Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Visiting Italy, Via the Written Page

At a weekly tea break, my co-workers and I had a light bulb moment. We're all so obsessed with food, why not read a light-hearted food-themed book for the book group? Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes was floated around. Done!

We had to have food, right? I don't know if the book wasn't an excuse to eat all this! All supplied by our host: grapes, organic olives, and bread. All that was missing was a picnic blanket and outdoor setting. After a long workday, we settled for a conference room, where we overlooked skyscrapers, but dreamt of rolling hills and lush vineyards.

My biggest struggle (and that of many trying to pursue a vegan lifestyle): cheese. I wish I could say I have will-power, but in communal settings like this, I don't. I hope vegan cheese improves - fast. I can't relate when vegans say they don't miss anything (and think they are lying).

A Toscana wine, and my book (thank you library!) A co-worker surprised us with the charming mini ceramic planter keepsakes that say "Tuscany." In the book, Mayes talks about how they repair ceramic planters with wires. Not tossing something broken away but repairing it - what a refreshing thought!

She references twice disparaging remarks from tourists - one about her husband's car (saying they think he'd drive something nicer), another about Mayes' house (that the tourist's house is much bigger). Such a typical attitude - and one I cannot understand - that bigger is better, and that brands are everything.

While there are endless gems in the book, I want to share with you my favorite passage, which so many of us can relate to:

"Time--that's what it takes for the slow tomato sauce, stirred until reduced to an essential taste of summer sun, for tying lavender in bunches and hanging them from beams to dry, for learning the imperfect tense, for checking the reddening of pomegranates every day as they ripen, ripping open the leathery skin to reveal the juicy red hive within, sprinkling the fruit over a salad of field greens and toasted walnuts. Living well in time means taking back time from the slave-masters - obligations, appointments, the dreary round of details that attack like leeches in a stagnant pond. During intense periods of work, restoration projects, family crises, health scares, I want to wake up at first light, pull on hiking books, and set off for an hour while the birds are still practicing their doxologies.

Wasted hours-they are mine; I meant to use them before they slipped through the hourglass."


Cate said...

I haven't read any Frances Mayes, and I don't know why. I think I wrote her off as fluffy. But that passage is lovely! Off to the library. :-)

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

This is my first Mayes book. I enjoyed not only her own observations on life, but also of other writers. For instance, Mayes used Thoreau as inspiration for a nature notebook "because he looked intimately at the small plot of the world he lived on. Wisdom is packed into his sentence 'I have traveled much in Concord.'"

I loved that she calls on us rekindle the explorer in us:

"May I now reclaim my childhood right to explore for myself? To indulge in exploration for its own sake, which is the way I advance my cause. My cause, of course, is wisdom, which comes to some at birth and to some by contemplation."

Enjoy the library, and all the exploring there is to do within its walls.

ConsciouslyFrugal said...

I have read "Under the Tuscan Sun" five times. Anytime I want to feel delicious, I read it again. I didn't enjoy "Bella Tuscany" as much, but I'm definitely going to check this title out!

And if you love house renovations at all, I really recommend "Under the Tuscan Sun." The movie is a completely different tale, woven out of a few select lines. Oh! I want to read it again. :)

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

Five times, that's quite an endorsement! I've only seen the film on cable. I remember a comedian joking about those, "the movie is never as good as the book snobs" I'm usually one of them!

I just happened upon Bella Tuscany at my favorite thrift shop for $1. My long reading list is far too ambitious...but it's fun trying, isn't it?