Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. Forecast: Fans of Frances Mayes's oeuvre will gravitate to this, as well as those who read A Thousand Days in Venice." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From the author of the national bestseller "A Thousand Days in Venice" comes this sumptuous, passionate memoir of a life in rural Tuscany that dazzles the senses.
About the Author
An American chef and food and wine journalist, Marlena de Blasi has written five memoirs, a novel, and two books about the regional foods of Italy. She lives with her husband in the Umbrian hilltown of Orvieto. Her work has been translated into twenty-six languages.
Table of Contents
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
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
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
14 Virtuous Drenches 293
15 Florì and I Are Shelling Peas 303
16 The First of the Zucchini Blossoms Are Up 314
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
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