“Cook for the feeling, and the rest will come naturally“. This is Simone Agostino’s motto when it comes to spending time in the kitchen. Drawing on her heritage from the largest Mediterranean island of Sicily and the mountainous Abruzzo region on the Adriatic coast, Simone creates heartfelt recipes, drawing from her time growing up immersed with fresh produce, regional recipes and spending meal times with the extended family. Simone looks to spread the true essence of Italian cooking and culture through beautiful recipes, travel photos and the memories associated with the food she loves to cook.
Recently I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with Simone and her husband Dan – which just so happened to be in the middle of their massive book delivery week! The Perth husband and wife team behind the incredible cookbook, The Table of Us (a fitting title that suitably encapsulates the hospitable nature of Italians), welcomed me into their home with a batch of freshly prepared Ricotta Cannoli.
With a passion for cooking myself (and not-so-secretly, being a bit of a cookbook collector), I was excited to sit down and dive into the thought process and concepts behind every component of The Table of Us – from the recipes to the book’s incredible design. Simone explained the idea behind the book was to share some of her family recipes the Agostino’s have made their own. However, more than just sharing recipes, the couple wanted also to share memories, their travels and encourage others to embrace the Italian culture that they were both lucky enough to have been born into.
Simone always knew she wanted to do something creative and has also always had a deep love for cooking and a passion for writing. So five years ago, after being told many times that she should write a cookbook, that’s precisely what she did. Whilst her oldest son was napping, she would be in front of the computer compiling her recipes. However, it wasn’t until recently that both Simone and Dan thought they should do something about all the recipes they had accumulated. In June 2020, Dan started on book designing, and after moving house in August, it was time to go all in. Dan and Simone had always envisioned working together on some form of project. It was a combination of Simone’s natural ability with the written word and her passion for cooking together with Dan’s background in design that just made perfect sense for what would become The Table of Us. It was a natural, seamless fit.
When it comes to design, Dan certainly knows his stuff. Having worked in the design industry for over 20 years, Dan’s motto of, “you pay cheap, you pay twice”, really sets this self-published cookbook apart from the rest. It is very apparent that genuine love and care has gone into this book. With many people saying print is dead and everything is moving online, I feel now, more so than ever, there is a greater appreciation for quality when it comes to the printed form. This book in particular, is a stunning display piece whilst staying true to its original functional purpose.
Dan aimed for somewhere in the middle of familiar and different when it came to designing the book. He required a sense of honesty and rawness that reinforced the heartfelt recipes. Everything from the texture of the uncoated paper stock to the photography and simplistic and unpretentious styling creates a homely book where the visual aesthetic is a continuation of Simone’s beautifully composed words and recipes.
After the design was pretty much finalised, the first photoshoot took place around Christmas of 2020. With three photoshoots all up, and about 15-20 dishes each shoot, it was an experience like no other. Simone had the mammoth task of doing all the prep and cooking of each dish. Dan took care of the art direction, with photographer Brayton Gillette taking care of most of the photography alongside Dan. The food styling was a collaborative effort, with Simone, Dan and Brayton all contributing.
“Cooking is all about interpretation, and you need to make it your own story.”
Simone’s approach to cooking is all about the sensory feelings of cooking. You taste it, touch it, smell it. So if it’s too dry, add more liquid. If it’s too moist, cook it out a little. You simply ‘cook for the feeling’ and let everything else comes naturally. The recipes are merely a guide to aid the reader on their journey in understanding the connection between ingredients and flavours. It’s her way of cooking for the people she loves, using simple produce that pack plenty of flavour. With 208 beautiful crafted pages, this cookbook brings you 70 recipes that you will find yourself cooking time and time again.
I feel this book is just the catalyst to a remarkable career. With two children’s books nearing completion and work already started on cookbook number two, Simone and Dan Agostino are the couple to watch.
The Table of Us can be purchased online at www.thetableofus.com or selected quality bookstores, gift and homewares outlets. A complete stockiest list can be found on their website. (linked below)
Make sure you are following their social media for some mouth-watering recipes and ideas.
Paccheri Pasta, with Swordfish, Eggplant and Cherry Tomatoes.
It can be said that seafood reigns supreme in the southern island of Sicily, but it doesn’t reign alone with tomatoes and eggplant right up there as well. Simone was kind enough to make this dish for my visit, a simple yet flavoursome pasta perfect for the middle of the week.
I was going to share the recipe here, but then I figured you guys would love to support a local self published cook book… so go on, buy the book, then invite me for dinner.
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