Monthly Archives: April 2011
Thank you to Warren for becoming a follower of my blog. Happy Reading!
Dolci di Love….fun read. It inspired me to prepare a few dishes (one of which I have not completed yet) but I wanted to get this review up.
Lily Turner, an executive vice president of a big company in New York , is digging around in her husband Daniel’s closet so she can ascertain the size of his golf shoes. It was meant to be a surprise for his birthday…new golf shoes. What she found turned her life upside down. Tucked away inside the shoe was a laminated photo of Daniel, his arm around a beautiful woman and two children snuggled close. The older child looks like Daniel. Upon closer inspection, Lily realizes the photo is taken in Italy …..a place Daniel spends one week a month dealing with his wine business.
Wham! How’s that for a shock? This realization that Daniel has a family tucked away in Tuscany comes as a scandalous surprise (naturally) but it’s a double whammy for Lily as she can not have children. Lily wanted to be a mother more than anything and with each false pregnancy, miscarriage and failed adoption……she retreats further away from the loving spontaneous life she had with Daniel. Is it any wonder he sought companionship elsewhere. Sought out a family with someone who would (and could) give it to him? Nooooo…. No excuses for Daniel and I wanted his head on a stick as I read through the first part of this book. What woman wouldn’t align herself with Lily and the outrage of such a betrayal? Cheating bastard!
Here’s the rub…….reading about Lily you definitely have sympathy for her yearning to be a mother. But there is a cool exterior surrounding this beautiful woman that didn’t allow me to totally connect with her. She had pushed her sister Rose away because she couldn’t bear to see Rose with her brood of children. So they don’t see each other much. Lily keeps her schedule at work jam packed and so, she doesn’t have spare moments to take trips with her husband or go out for a leisurely dinner. Her assistant buys Daniel his birthday and Christmas gifts……..Lily doesn’t know her husband’s show size. If she did, she wouldn’t have found out about the Italian family.
OK – next you get Daniel’s side of the story. Is he justified? Is he a total cad? No. He screwed up (no pun intended) but he loves Lily more than life. All of the circumstances of Daniel’s secret life are explained (with a few surprises I didn’t see coming).
Lily books a flight to Italy and finds the small village where Daniel and his family live. There are some great descriptions of Lily’s first impressions and experiences in Italy , her culture shock, a handsome Italian widower and Lily’s unlikely accommodation above a bakery run by two elderly sisters. The sisters play a major role in this book as they are the founders of the Secret League of Widowed Darners. In reality they are decrepit matchmakers with a communication network to be envied by Verizon. And of course they are mostly ignored because they are tiny, elderly black-clad women who are dismissed as clueless busybodies. Not true. Watch out for this group.
By chance, Lily meets Daniel’s six-year-old daughter. She falls for her – the way she talks, the way she looks…. Complicated! From there the scenes of Tuscany and cuisine are vividly painted by the author.
Some quotes from the book:
In chapter 14 I liked the description of how Lily saw the Tuscan countryside from her rented room….she awoke, blew out a sigh “and let the despair of her miserable situation fully descend”……but then she went to the window and “gazed out at the rolling patchwork of the sea of greens; so many shades and each one deeper or brighter or more dazzling than the one right next to it. She realized that if she had imagined Tuscany, she would have seen it as burnt orange and golden; vibrant colors but harsh and arid compared to the moist and thriving sprawl of grasses, grapes, olives, forest and fields that stretched below her.
It was so beautiful it was impossible to concentrate on what had brought her here.”
Near the very end….I like this quote: “But after that, she let go of her old life as easily as a helium balloon and not even stayed to watch it float away.”
Wow – As a fan of ex-pat type literature I would hope that I could let go of my life in the States “as a helium balloon” and settle down in complete contentment. As long as I had the essentials – my man, good wine, good fresh local foods and nice weather.
What happened was a turn of events I could not foresee and so, I don’t want to put a spoiler in this review. From the viewpoint of an American, and trying to get my head into Lily’s mindset (considering her busy corporate life in New York ), I’m not sure it’s a realistic ending…..but I was pretty happy with how it all tied together.
I enjoyed this book and plan to look for other novels by Sarah-Kate Lynch.
Next on deck is Farewell to Arms and I am linking to Italy in Reading Challenge. This completes my second book in the challenge.
Fans of Sarah-Kate Lynch or looking for a book set in Tuscany? See the links below:
Smoked Mozzarella and Artichoke Ravioli with garlic zucchini…..and a light white wine. I had to include this photo of the cheesy smoked mozzarella and artichoke stuffing in the ravioli….
Thank you to Bo and Catherine for following my blog. Happy Reading!
Bella Tuscany – The Sweet Life in Italy by Frances Mayes
If I were to rate this on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being FANtatsic…I’d go with 6 ½ …..my opinion is… Under the Tuscan Sun was more fun to read. That being said, I liked this book and prepared a great meal from the chapter Sicilian Menu. More on that later………..
Mayes went into sooooo much detail about the shopping trips and her opinions on the Mafia in Sicily that I felt like flipping through some of those pages…thinking, “C’mon! Let’s move on here…I want to read about Italy but….too much minutia.”
Some of the best parts for me were reading and visualizing her visiting a local farm and getting fresh ricotta, all the varieties of wine and her interactions with the local folks. I imagined me walking along with her and discovering an Etruscan ruin…..seeing the small churches with artwork I will never see in the United States . Immersion in the culture…that is what I loved.
Some favorite parts:
“Tonight we are drawn into a trattoria simply because it looks like someone’s Sicilian aunt’s funky dining room, with painted cupboards, bits of old lace, family photos. We are waved to the last available table. No menu arrives. Carafe wine is plunked down on the table. A woman and her daughter in animated conversation in the kitchen. The husband tends the dining room. He’s holding a glass of wine aloft as he floats from table to table, taking a few sips as his customers order. Soon a pate of antipasti appears – little squid, a vegetable tart, olives.”
Oh yeah…that is the type of experience I would love to have. We just wander in and eat what the locals are having.
Another visual – “ All over a valley of almond trees and wildflowers stands a mind-boggling array of remains from an ancient town, from temples to sewer pipes.” What a thing to stumble across just driving around. Doug and I would spend hours looking and taking snaps of ruins.
Don’t get me started on the pasticcerias!! The pastries are mounded with cream…realistic marzipan pineapples, bananas, pricky pears, cherries…..almond cakes, strawberry tarts…..my mouth was watering just reading about these fresh homemade sweets.
Overall I liked the book but as I mentioned earlier….Under the Tuscan Sun was better. For me. The following recipes were quite good – please try them if you get a chance.
Caponata – Right. I have seen quite a few variations on the prep of this eggplant based dish but I liked this one very much. In the book Mayes stated the Sicilan version was more flavorful than her. Why? The concentrated tomato estratto (tomato paste from sun-dried tomatoes) that is available in Sicily and the anchovies.
Nice appetizers, hor d’oeuvers, or a few tablespoons on a ham or tomato sandwich gives it an extra punch. Great over penne pasta too…so, I couldn’t lose preparing this appie!
Now sauté a chopped onion and minced garlic in a tiny splash of olive oil. Cut the eggplant into small cubes and add to onion mixture. Lacking the intense tomato sauce of Sicily add 6 sun-dried tomatoes (minced) and a quarter cup of tomato paste and half cup of tomato sauce. Stir into eggplant mixture and chop up a several anchovy filets…add those. Eat some too…so good! Add parsley, sea salt and pepper, oregano, capers…….
This will keep one week in the fridge. I love those salty little anchovies…. Nice side.
New flavor, happiness and lightness…pass that parmesan!
Squeeze enough lemon to get ½ cup. Pick out the little lemon seeds. (If you have a paper cut that juice hurts like a sonofabitch!)
Cook fresh pasta if you can acquire it – it is worth the extra price. After you drain the pasta toss it with parsley, the lemon juice and fresh parmesan to taste. I also breaded chicken cutlets in cornmeal as a “side”.
Next I sautéed a bit of crab meat with white wine. Serve on top of your lemony pasta. A cold crisp white wine brought this meal together. Nothing better than this cool summer meal to relax you.
For Frances Mayes’ fanciers: