“Four Seasons in Rome” by Anthony Doerr

February4

“You are never alone if you have a good book.” so said by my maternal Grandfather.  The love of reading was passed along to me through my Mom.  I would be embarrassed to bring kids home after school because the house would be a mess and my Mom would be there with her nose in a book.  But now I look back and think-I turned out pretty well in spite of being raised in an untidy house but where would I be without my books?  My habit is so excessive that I have to read library books as I could never support my habit financially or with the space to store them.  I often read two books of fiction a week and have another of non-fiction on the go as well. 

I am just about finished a non-fiction account of a writer raising twin newborns in Rome where he and his wife are on a study grant. “Four Seasons in Rome” by Anthony Doerr combines many of my loves in one tidy packet-the written word, apartments with balconies and green shutters,  BABIES and the most amazing food!

This is his account of shopping for fresh produce:  “The vegetable stand we buy from is isolated in a little convergence of alleys in between the hardware store and the bakery, called Largo Luigi Micelli.  The sisters who run it are stubby-fingered and wear gumboots.  “Buongiorno,” they say, every time we arrive.  “Dimmi.”  Tell me.

Most days a son helps them, eager and grave in his apron, periodically bringing a hand to his upper lip to confirm the existence of his downy mustache.  The three of them educate me in winter produce: one type of cauliflower white as cotton, another purple as dusk; sheaves of young leeks with mud still packed in their roots; basins of squash; tiny, spherical potatoes like miniature moons.  Frost, they say adds flavour to the leaves of kale; winter radicchio should be brushed with oil and grilled on warm coals.  There is fennel, in bright, reedy piles.  Crinkly, soft cabbages.  Mountains of radishes.  There are eggplants in rows and eggplants in heaps; indigo, violet blue, some so purple they are black.

The leeks are bundled like debarked, nascent trees; the red-leaf lettuces are aloof and silent; they burn like torch flames.  Especially in wet weather the market is luminous.: the air slightly smoky, the stalls seemingly huddled together against the chill, the emerald piles of spinach, the orange pyramids of carrots, a dozen tattered umbrellas gleaming with beads of rain. ”

Ah the markets of Italy….. 

Kath’s quote:  “There are two Italies…. The one is the most sublime and lovely contemplation that can be conceived by the imagination of man; the other is the most degraded, disgusting, and odious. What do you think? Young women of rank actually eat — you will never guess what — garlick! Our poor friend Lord Byron is quite corrupted by living among these people, and in fact, is going on in a way not worthy of him.”-Percy Bysshe Shelley in a letter from Naples (1818)

tutto cio serve e amore

PS I finished the book late last night and came upon this:

      “When we eat it is like a poem.  Blown campenalla (ruffled edge pasta) with local sheep’s milk cheese, topped with Parmesan and black truffle fondue; Spoleto-style trengozzi (to call these dumplings is akin to calling a Rolls-Royce a golf cart) with tomatoes, peperoncino, pecorino cheese, and parsley;  the loin of a Valerina piglet in a pecorino, pear and Montefalco red-wine sauce; and a hot, wet chocolate flan smothered with orange cream.  

      We close our eyes; we slide the forks out of our mouth’s.  “It’s ridiculous,” Shauna says.”


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