A Thousand Days in Tuscany

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

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 writer-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. Agent, Rosalie Siegel. (Nov. 5) Forecast: Fans of Frances Mayes's oeuvre will gravitate to this, as well as those who read A Thousand Days in Venice. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Picking up where her A Thousand Days in Venice left off, American author and chef de Blasi and her Italian husband trade their stable life in Venice for a potentially idyllic Tuscan one. Taken under the wing by a local who mentors her foray into the ways of the past, the author participates in every aspect of the local food culture, from harvesting grapes to truffle hunting, and vividly describes her adopted community through its preparation and celebration of food. Equal parts an exploration of Tuscan food and culture and a touching story of its people, this book supplemented with complementary recipes reads more like a novel than the memoir it is. Recommended for public libraries and larger cooking collections. Sheila Kasperek, Mansfield Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another savory slice of de Blasi's life (A Thousand Days in Venice, 2002, etc.), this one chronicling her move south to a small Tuscan town. "Three years ago, when I left America to come to live in Italy, it was neither Venice nor the house on the beach that lured me. Rather it was this man, this Fernando. It's quite the same thing now. We've hardly come to Tuscany for the house." Which is a good thing, for this old stable is far from chic. That's not the point; they have come there to scrub their lives as if with a loofa, to follow the rituals of rural culture in San Casciano dei Bagni, a place of olive and cypress trees, meadows with sheep and sunflowers and lavender. Food will take center stage: fat and velvety zucchini blossoms; a haunch of boar; pecorino bread; ropes of pasta dressed with green tomatoes, garlic, oil, and basil; all the humble, inspired dishes that make you want to bark with pleasure. Without fanfare, the townspeople can gather in a spontaneous convocation, "whispering gastronomic lore like vespers." De Blasi faithfully catches San Casciano in all its weathers, evoking its ancient roots (Roman legions tramped through this land), its artistic association (Rafaello and Perugino), and its political leanings (more than slightly red), as well as the wartime ingenuity that remains a wonder half a century later. The inhabitants, each in their own way, tilt de Blasi's days, making them sweeter and more pungent. One old soul advises on all things San Casciano; another woman makes sure the couple doesn't get too sentimental as they get evermore romantic. The proceedings entail both comfort and risk: the sun shines pink, and the stone floors deliver a welcome coolness, but theswift passage of time lends an edge with the prospect of death. An object lesson in living fully from a genuine sensualist unabashed by her emotions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786271757
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 3/14/2005
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 395
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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