Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Read: The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley, by Elizabeth Romer

I just wanted to highlight this book, having mentioned it a couple of times over the last months. I love this book, it's an awesome and dense read. The premise is, an English girl goes to live in Tuscany and for a year, observes and details exactly the life of a Tuscan housewife in her kitchen.

She notes all the farm recipes calling for olive oil measured in wine glasses, specific kinds of tomatoes and wild peasants (as well as more common meats like beef, veal and chicken). Romer recounts the way of life folks in Tuscany have enjoyed for centuries, tabling the changing of the seasons and the household chores according to the seasons- in winter they spin wool and cure quantities of prosciutto, in springtime the pecorino cheese is made, while in summer the farm is ripe with corn, pears, and sweet peas and in autumn, they wine and harvest. The rhythm of life naturally follows from the foods of the seasons.

The whole process is evocative and informational. If you're a fan of Italian cooking, this brings you back to the basics, the blends for pasta and pasta sauces, the combination of specific vegetables for the 'odori', which she explains is the substance and fibre base to any pasta topping. The recipes are incredibly authentic, any Italian cooking class you attend will pretty much have the same recipes that grew out of this region and I myself have used many of the recipes listed in the book.

This is obviously not the only, nor neccesarily the best book on Tuscany out there but I think it's a classic introduction to the cooking and culture of Tuscany and that it's so important not just to cook food or take pictures of it, but really read about it and understand both the context and culture of what we are celebrating.

Thanks Auntie C. for a great gift!

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