Archive for August 2014

First Trip to Italy

A few years before we made our first trip to Tuscany, a friend had loaned us “her favourite movie ever”, Under the Tuscan Sun. What I remember most, besides her incredibly gorgeous lover, Marcello, and maybe the food shots, were the views of the Tuscan countryside. It was so stunning I said to my husband, “before I die”, can we please make sure we go to Tuscany?

Then…

Good friends asked us to join them on a trip to Tuscany and Umbria a couple of years later. When an opportunity like this comes up, why not…

I will never forget the excitement and awe I felt flying into Nice and seeing the Mediterranean for the very first time. I had never been to Europe so everything I saw left a huge impression. We picked up our car in Nice and then proceeded to drive to a little town in northwest Tuscany. We were all exhausted after the flights.

Our friends totally surprised us when they put on a CD of Italian music just as we crossed the French/Italian border. What a surprise and a great introduction to what would become a love affair with Italy.

Everyone had decided that the homes we would rent had to have a basic, decent kitchen so that I could cook for the four of us in the evenings. After being out and about all day and coming across small outdoor markets displaying gorgeous produce that we could not resist buying, we returned “home” to share some vino and begin cooking dinner using all those things we “had to buy!”

I just love cooking in Italy! Fresh Porcini mushrooms, Florentine steak and beautifully ripe, seasonal vegetables and fruits. We bought a potted basil plant and took it with us to each place we had rented. Very handy!

Most places had outdoor barbecues (we have yet to see a gas barbecue in Italy). Eating outdoors, late into a beautiful, starry, night, what a joy. I saw fireflies for the first time!

 

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Gone But Not Forgotten!

As I write this I am looking at my pristine final issue of “Gourmet” the Magazine of Good Living from November 2009. And per usual, a crispy, brown roast turkey is on the front cover in time for American Thanksgiving tables.

If you think I have come late to the party, well you might be right! This post could have been written in November, 2009 when the last issue rolled off the presses but I wasn’t blogging then!

DSC_8390 nx2What I have noticed over the years is the lack of writing of the exceptional quality that appeared monthly upon the pages of Gourmet and to some extent, Bon Appetit. Each month I relished sitting down with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to savor the long, unhurried articles and essays that fueled the imagination in so many ways. Even if, in the “olden days,” Gourmet’s recipes were terrific the format was very awkward! I am sure there are a lot of us out here who kept every issue of both magazines! When I was disposing of all my magazines after a flood in our home in 2003, I came across an early one with a story about Bornholm, Denmark. I had completely forgotten about that article and it brought me up short, reminding me of where my father was born! I wish I had that article now and many of the others to leaf through, re-visiting some of my favourites. These days, when my copy of Bon Appetit arrives, it’s a quick look through “foodie porn” to check out the recipes. Not a lot of lingering going on!

Both magazines played a large part in my “food education” and Gourmet was my window to the world that I never thought I would get a chance to see. Gourmet’s articles Specialities de la Maison, both London Journal and Paris Journal, Gerald Asher’s Wine Journal, Along the Avenues, anything by Michael Kenyon, Jane and Michael Stern’s Two For The Road were some of my favourites. I still smile when I think of articles by Laurie Colwin like A Harried Cook’s Guide to Some Fast Food and Faith Heller Willinger’s recollections of her “muse” Torquato Innocenti, a local farmer whose produce she would buy near where she lived in Italy. Who knew, years later, that I would have the opportunity to go to Tuscany and be totally bowled over by how produce is respected and treated! That is what I call a lesson well learned! Among other favourites: Joseph Wechsberg’s “Demels,” Samuel Chamberlains’ “Clementine in the Kitchen” or James Villas’ essay “Lucius Beebe: The Last Magnifico.” And, I don’t know where I would be if I had not discovered Elizabeth David in a story or MFK Fisher by reading “Three Swiss Inns,” or Pat Conroy’s “The Romance of Umbria” or for that matter Jim, aka James Beard’s fantastic ham, baked in a cloud of Madiera steam!  I still cook that ham!

I still get my monthly issues of Bon Appetit, even though I miss Barbara Fairchild at the helm, to keep in touch with trends in the U.S. And thanks to the magazine we would not have discovered the pleasures to be had at Da Delfina and La Bottega di Volpaia in Tuscany, nor places to go to in London and Rome. We ended up in Pigneto, Rome for lunch one day because of a write up! We enjoyed a number of excellent restaurants last spring following their recommendations, when in Rome last spring! So, at least all is not lost…but the writing, I for one, think it was a sad day when those decisions were made!

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