Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Italian
A Thousand Days in Tuscany : A Bittersweet Adventure
Blasi, Marlena De
Published: November 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
From its opening scene of an impromptu alfresco village feast of fried zucchini blossoms, fennel-roasted pork, and pudding made from the cream of a local blue-eyed cow, this memoir of the seasons in a small Tuscan village is rich
with food, weather, romance and, above all, life. De Blasi continues the adventures begun in her A Thousand Days in Venice, as she and her husband, Fernando, leave Venice for Tuscany in search of "a place that still remembers real life... sweet and
salty... each side of life dignifying the other." Fortunately, the two are adopted by Barlozzo, an elderly local eager to share his knowledge of the old ways. He introduces them to the local customs: grape harvesting, truffle hunting, bread baking, etc.
Although the book teems with food references, including recipes for intriguing traditional dishes, de Blasi is more than a sunny regional food writerandmdash;she digs into the meaning of life. As she fights Fernando's periodic depressions and brings him
back to joy, gains Barlozzo's trust and love, learns his troubling lifelong secrets and comes to terms with the death of a beloved friend, she immerses her readers in life's poignancy, brevity and wonder.
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American chef Marlena de Blasi and her Venetian husband, Fernando, married rather late in life. In search of the rhythms of country living, the couple moves to a barely
renovated former stable in Tuscany with no phone, no central heating, and something resembling a playhouse kitchen. They dwell among two hundred villagers, ancient olive groves, and hot Etruscan springs. In this patch of earth where Tuscany, Umbria, and
Lazio collide, there is much to feed de Blasi's two passions--food and love. We accompany the couple as they harvest grapes, gather chestnuts, forage for wild mushrooms, and climb trees in the cold of December to pick olives, one by one. Their routines
are not that different from those of villagers centuries earlier.
They are befriended by the mesmeric Barlozzo, a self-styled village chieftain. His fascinating stories lead de Blasi more deeply inside the soul of Tuscany. Together they visit
sacred festivals and taste just-pressed olive oil, drizzled over roasted country bread, and squash blossoms, battered and deep-fried and sprayed with sea-salted water. In a cauldron set over a wood fire, they braise beans in red wine, and a stew of wild
boar simmers overnight in the ashes of their hearth. Barlozzo shares his knowledge of Italian farming traditions, ancient health potions, and artisanal food makers, but he has secrets he doesn't share, and one of them concerns the beautiful Floriana,
whose illness teaches Marlena that happiness is truly a choice.
Like the pleasurable tastes and textures of a fine meal, A Thousand Days in Tuscany is as satisfying as it is enticing. The author's own recipes are included.
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