Passing of Memory’s People

My readers will know how often I have mentioned the impact of my third college year in the Toscana region of Italy, principally in Siena and Firenze. Most pieces drew on my acquaintance with the Vivante family at Villa Solaia near Siena or my Florentine host family, the Chellinis. I rarely mentioned a regular guest at the Chellini’s Sunday dinners, Gustavo’s son Roberto. Then in his mid-twenties and as yet not married, he shared his passion for good food, wine, and cigars whenever he could dominate the table talk. We American ‘paying guests’ enjoyed his conversation and argued with him … Continue reading Passing of Memory’s People

Fragrant Things

Mise en place—this French phrase describes the first step a mindful chef or cook takes in preparing a meal. Many cookbooks instruct those who follow their recipes at home to do so. When preparing ingredients based on taste, experience, or the tyranny of a recipe, a cook will sort, wash, chop, dice, mince, julienne, measure, sift, or melt each item for the intended dish. She also will ensure that all pots, pans, cutting boards, knives, stirrers, sorters, and smashers are in place before preparation begins. My go-to mise en place for nearly every hot dish I cook (yes, even pancakes) … Continue reading Fragrant Things

Lavinia, by Ursula LeGuin

A fan of Le Guin’s writing since adolescence, I appreciated the author’s effort to amplify and enrich the Aeneid. Her novel in a way completes Virgil’s epic poem by continuing the narrative after the hero Aeneas, a Trojan survivor of the war between his state and the Greeks in perhaps the 12th century BCE, defeats and kills his opponent, the Latin, Turnus. Le Guin is not the first to do so. From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maffeo_… “%5BMaffeo Vegio’s (1407-1458)] greatest reputation came as the writer of brief epics, the most famous of which was his continuation of Virgil’s Aeneid…Completed in 1428, this 600-line … Continue reading Lavinia, by Ursula LeGuin

A Tavola: Breakfast in Firenze

Every morning around 7:00 in casa Chellini, Teresa the all-purpose donna, housemaid, and scullion would knock on our bedroom door, ask “Si puo?”which meant, “May I come in?” and after hearing one of us answer, would enter bearing a wooden tray always set with the same objects: several thin slices of stale bread or dry toast, two small slabs of butter, a tiny pot of jam, two coffee cups and saucers, and a small pot of bitter coffee next to a little sugar dish,two tiny spoons, and a small pitcher of milk. Continue reading A Tavola: Breakfast in Firenze

The Tea That Saved Me… Sort Of

As I raise a warm mug to my lips, steam wafts over its rim and carries the citrusy scent of chamomile tea to my nose, a scent never failing to remind me of a very bad day. Decades ago, I was a student on junior year abroad in Florence, Italy. Enrolled in a class on the history of the Italian language I was supposed to attend at least twice a week, I thought at the time I had better things to do than sit in a dark, dank classroom in an old University of Florence building in Piazza San Marco. … Continue reading The Tea That Saved Me… Sort Of