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Cooking with Fernet Branca

(Gerald Samper #1)

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,485 ratings  ·  234 reviews
Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany, where he whiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions — including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur of the book's title. Gerald's idyll is shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-ri ...more
Paperback, New Edition, 288 pages
Published 2005 by Europa (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  1,485 ratings  ·  234 reviews

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Richard Derus
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany, where he wiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions-including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur of the book's title. Gerald's idyll is shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former Soviet republic. A series of hilarious misunderstandings brings this odd c
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bonnie by: Oriana
I am laughing again as I turn to this, on page four: The day has dawned bright in every sense and I am making good progress up a ladder painting the kitchen – the most important room in the house – in contrasting shades of mushroom and eau de Nil. Anyone can do the white-walls-and-black-beams bit, but it takes aesthetic confidence and an original mind to make something of a Tuscan mountain farmhouse that isn’t merely Frances Mayes. It also takes a complete absence of salt-of-the-earth peasants a ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Cooking, crime & celebritizing collide - often hilariously -
in this satiric tease on rustic retreats. Hamilton-Paterson
writes with an assured and idiosyncratic comic spirit.
Two crackpot neighbors are thrown together in Tuscany
-- a hotspot of distilled lunacy. Their mischievousness
becomes a perfect uncorked stimulant.

Meet a Brit ghostwriter for celebs who settles in Tusc to write and cook in peace. Then a hearty woman composer fr Eastern Europe plumps down nearby to ponder a score for a fawncy I
Jacob Overmark
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I admit it, I was click-baited into this by the headline/title and had no idea where the book would take me.
However, as I hold Fernet Branca in high esteem, the temptation was irresistible, and as the saying goes, “never lay down a temptation, it may not come again”.
Once in my eternal youth I travelled through Uganda, with a bottle of Fernet Branca held closely to my heart. At time of travel a cholera outbreak was closing shops and markets at the leisurely speed of one mile/hour behind me, givi
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour, travel
Are you hungry for cat pot pie, parrots 'n' carrots, horse custard, or deep-fried mice?

image: description

The snobbish British writer and weird cook, Gerald Samper has moved into a villa in the Italian mountains. Here he finds he has a neighbor Marta, whose Russian based family are crime lords.

image: description

This odd couple produce an amazing series misunderstandings and dangerous situations.

One of Gerald's recipes...

"Sometimes I lie in bed and cheer myself up by gloating over the culinary challenges faced and ove
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Oriana by: Joyce
I didn't manage to read this in Mexico, though I was told it would be the perfect smart-person airplane book, but I did pick it up as soon as I got back, and it was very much as promised: dryly hilarious, fast-moving, clever, and a whole lot of fun.

Cooking With Fernet Branca is dual-ly narrated by two next-door neighbors living on the Italian countryside: Gerard Samper, a very proper Englishman and self-proclaimed "master chef" (more on that soon), who makes his money ghostwriting autobiographi
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A zany farce populated by oddball characters, most of whom become more endearing as things unravel. Very well-crafted and just packed with rich, carefully considered language. I thoroughly enjoyed the circus and laughed out loud in several spots.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1990-2010
This is an odd one to judge: generally a pretty run-of-the-mill exercise, but with moments of real comic genius, in my view.

I should say that I don’t normally read comic novels (or intentionally comic novels), and reading this one rather reminded me why. There can be something hectoring about someone trying constantly to amuse you. I also have a very low tolerance of fart jokes.

I was driven to comedy in this instance partly for circumstantial reasons (as an antidote to miserable February weather
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A witty & hilarious satire of all the "A Year in Provence," "Under the Tuscan Sun" books that romanticize the expat life in Europe. Once again, an overly-refined Brit goes to Italy to follow his writing muse. Please note -- he is a ghostwriter of biographies for celebrities, not a Nobel nominee. That fact does not limit his pretensions whatsoever. Settling into his quaint abode, he is horrified when his new neighbor moves in. Also an expat, she is fleeing her crimelord, overprotective family in ...more
Aug 20, 2006 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Alexandra
Funny and eloquent and completely pointless.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
After you've read too many lovely, wish-you-were-here travel memoirs & foodie books, Cooking with Fernet Branca is the amusing & biting antidote. I thoroughly enjoyed this parody & it had me literally laughing out loud at times. I'd give it 3.5 stars overall; I'll round it up to 4 stars because it made me laugh out loud when reading at Starbucks.

P.S. Don't read this book while eating... for two reasons.
1) You may choke on your food from laughing.
2) The included 'recipes' are revolting. LOL.

I imagine there is someone in this big wide world that finds this laboured, cynical, heavy-handed lump of a satirical novel amusing, but that someone is decidedly not me.
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Whatever else we can say about James Hamilton-Paterson, he is a very funny man. If you ever found yourself in the Italian countryside gazing at the villa next door and wondering who lives there and who, for gosh sakes, is coptering in and out, after reading this novel, you may very well decide you don’t really want to know. It may be entangling, and may, after all, be the end of all you hold dear.

Gerald Samper, British biographer to the rich and famous, buys an old villa in need of repair in Tus
Feb 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: najdraze
Snobbish and pretentious guy with crazy recipes somewhere in Italian pastoral mythical rural land. Alone and crazy enjoying his silence. Until a woman from East comes and ruins his daily routine.
The narrator changes focus from woman to a man, telling this story from both point of view, which is diametrical different.
You'll meet funny creatures, even some mob and boy bend celebrity with traumatic surreal experience. You'll laugh at him and you'll laugh with him.
So friggin hillarious.
And then ag
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt, funnylight
Witty and goofy, complex, farcical. Lots of somewhat contradictory adjectives come to mind. The recipes are truly horrendous and therefore truly hilarious. The plot is bizarre and entertaining. The two main characters take turns telling their stories in first person, and their differences and similarities are fascinating to watch develop. A fun and twisted book. I love the fact that this was nominated for a Booker prize--not what you'd think was a typical nominee!
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is indeed witty. If not for the wonderful writing and use of language, I would have rated it lower, for in fact, I didn't enjoy it very much. I think the problem may have been the humor which perhaps was aimed at a British audience and the recipes, that others may have found hilarious, left me unmoved. In any case, I didn't get much of it and very little made me laugh. Ah, but the writing, the wit, that was worth the read.
May 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
one of the funniest books i've ever read.

"Incidentally, this is the only recipe I know [for "Otter with Lobster Sauce"] that is associated with a curse."
other recipes include "smoked cat" and "mussels in chocolate".
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious. The narrator is a pompous twit through and through, that's what makes it great. Interspersed with recipes that get progressively more and more insane, and I think they all include a bit of mankind's most vile aperitif -- fernet branca.
Julie Christine
Umm.. parts were laugh-out-loud hilarious, parts were ineffably tedious- overall a mad and random train wreck of a book. I peered through my fingers, unable to stop reading but couldn't wait for it to end.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
one of 3 about gerald (gerreee!) and Marta? there are at least 2 of these titles anyway.
Jim Leckband
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
The title is true to the novel. There *is* a lot of cooking with Fernet Branca, as well as a lot of drinking of Fernet Branca. Essentially the novel is a send-up of the "Brit in Provence/Italy/Greece/Somewhere Sunny Where The People are Strange" books. The Brit (Gerald Samper) in this case is a ghost writer who thinks he has found his idyllic Italian mountain top villa to complete his latest ghost book. But the next door neighbor (Marta, there is always a next door neighbor, apparently, in the a ...more
Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson - OK

Gerald Samper is your stereotypical effete Englishman: He's pompous and self deluded, believes he is a passable tenor singing arias as he concocts his cordon bleu dishes. What he actually is, is a ghost writer of celebrity biographies who buys a remote Tuscan villa having been told his nearest neighbour only visits for one month a year.

This neighbour has been told exactly the same thing. She is Marta and comes from an ex Soviet Republic.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, british
This book was hilarious, I laughed a lot, a complete comedy of manners, complete with pop idols, famous Italian directors, and ridiculous food. My intense dislike for Gerald subsided as the book went on, softening me a bit (only a bit) toward him. Eloquently written, a total delight!
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lydia by: meliss
Shelves: comedy
My Goodreads friend Meliss recommended “Cooking with Fernet Branca” and I’m glad she did! Author James Hamilton-Paterson is hilarious.

This book is the first in a series revolving around Gerald Samper, ghostwriter of sports celebrity autobiographies. He’s good at it, but only does that kind of writing because it pays well. He’s not happy with his work.

Gerald’s hobby is cooking: experimenting and creating recipes. He shares some of these with the reader, recipes such as “Rabbit in Cep Custard.” Y
Sep 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
No summary is better than the one already patly written on this site. "Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany, where he wiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions-including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur of the book's title. Gerald's idyll is shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former soviet republic. A series of hilarious misun ...more
Michael Aitken
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Early days yet. Nice piece of social satire, echoes of Tom Sharpe (Wilt etc) and others. The cooking angle is a major bonus, as is the dual point of view. Marvellous fanciful recipes.

Brilliant section in Chapter 20 (round p 114) - a very funny passage where Gerry tells his guest about cruelty to vegetables. Reminded me of a wonderful Umberto Eco piece (ijFoucault's Pendulum) about improbable university faculties - Chair of irrigation at the University of the Sahara, etc.

A great read, but patchy
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
Hilarious. Simply hilarious.

A Englishman buys a house in the mountains of Italy seeking quiet for his writing. He sings arias while he invents the most bizarre recipes, the products of which he sometimes shares with his aggravating neighbor, a woman from Voynovia, who generously shares bottles of Fernet Branca with him. She claims to be a musician and composer in town to compose music for a film by a famous Italian director.

Their experiences of living as neighbors differ depending on who does t
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Andrew by: Bethany
Shelves: humor, favorites
I hesitated to give this book 5 stars only because I may just be so relieved to have enjoyed a book after a long succession of vanilla before it. But after looking backwards through my list of books I've read until finding the last book I enjoyed so much, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I've decided that, yes, it earned those stars.

The book is told from the points of view of two alternating narrators who are neighbors in Tuscany. Gerald is an uptight narcissist who loves his s
Kasa Cotugno
Dec 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hamilton-Paterson flawlessly folds Into this souffle folded many ingredients seemingly disparate, resulting in hilarity and desire for more. Told in alternating voices, the plot soars hilariously. Marta, a composer from Eastern Europe, and Gerald, a ghost-writing ex-pat from England, live in mutual disharmony, misdirection and misunderstanding on a Tuscan hilltop. It helps, but is not necessary, for the reader to be somewhat knowledgeable about Pier Paolo Pasolini, East European mafia, gourmet c ...more
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James Hamilton-Paterson's work has been translated into many languages. He is a highly acclaimed author of non-fiction books, including Seven-Tenths, Three Miles Down and Playing with Water, as well as America's Boy, a study of Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines. Gerontius, his first novel, won the Whitbread Award, while his most recent, Loving Monsters (2001), was praised by the Sunday Telegrap ...more

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