A most well-introduced book - I counted at least three openings - 'Leaves From Our Tuscan Kitchen', which was first published in 1899, is both an artefact of its time and, with a resurgence of consumer interest in seasonal cooking, a practical manual.
Originally subtitled "how to cook vegetables", it must have had an enormous impact on those that read it then and in its eleven later editions. Meat was the mark of an affluent Victorian table and vegetables merely boiled and served as an adjunct. Janet Ross was one of the first cookery writers to point out that vegetables can be used as the main course, a point of view firmly endorsed by her great-great-nephew Michael Waterfield, who edited and adapted the original edition for re-publication in 1973. This version - a slim and neat although satisfyingly heavy book - has been further revised and updated by Waterfield for the 21st Century, so it is not a facsimile to admire on a shelf but a cookbook to be used in the kitchen.
Arranged alphabetically, from artichoke to pumpkin to white truffle, the recipes are laid out in an unusual way with the ingredients and method sitting side by side. It doesn't take long to get used to this, but the economical use of words does mean that the recipes are best suited to an already confident cook. Try one of the 13 methods of preparing potatoes - Potatoes Cooked with Truffles and Parmesan looks particularly good! - or the simple Chicory Tart. The recipes for Brussels Sprouts (Brussels Sprouts Sautéed with Breadcrumbs and Cheese, Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Butter) could even change the profile of this much maligned vegetable.
A very useful little book for thoughtful cooks, the longevity of 'Leaves From Our Tuscan Kitchen' looks set to continue well into the future.