Keeping House

A Novel in Recipes

By Clara Sereni
Translated by Giovanna Miceli Jeffries & Susan Briziarelli

Subjects: Women's Studies, Italian Studies, Fiction
Series: SUNY series, Women Writers in Translation
Paperback : 9780791464809, 162 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9780791464793, 162 pages, April 2005

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Table of contents


Translators’ Note

1 For a Baby
2 Appetizers
3 First Courses
4 Second Courses
5 Eggs
6 Vegetables
7 Sweets
8 Preserving

Works Cited

Food and its preparation play an integral role in this novel of a young Italian woman struggling to find her own identity in a family of strong personalities and colorful figures.


Part autobiographical novel and part cookbook, Keeping House tells the story of a young Italian woman struggling to find self-definition and self-identity. Born into a prominent Jewish Italian family full of strong personalities and colorful figures, Clara narrates the humorous, dramatic, and often poignant events that inform her life. Intertwining recipes with her narrative, Clara uses food as markers for the cornerstones of her life, allowing her to discover and remember both public and private events—a Yom Kippur dinner, fascism and antifascism, the early years of the young Italian republic, the politics and culture of the Italian left, the openness of the 1960s and '70s, and the retreat into privacy of the 1980s.

Clara Sereni is an award-winning Italian writer residing in Perugia, Italy. She is the author of several novels and a collection of short stories. Giovanna Miceli Jeffries teaches Italian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the author of Letteratura e Lavoro nella narrativa di Italo Svevo and editor of Feminine Feminists: Cultural Practices in Italy. Susan Briziarelli is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of San Diego. She is the author of Enrico Annibale Butti: The Case of the Minor Writer.


a charming and poignant novel … it represented an innovative Italian foray into a diverse genre of contemporary literature that was a cook book (and not only), a novel (and not only), as well as a memoir (and not only) … The novel works because it engages us thoroughly; it is food for thought and food for nourishment. Congratulations to the translators … Readers will not regret accepting their invitation 'to meditate on the various courses and to savour them as well. '" — Quaderni D'Italianistica

"[Sereni's] ferocious refusal of the overbearing family and the traditional couple is softened by her loving understanding of the different roles in life and culinary rituals. They are all parts of an identity that manifests itself in her work and friendships, in her mosaic-style life, where eggplants, cloves, beans, meatballs, and 'crostini' can become ingredients of creativity. " — Indice

"I like the various ways in which food affects the development of a young woman, whose loss of her biological mother remains an untapped yearning in this fictionalized autobiography. The traditional province of women, the kitchen, Sereni suggests, is no mere defense against the world. " — Mary Jo Bona, editor of The Voices We Carry: Recent Italian/American Women's Fiction, Second Edition

"Over 100 recipes guide and shape Sereni's autobiographical novel of self-discovery … foodies will relish learning how to make Arugula Spread, Vitello Tonnato (Veal with Tuna) and Zabaione Ice Cream. " — Publishers Weekly