THE TUSCAN YEAR: Life and Food in an Italian Valley by Elizabeth Romer

THE TUSCAN YEAR: Life and Food in an Italian Valley

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No, not a cookbook, though people who know what they're doing can certainly cook from it. It is what the title describes: an account of what one ordinary farm family raises, buys, and eats from season to season in a rural comer of eastern Tuscany. Romer, a British archeologist who finds in the ways of her Tuscan neighbors Silvana and Orlando Cerotti a living embodiment of the Roman family virtue of simplicitas (""the ability to see things clearly and as they really are""), lovingly describes the Cerottis picking the new luperi (wild hop shoots) in early spring and hunting for wild mushrooms in September, the wheat harvest of July and the lunch Silvana brings out to the threshers, the October grape-crushing, the cat chasing lizards in the February sun. It is an understanding portrayal of lives that are inescapably of the 20th century for all their adherence to country tradition. Pollarded oaks may support grapevines at the edges of small terraced wheat fields, but Silvana and Orlando make their living raising tobacco. Silvana's recipes, as scattered through this lovely calendar, are definitely not for people who need blueprints. Romer relays them informally and simply, with ingredients given solely in British and metric measurements. Cooks of imagination and experience will find them quite clear. Many of these dishes are of a simplicity that cruelly exposes the shortcomings of factory-farm ingredients: fresh thin green beans tossed with a little olive oil and lemon juice; hard-boiled eggs eaten with olive oil and minced garlic; bread salad (pansanella) with August vegetables. Many lavish, painstaking works on Italian food have appeared in the last few years, but none conveys the sense and spirit of a regional idiom as richly. A gem.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum