her with some real world insights and, occasionally, some Chinese food. ||
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