Book cover of A Blissful Feast

Teresa Lust ’86 Biol.

Pegasus Books: 2020


It starts with gnocchi, drenched in butter and melty fontina, and ends with roast pork shoulder, porchetta-style. In between, this celebration of the author’s Italian heritage and authentic Italian fare offers a lush narrative detailing traditional dishes—and a distinctive sense of place.

In these 278 delectable pages, Teresa Lust delivers the warmth of Italy, delving into the culture, cuisine, history, and geography of her ancestral land and providing approachable recipes alongside heartwarming anecdotes about members of her extended family. Zia Giuseppina teaches her how to make cloudlike potato dumplings using wrinkled, old, thick-skinned russets—and without measuring a thing. Cousin Cattarina oversees her first pot of zuppa dei morti—soup of the dead—with savoy cabbage, Italian sausage, day-old bread, and a rich, homemade chicken broth. In Italy, readers learn, there’s an old saying: Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo. An old hen makes good broth.

Lust grew up in an Italian-American family in Yakima, regularly eating risotto, polenta, hand-shaped ravioli, homemade tomato sauce, and beef-tongue sandwiches. Her mother’s and grandmother’s handwritten recipes helped spark her love for cooking and the Old Country. (Her first kitchen job out of college was at the fabled Ark restaurant on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula under the direction of the late legendary Pacific Northwest chef Jimella Lucas.)

Feast opens with a mother-daughter trip to meet family members in Rocca Canavese near Turin. Lust is one of four daughters of Darlene (Picatti) Lust (’57 Lib. Arts) and the late C. James “Jim” Lust (’58 Poli. Sci.), a former Yakima County Superior Court judge. Her sister, Yakima teacher Nancy Lust, was part of that first trip, too.

Lust’s culinary career led her to further explore the connections of her mother’s cooking and trace the origins of her grandmother’s dishes. She learned Italian, taking classes during the off-season and, of course, traveling throughout Italy. Now living in New Hampshire, Lust teaches Italian at Dartmouth College—she’s an alum there, too—as well as leads cooking classes. Her first book 1998’s Pass the Polenta: And Other Writings from the Kitchen, like this one, is part memoir, part cookbook.

Feast is divided into three parts—one for each of the regions of Italy that Lust explores. In Piedmont, enjoy bagna cauda, pizzelle, and hand-stretched breadsticks. In Maremma, find chestnut tortelli, homemade ricotta, and bruschetta with figs and Gorgonzola. And in Le Marche, look for spaghetti with shrimp and cherry tomatoes, fresh egg tagliatelle, and tagliatelle with summer squash, basil, and squash blossoms.

Lust’s mouth-watering journeys transport armchair travelers and inspire home cooks. Her voice feels familiar and welcoming, folksy and friendly. And that’s the overall tone of any good feast: charming, gracious, good-natured, and inviting.