A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure

A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure

by Marlena de Blasi

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Overview

A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure by Marlena de Blasi

They had met and married on perilously short acquaintance, she an American chef and food writer, he a Venetian banker. Now they were taking another audacious leap, unstitching their ties with exquisite Venice to live in a roughly renovated stable in Tuscany.

Once again, it was love at first sight. Love for the timeless countryside and the ancient village of San Casciano dei Bagni, for the local vintage and the magnificent cooking, for the Tuscan sky and the friendly church bells. Love especially for old Barlozzo, the village mago, who escorts the newcomers to Tuscany’s seasonal festivals; gives them roasted country bread drizzled with just-pressed olive oil; invites them to gather chestnuts, harvest grapes, hunt truffles; and teaches them to caress the simple pleasures of each precious day. It’s Barlozzo who guides them across the minefields of village history and into the warm and fiercely beating heart of love itself.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany is set in one of the most beautiful places on earth–and tucked into its fragrant corners are luscious recipes (including one for the only true bruschetta) directly from the author’s private collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345481092
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/27/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 497,445
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Marlena de Blasi is the internationally bestselling author of A Thousand Days in Venice, as well as four further bestselling memoirs and a novel, Amandine. She is also the author of two internationally published cookbooks of Italian food.

Hometown:

Orvieto, a hilltown in Umbria

Place of Birth:

Schenectady, New York

Education:

B.A., State University of New York at Albany; graduate studies in political science, New York University

Read an Excerpt


The scent of them is enough to send up a short, sharp thrill in a hungry person. Seething hot beauties, they repose in a great unruly pile on the white linen. The yellow of the naked blossoms shows through the gilt sheaths of their crackling skin. Skin thin as Venetian glass, I think. But I'm far away from Venice. We live in Tuscany, now. As of this morning, we live in Tuscany. I say it breezily to myself as though it was all in a day's work. Yesterday Venice. Today, San Casciano dei Bagni. And six hours after arrival, here I am already in a kitchen. In the small, steamy kitchen of the local bar watching two white-hatted, pink-smocked cooks preparing antipasti for what seems to have become a village festival.

The gorgeous things they're cooking are zucchini blossoms, fat and velvety, almost as wide and long as lilies. And the frying dance is precise: drag a blossom quickly through the nearly liquid batter, let the excess drain back into the bowl, lay the blossom gently in the wide, low-hipped pot of hot, very hot shimmering oil. Another blossom and another. Twelve at a time in each of four pots. The blossoms are so light that, as a crust forms on one side, they bob about in the oil and turn themselves over and over until a skimmer is slid in to rescue them, to lay them for a moment on thick brown paper. The paper is then used as a sling to transport the blossoms to a linen-lined tray. One of the cooks fills a red glass bottle with warm, sea-salted water. She fits a metal sprayer onto the bottle and, holding it at arm's length, spritzes the gold blossoms with the salty water. The hot skins hiss and the perfume of them is whipped up and out into the moist June Tuscan breeze.

Pan-to-hand-to-mouth food, these are sustenance for the twelve-minute interval before supper, and so when the first hundred are ready, the cook, the one called Bice, hands me the tray and says 'vai,' 'go' without looking up. A kitchen directive from one colleague to another, from one chef to another, she says it with familiarity, as though we've worked together for years. But tonight I'm not the chef. I think I'm a guest or am I the hostess? I'm not at all sure how this festival got started but I'm happy it did.

Happy and still unwashed from the morning's journey, from the afternoon's work, I'm salty as the blossoms I offer to people, who take them without ceremony. The same familiarity is at work here as each one smiles or pats me on the shoulder, says grazie bella, thank you beauty, as if I'd been passing them hot, crisp flowers all my life. I like this. For one moment it occurs that I might run with the basket to some dim corner of the piazza to devour the remaining blossoms myself, eyes half-closed in a lusty swoon among the shadows. But I don't. Some people don't wait until I reach them but come to me, take a flower while sipping wine or talking over their shoulders. People are collecting about me now, rooks swooping in for the things until nothing is left, save errant crumbles, crunchy and still-warm, which I press onto my finger and suck.

*****

Deep-Fried Flowers, Vegetables, and Herbs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups beer
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 ice cubes
Peanut oil or extra virgin olive oil for frying
Zucchini blossoms, nasturtium flowers, and borage flowers, rinsed, dried, and stems trimmed
Celery leaves cut in branches, rinsed, and dried Whole sage leaves, rinsed and dried
Tiny spring onions or scallions, stems trimmed to about 4 inches in length, rinsed and dried
Warm sea-salted water in a sprayer

In a large bowl, beat together with a fork the flour, beer, water, and sea salt to form a thin batter. Let the batter rest for an hour or so, covered and at room temperature. Stir in the ice cubes and let the batter rest for an additional half-hour. Stir the batter again. It should now be smooth and have the texture of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add cold water by the tablespoonful until the "heavy cream" texture is achieved.

Over a medium flame, heat the oil in a deep fryer or a heavy pan to a depth of 3". The more slowly the oil heats, the more evenly it will heat, helping you to avoid hot and cold spots and unevenly fried foods. Test the oil by dropping in a cube of bread. If it sizzles and turns golden in a few seconds, the oil is ready.

Drag the flowers, herbs, and spring onions through the batter, shaking off the excess. Place them into the hot oil and let them bob about for half a minute or so, allowing them to take on a good, dark crust. Turn them with tongs, to finish frying, then remove them with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper towels. Using a virgin plant sprayer, spray each batch immediately with warm sea-salted water and keep them in a 100-degree oven while you fry the next batch. Better, gather people around the stove and eat the things pan to hand to mouth. A very informal first course.

Table of Contents


Contents

PROLOGUE 1
Summer
1 The Gorgeous Things They're Cooking Are Zucchini Blossoms 7
2 Figs and Apples Threaded on Strings 30
3 The Valley Is Safe, and We Will Bake Bread 64
4 Are You Making a Mattress Stuffed with Rosemary? 81
5 Sit the Chicken in a Roasting Pan on a Pretty Bed of Turnips and Onions, Leeks and Carrots 90

Fall
6 Vendemmiamo--Let's Pick Those Grapes 105
7 Dolce e Salata, Sweet and Salty--Because That's How Life Tastes to Me 124
8 Now These Are Chestnut Trees 150
9 Do Tuscans Drink Wine at Every Meal? 170

Winter
10 Perhaps as a Genus, Olives Know Too Much 195
11 December Has Come to Live in the Stable 218
12 Supper Made from Almost Nothing 248
13 Fasting Was How We Were Living Anyway 264

Spring
14 Virtuous Drenches 293
15 Florì and I Are Shelling Peas 303
16 The First of the Zucchini Blossoms Are Up 314

Recipes
Deep-Fried Flowers, Vegetables, and Herbs 28
The Holy Ghost's Cherries 62
Schiacciata Toscana, Tuscan Flatbread (or "Squashed" Breads) 79
Winemaker's Sausages Roasted with Grapes 120
Fagioli al Fiasco sotto le Cenere, Beans Braised in a Bottle under the Cinders 122
Braised Pork to Taste Like Wild Boar 147
Castagnaccio 192
The One and Only True Bruschetta (brew-sket'-ah)What It Is and How to Pronounce It 247
A Tasting of Pecorino Cheeses with Chestnut Honey 301

Reading Group Guide

1. This book is titled A Thousand Days in Tuscany:A Bittersweet Adventure. What do you consider to be the “bittersweet adventure” of the subtitle? What would you call a book that chronicled the past thousand days of your life?

2. San Casciano is itself a living, breathing character in the book. What is your most vivid impression of the town? How is it similar to, or different from, impressions you had about Tuscany prior to reading this book?

3. How do the author and her husband adjust to living in the rustic world of San Casciano? What does de Blasi see as the most rewarding and challenging aspects of this new life? In your view, what would be most appealing about living a similar existence in a simple, rural town? What would be the most frustrating?

4. How does de Blasi reconcile the tension that sometimes exists between “the simple life” and the march of progress, especially as she acclimates to her new environment? How do the villagers respond to this conflict—of “tradition versus the new”—in their own ways? Have you ever struggled with a similar tension in your life?

5. The author has said that this book is a companion piece to A Thousand Days in Venice. How does the book function as one standalone memoir, and how does it provide another piece in the puzzle of the author’s life? Do you think all readers would benefit from reading these books in tandem? If you’ve read both books, does de Blasi’s mindset change from one to the next, with her change in location?

6. A Thousand Days in Tuscany is separated into sections delineated by season. Discuss this organizational technique. How does the framework of the book mirror the way that rural Tuscan life unfolds? Could you imagine this book organized in any different way?

7. On page 99, de Blasi writes, “Right now all I know is that in love there must be some form of desperation and some form of joy.” Do you agree or disagree with this idea? How is this statement exemplified by the relationships in the book, particularly the one that de Blasi shares with her husband and the one between Barlozzo and Florìana?

8. De Blasi develops a passionate relationship with the land itself. Why does she so enjoy the grape and olive picking she becomes a part of during the course of the book? What connection does this give her to the earth? What activities do you enjoy that might impart that same sort of feeling?

9. “Both my clothes and I are survivors of some other time,” says de Blasi on page 133. How do the clothes that the author chooses to wear evoke her personality and character? Why does she choose to wear one particular ensemble per season?

10. How does de Blasi’s discussion of food throughout this memoir impact your understanding of her life? Do you plan to try any of the recipes that the book includes?

11. Why do de Blasi and Fernando nickname Barlozzo “the duke”? Why do you think Barlozzo immediately takes de Blasi under his wing? What characteristics do the two share? How does Barlozzo’s counsel and involvement shape the life that de Blasi and Fernando construct in San Casciano?

12. How does Barlozzo’s story about his past give clues about the formation of his adult personality? Ultimately, how is he constrained by the ghosts of his parents, and how is he able to triumph over them? Have you ever felt a similar struggle with the past?

13. What about Florìana was so compelling, and to the author and Barlozzo in particular? Why do you think she was so private about her illness? How did her fellow villagers respect her need for privacy and, ultimately, for companionship?

14. The note that Florì leaves for Barlozzo reads, “I wanted death to find me dancing.” How does Florì’s attitude about death mirror the one she holds about life? If you needed to leave someone a similar note at the end of your life, what would it say?

15. In which ways are de Blasi and Fernando a study in how “opposites attract”? How do their different personalities and cultures play a part in their relationship? How are the two similar, both in their approach to their relationship and to their new life in San Casciano? How does their relationship evolve during their time in Tuscany?

16. De Blasi tells Misha that security “is a myth.” Do you agree with her statement? What prompts Misha’s concern about his friends’ safety and security? Do you think that Misha fears change? Why? Does de Blasi value “risk more than comfort,” as Barlozzo contends? What is the largest risk you’ve taken in your life? How was it rewarding?

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A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
OliviaM More than 1 year ago
If you are someone who in fascinated by and wants to learn all things Tuscany, this is a great book for you. Having never been there myself (YET!), the read was like a slow, sumptuous vacation in a Tuscan home, visiting the markets and local restaurants. I didn't want it to end. I am anxious to read her other books, because she did seem a bit guarded about certain things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 2006 and it was a wonderful and CURRENT boook in 2006. WHY does b and n continue to state that a book is coming soon or a NEW release Why dont they do what every other e book company does Include the REAL publishing date and the first e.publish date Many books get purchased a second time Barnes and Noble should correct this or they will continue to loose out to Kindle and Apple ibooks
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's no doubt that she's ardent, intense; sometimes fiery. Marlena De Blasi is a passionate woman. Make that passionate with a capital P. A chef, she has a passion for food. Married to Fernando, a Venetian with 'blueberry eyes, ' she has a passion for Italy. Her exuberance is so contagious that readers will relish every page of 'A Thousand Days In Tuscany' (as well as the recipe that ends each chapter). Ms. De Blasi waxes so enthusiastically about her subjects that it almost seems she writes in bold print to extol the virtues of wild herbs, fresh cheese, and the Tuscan twilight. She is a firm believer in love, and an advocate of life, as well as the living of it. As many will remember with 'A Thousand Days In Venice,' Ms. De Blasi first visited Italy perhaps a dozen years ago. On her first day there as she was sitting in a café with her traveling companions, she noticed an attractive man who seemed to be looking at her. Next, in true Danielle Steel style, a waiter told her that she had a phone call. It was, of course, the mysterious man urging her to meet him. She declined but returned to the café a few days later to find him there. They saw one another until she returned to St. Louis. He soon followed. Fernando, we learned, was a banker who had never married. He would later say that he knew she was the one the moment he saw her. Although she did not share this initial surety she gave in to his pleas. Much to the astonishment and concern of her grown children and friends she returned with him to Venice where they married. She had imagined an apartment overlooking the Grand Canal. Instead she found a square concrete house on the Lido. Little did that matter - there was Fernando. And, there is still Fernando who came home one day to announce that he has quit his job at the bank, and they're moving to Tuscany. A redone stable lacking central heating, a phone, and other amenities in the small village of San Casciano dei Bagni becomes their new home. It does boast a closet size kitchen with a refrigerator akin to what one might find by a hotel mini bar. She writes of their contract with the stable owner: 'There had been a well-defined agreement with Signora Lucci that the house would be clean and that it would be empty. Neither is the case.' The signora's furniture is 'all in the form of irrefutable junk.' Nonetheless, the ever resourceful De Blasi is soon trimming the windows in her Venetian drapes complete with tasseled tiebacks, and delighting in her first taste of fried zucchini blossoms. The bar or restaurant in the village becomes almost their second home. It is there that they meet the villagers and take their morning espresso. They're adopted by an elderly gentleman, Barlozzo, who tells fascinating stories and indoctrinates them into the ways of the region. He teaches them how to pick olives- one by one, harvest grapes, and hunt for wild mushrooms. Florina or Flori becomes another special friend. She of the shy smile and warm heart. Times, we learn, have changed very little in San Casciano dei Bagni. It is here by the site of the ancient Roman baths, where Horace and Ottaviano Augustus vacationed, that Ms. De Blasi learns 'the great secret that living in the moment and being content with one's portion makes for the best of all lives.' If the reader is fortunate, that is only one small lesson learned during this idyllic sojourn in the Tuscan hills. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It included extrodinary travel adventures, wonderful cooking scenes,and most important, glimpses into the lives of the local Tuscan population. All in all, it is the tale of a couple simplifying life to increase life. Reader, it's a nice read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could taste the food, enjoy the scenery & learned the principles to where they were MY friends. Highly recommend this & I look forward to "traveling" elsewhere w/the authur.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To all of you who enjoyedthis book you might try lunch in paris,great story true story and great reciepes enjoy!
AlanAbrams More than 1 year ago
Marlena de Blasi gives us just the right combination of food, atmosphere, and romance. I highly recommend this book.
dlucz More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as well as 1000 Days in Venice and can't wait to read her others. Yum and Fun!
LoverOfItaly More than 1 year ago
This story is nowhere as good as A Thousand Days in Venice! ...Venice held my attention, made me laugh and cry, and filled me with a passion to return to Venice and find all the wonderful places De Blasi visited and worked. The risk she took as a middle-aged woman was inspiring in her first book about her dramatic adventure and life-changes to seek and find her true place and lifelong partner in love. ...Tuscany did not hold my interest. There was simply too much food and cooking descriptions, and not enough about the transformation she went through in finding her new home and life in Tuscany. Though the characters are presumably real people, they did little to inspire me or beckon me back to Tuscany, a beautiful region of Italy with great people, history, and culture. Though I find De Blasi's writing poetic and beautiful, A Thousand Days in Tuscany simply did not live up to my expectations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample, and loved the author's eloquent description of the food, places and ambiance of the atmosphere of Tuscany. I'm purchasing this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fairly good, but it really got bogged down some. Love the Tuscany region and its people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Appropriate and educational for both men and women. I found myself laughing and then crying throughout the read. Would love to live like this and maybe someday will. She shares her relationships and journey so well that for a time, you are actually with her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Makes me want to go to tuscany more than ever
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Lynnmary57 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, but not as much as A thousand days in Venice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very calming book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KarmaNY More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this book, but i just don't. I find Chou a little full of herself, the writing style a bit wordy, but more than that - I'm just bored by it. There is nothing compelling about the story-line, except for the recipes interspersed between chapters. To be completely fair, I'm only halfway through it, but it's definitely not a book I can't put down. Moreover, it's a book I put down often. If it gets better for me, I'll revise my review-but right now, I give it 2 1/2 stars.
PennyE More than 1 year ago
I've been to Tuscany and loved it which is why I bought this book. The story was warm and reminded me of things I liked about Tuscany but it was a little repetitive and wordy.