“The Hills of Tuscany-Turn Left at the Madonna” by Ferenc Mate

December28

I have a “gift” of being entirely swept away by books and movies.  This can be a difficult burden when I despair over the sad ending of a movie or the conclusion of a book, even if it had a happy ending, but simply because I will miss the characters as part of my life.  The great part though, is that when I read a story set in a foreign place, it is as if I am living there too (this really saves money in our travel account).  So too, when I read well-written descriptions about food, I can smell and savour and ridiculous as it may sound, feel “full”.

These are the hills of Sicily (not Tuscany) where we have traveled.

I have just finished this wonderful accounting of a couple’s desire to live a simpler life and their move to rural Italy to do so.  It is entitled “The Hills of Tuscany-A New Life in an Old Land”.  I have a crush on Ferenc Mate.  He is originally from Eastern Europe (like my Dad), lived for a while in Canada (the best country in the world!) and then the Caribbean, Paris and New York (all of my favourite places on earth).  He writes so beautifully about very simple pleasures which ring so true for me.  He also loves abundantly-his wife, his little piece of property and food!  Here is his description of dinner at a little Tuscan Trattoria.

 

The food was as simple as the place.  For appetizers there were assorted crostini-fire-toasted bread, some smeared with chicken livers, others with sauteed mushrooms.  Then of course came pasta.  We both had pici– a homemade, hand-rolled, unevenly thick spaghetti-Candace with a sauce of wild boar and I with a sauce of mixed wild mushrooms.  We were slow in eating, savoring every bite, and looked up as the little girl’s Mamma came and asked if the sauces were fine.  Candace complimented her on the food and apologized for eating so slowly.  A big smile broke on her face, “Piano, piano, con calma,” she said.  Slowly, slowly, with calm.  The came the meats: for Candace roasted pheasant with parchment-like brown skin, and for me wild boar stew marinated in red wine and juniper berries and tasting like heaven, and a plate of Tuscan white beans drenched in olive oil and crushed garlic, and a salad.  And we kept emptying wine glasses, toasting the little girl, her Mamma, Tuscany, the boar, the beans, the toasts.

We ate, with calma, and drank, with gusto, and the little girl and her doll had said good-night long ago, led upstairs by Nonna, Grandma, from behind the bar, and then Mamma went up, too, to say good–night, and we swooned from the heat of the fire and the wine, and thank God Nonna came back and brought us two espressos to bring us to, then she quickly thought it over and brought two glasses of grappa, to sink us once again.

As we left, they both came and said good-bye-handshakes and smiles as if we had been acquaintances for years.  Then we went out into a silver flood of moonlight.

We breathed the night air deeply, utterly content.  And it wasn’t just the food and the wine, but also the family.  There was something heartening in three generations together there-at home.  We felt as if we had dinner at someone’s house.  And the place was so honest, unpretentious, that you knew what counted was not the walls and floors, but the people they comforted.  And it felt reassuring that the vegetables came from their gardens, the wine from the small vineyard across the road, and that the boar and the pheasant were hunted by Grandpa.  We talked about this as we ambled in the moonlight.”

For a moment, didn’t you feel as if you were there with the heat from the kitchen, the smell of roasting meats and basking in the attention of this Grandma and her daughter?   Come back for a couple more installments in the days to come.

Kath’s quote: “Arm in arm in the autumn light, calmed by the warmth and the pitcher of red wine we had at lunch, we ambled in contented silence up the hill towards the piazza where the mosaic facade of the cathedral blazed like a million tiny stars.”-Ferenc Mate

Love-that is all.


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One Comment to

““The Hills of Tuscany-Turn Left at the Madonna” by Ferenc Mate”

  1. Avatar January 2nd, 2013 at 1:18 am Jacqueline Says:

    Next book I’m going to buy – in hardcover too. No e-book for this one because I think I may want to savour it over and over and over again.


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