In Celebrating Italy, Carol Field doesn't list the recipes in the order in which one would consume a meal - starting with appetisers and ending at desserts. Instead, they are given according to the festival at which they're served. And who knew Italy had so many festivals?

Besides the obvious ones acknowledged through-out the country, such as Christmas, New Year and Easter, there are regional celebrations, including the snake festival, in Cocullo; the dance of the lilies, in Nola; a pecorino cheese fair, in Pienza; a polenta festival, in Tossignano; and grape festivals in wine-producing areas.

In the introduction, Field writes, "Italians throw themselves into festivities with costumed parades and processions, with competitive games like the jousts of medieval days, and with outrageous displays of physical strength. They feast on epic amounts of food whose colours, fragrances, and flavours tempt the eye and dazzle the taste buds. Festivals can be either sacred or profane, and the Italians have often invented stories to give the celebrations supernatural significance or mythic and legendary beginnings … Festivities are a form of communion, a sharing that reinforces bonds of family and friendship, and a sense of identity that stretches across centuries …

"Festival foods and recipes don't exist in a vacuum, but are tied to the calendar and the countryside in which the events are celebrated. Some foods are served to invoke fertility and to symbolise the beginnings of life … All festival food comes in gigantic amounts because it is meant to convey a message of abundance."

During the snake festival, the people of Cocullo don't actually eat snakes (although Field says they did in the past), but pastries and cakes in the shapes of serpents are consumed in abundance.

Field gives recipes for a snake-shaped cake as well as for rice in the style of rice winnowers, for the rice festival, in Villimpenta; crunchy goose cracklings, for the goose festival, in Mortara; spaghetti with crayfish or prawn sauce, for the festival of the cooks, in Villa Santa Maria; and pappardelle with rabbit sauce, Tuscan grape harvest sweet bread and delicate golden cookies, for the wine grape festival in Greve, Chianti.