I just got my prized copy of ‘The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.’ My dear friend, Dean, graciously gave me a copy, which Frances Mayes promptly signed. Here’s the cover:
What has a cookbook got to do with gardening? Everything. Cooking is the culmination of gardening, especially if you grow your own food. Or herbs. Or both. Cooking allows you to ingest what you’ve grown and share what you’ve grown with others. And then there’s entertaining. Entertaining! You get to share ALL you grow–your garden, your vegetables, your herbs, your flowers. Drinks on the patio? Your guests see your garden. Mint julep? Your guests taste your mint. Supper? They taste your home-grown veggies. Table centerpiece? They see your showy flowers. And that’s just the beginning of it.
I’m not Italian and I’ve never lived in Italy longer than a month at a time, yet I think I was Italian in a past life. Italy resonates with me. I love the countryside, people, food…I love it. I’ve been there many times, though not in awhile, I’m sorry to say (I need to resolve that issue, right?) Tuscany is where I’ve spent the most time: Florence, Chianti, and all through the Tuscan countryside. This cookbook brings it to us. It really does.
I’ve met Frances and Ed a few times. We’ve gotten to know each other through our blogs, mostly, and then, luckily, we’ve been able to meet face-to-face. Steve and I visited them at their home here in the States. They are charming, relaxed and hospitable. The conversation flows delightfully through many subjects. While I would by no means presume to call them good friends–we don’t have the history and time spent together behind us–they make us feel as if we are old friends. That’s their way. Even with their insanely busy schedules and travels, they stop and make us feel like they have all the time in the world. So Italian.
And I buy their Bramasole extra-virgin olive oil. Liberally. And I USE it liberally! They’re right: good olive oil and fresh ingredients make the food. And that gets us back to gardening: they grow their own olives, make the oil, which goes on the food they grow. And then they eat it. What a yummy cycle.
Over twenty years ago, supervising a landscape job that was going in that day, the owner (an old, dear friend) said to me, in passing, “Have you read ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ yet? I think you’d really like it.” I listened to her advice, and wow, am I glad I did. I’ve worn my friends out, talking about every, single one of Frances’ and Ed’s books. I’ve read them, again and again, during the busy seasons, because they take me to another place and lifestyle, one which profoundly relaxes me. They started my yearning and love for Italy. They’ve influenced my house (it’s a stuccoed bungalow; my dining room even has a fresco), my decorating, even my garden. They’ve made me look at things differently, or at least they remind me to stop, take a breath, and relax a bit more. I don’t think I’m exaggerating or being overly dramatic by saying they’ve touched my life in more ways than I can count. And I can’t thank Frances and Ed enough for keeping them coming for over 20 years!! Memoirs, novels, movies, cookbooks…constantly bringing on something new, something to look forward to (with great anticipation!)
Which gets me back to gardening (okay, okay–EVERYTHING in my world gets me back to gardening, I know…). Isn’t that really the essence of what gardening is all about, anyway? ANTICIPATION. And Ed and Frances are serious gardeners, both here in the U.S. and in Italy. They get it.
I sat down and read through this cookbook, cover to cover (though not each recipe ingredient and instruction, I’ll admit), and it sent me to the kitchen. The recipes are simple, with few ingredients, and mouth-watering. They bring the taste of Italy back to me. Yum. Can’t wait to cook my way through it.
Go buy their book and get cooking! (and then go out to your garden to work it off!!)