Vanilla Beans and Brodo

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This isn't just another "we moved to a foreign country for a better quality of life" book. Instead, it is a leisurely exploration of a medieval Tuscan village and its people, from a tortured past to a thriving present. Montalcino, which has perched for centuries atop a hill in Tuscany, is noted today for its exceptional Brunello wine and the annual Sagra, an archers' tournament. Australians Isobel and Lou Dusi arrived there as empty nesters. Over time, as they found acceptance among the Montalcinesi, they became Isabella and Luigi. But their book is less about cultural adaptation than about paying meticulous attention to every facet of Italian life. Culturally sensitive, Dusi avoids the trap of mocking the unfamiliar or seemingly bizarre. She takes small steps to insinuate herself into social life, always mindful of a history that is not her own. She introduces us, without prejudice, to the ancient animosities between the country and village people, enthusiastically supports the local soccer team, and works to save a church in her Pianello quarter. Most of the stories, though, belong to the Montalcinesi Duci's landlords, shopkeepers, village officials, historians, hunters, and amateur archaeologists. This m lange of adventure and social history is recommended for large travel collections or where there is interest in Italian life. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A leisurely and comprehensive-perhaps too leisurely and comprehensive-catalogue of seasons in a Tuscan town, from Australian Dusi. In 1994, Dusi and her husband Lou upped and moved to Montalcino, in Italy's Tuscany, away from their unexceptional life in Australia. By their fifth year in town, Dusi felt embosomed enough in the town's ways ("Isobel and Lou have become Isabella and Luigi and we have begun to find acceptance") to give a faithful recording of a passing year. She starts with a walking tour of Montalcino, through time-for this is a town that has protective walls approaching a 1,000 years in age, and a history that pokes back a few more centuries-and space, reporting on every trattoria, osteria, and cafe, the composition and character of each of the quarters, right down to the origins of obscure street names. There are pleasures as old as the hills: plump figs stuffed with a walnut, biscuits of ground almond, orange peel, and honey-the whole cucina povera, which hardly seems such, especially when the local and noble Brunello is always close at hand, a wine considered the best Italy has to offer. There are archery contests pitting quarter against quarter, there are feast days and olive harvesting, hunts of wild boar and the "passive violence" of soccer matches, legends of betrayed women and woodcutters seeing the face of the Madonna in a tree trunk. Dusi's telling of these events is not merely intimate; the detail is step-by-step, blow-by-blow. Almost every sentence feels (at least) a word too heavy-"A milky globe, crisply outlined, hangs in a velvet sky flooding ghostly shadows into lanes and bathing the soaring fortress walls in a silvery glow." And Dusi's irritating habit ofappending English translations to Italian words is distracting: "When is the notaio, notary, arriving?" Dusi gives Montalcino a real presence, but readers may wish she would stop talking long enough for them to smell the rosemary and garlic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743234610
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/30/2002
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements x
Map of Montalcino xi
Preface: Arrivederci Iron Lady ... Ciao, Signoral Isabella! xv
Chapter 1 Under the Holm Oaks 3
Chapter 2 Twenty Arrows in Half an Hour 17
Chapter 3 Vanilla Beans and Brodo 36
Chapter 4 Primo--the First-born 49
Chapter 5 Fooled by the Moon and Tricked by the Wind 69
Chapter 6 Pianello ... Pianello ... Pianello! 109
Chapter 7 One Winter's Night 132
Chapter 8 A Little Bit of Silence while the Bishop Speaks! 168
Chapter 9 Alternative Tea and Jonquils 199
Chapter 10 Quarantesimo 218
Chapter 11 In the End the Ball is Always Round! 234
Chapter 12 A Woodcutter's Legend and a Woodcutter's Wife 261
Chapter 13 The Next Bus Back to Siena 291
Chapter 14 A Prophet, A Sweeper and A Winemaker 335
Chapter 15 White Canyons in the Sky 357
Chapter 16 Sailing into Cyberspace ... Digging up the Past 389
Chapter 17 Twenty Arrows in Half an Hour 421
Glossary: About Montalcino Italian Words and Phrases 443
Index 447
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2002

    A GREAT B-I-I-I-G Yawn!

    I'd heard about this book, and had great hopes that it wouldn't be yet another "we bought a house in the village of XXXXX and spent the next few years trying to fit it. In the process we learned so much about the people and the country." Alas, it isn't. And the writing has all the life and vitality of your fourth grade history book, where every sentence is allegedly brimming with portent-- most of which is paraphrased from some other source. Eventually the author begins to talk a bit about her own experiences but by then I'd lost almost all interest. Every town has its own story to tell; Montalcino's awaits a better author.

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