It's been a while since we've seen a new book by the prolific Minnesota renaissance man Eric Dregni. The assistant professor at Concordia College has written or co-authored books on a wide range of subjects, including the history of the scooter, Midwestern roadside attractions, Norwegian cod, and even advertising. Apparently, during this brief period of not publishing he was living in Italy. Well, of course. His latest effort, Never Trust a Thin Cook (University of Minnesota Press), takes him on a quest with his girlfriend (fittingly, they met at the Leaning Tower of Pizza) to find the best food in the world. Fluent in Italian, Dregni sets out to taste and learn as much as possible, recounting in the book his attempting to infiltrate the balsamic-vinegar underground, discovering that moldy salami is actually pretty tasty, and learning how to caffeinate oneself properly with thimble-sized portions of espresso. It's a journey of gastronomical proportions, but it is also an exploration of cultural differences, awkward "lost in translation" moments, and charming, homeless drunks who direct traffic and can speak eloquently on local history.
Thu., Feb. 4, 7 p.m., 2010