The recipes in Florentine cookery range from the original and traditional to more recent arrivals and innovations. Such a wide and occasionally unusual choice of dishes has not only provided some fascinating historical and social information, but the assortment and variety of flavours, colours, customs and costs suited to all pockets, also offers a style of cooking which is lively and flexible.
Three essential elements have formed our gastronomic traditions: the "poor", peasant tradition with the emphasis on bread soups, vegetables, beans and eggs, with very little meat (beef was rare but there was sometimes pork, rabbit and chicken and, just occasionally, a poached hare); the cookery of the middle-classes, which probably is most similar to today's in tastes and cost and includes a bit of everything (varied and flavour some dishes with spices, herbs and a choice of wines); the cookery of the aristocracy which, after the marriage of Catherine de' Medici to the Dauphin, Henry of Orleans in 1533, heavily influenced French cookery.
Not surprizingly I have had to tone down or vary some flavours which were too strong or even unacceptable to the modern palate, while, on the other hand, I have made use of some ingredients which were previously unknown or only rarely used, - interesting and lively cookery depend on its ability to envolve and absorb new ideas and preferences. Indeed, the most creative and inventive cooking develops in the home and trattoria as it is here that traditional dishes are continually renewed and updated with those small but important additions and adjustments.
At the heart of Florentine cookery lie three fundamental ingredients: bread (plain, unsalted, well-baked with a crispy crust and light and airy inside); extra-virgin olive oil, without any doubt the best even for frying, as long as you only ude it once; lasly, wine.
Clearly the success of such a simple and natural style of cooking depends on a great extent on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. This is especially important for vegetables and salad which, if left in the fridge for too long, will loose both their flavour and their vitamin content.
The quantities given in the recipes are for a convivial gathering of six people and each includes instructions, equipment and timing as well as some interesting traditions and customs. To save time, there is absolutely no reason why you should not use a pressure cooker, mixer, pasta maker or any other machine which makes life easier. On the other hand, avoid at all costs pre-cooked or ready-prepared foods, tinned beans and frozen foods, while the stock cube should only be used as a last resort.