You do not have to know Italy to love this book.
You do not have to know illness or sorrow to feel the pain.
You do not have to know how to cook to appreciate the feast which is laid out before you in every word, every sentence, every description of finding solace in the country of warmth, generosity and abundant food when your life is bereft of any comfort whatsoever.
Paula Butturini was brutally beaten while covering the news in Czechsolovakia. Shortly afterward, her husband was shot while covering the news in Romania. The bullet ripped a hole through his midsection which was large, and a hole in their lives which was larger still.
As readers, we come to realize that the physical suffering is just one aspect of war; far more significant are the emotional accompaniments of depression, despair and destruction of trust. As one who personally experienced trauma beyond my control, I know that one’s life is forever changed afterward. You can never go back to the way it was Before The Incident Occurred.
One of the ways that Paula copes with this trauma is by eating, by cooking, by telling us of the abondanza which is Italy and so very nurturing to one’s soul. Her life as a cook mirrors her life as a wife; I found each aspect reflecting the change occurring in the other.
But when I say that I stopped cooking by the book, I mean it figuratively as well. Everything about our old life seemed to be in storage, somewhere far, far away. Our old life–a life of incessant work, deadlines, stories, interviews and research; a busy, fulfilling life bubbling over with the children, family friends, concerts, plays, movies, travel, reading, exploring–was suddenly on hold. John’s downward slide did not happen in a vacuum. Everything we had or knew or loved seemed bent on sliding down that dark, steep slope after him. We were here in Italy trying to stop that slide. (p. 135)
You must read this book. Don’t read it thinking you’ll escape all the childhood memories you have of what home tasted like, or what hope tastes like, or even despair. Don’t read it hungry. Don’t read it unless, like me, you have a homemade chicken broth on your stove with a handful of pastini to throw in before the pinch of fresh parsley.
Monday, January 18th: Tripping Towards Lucidity
Tuesday, January 19th: Park City Girl
Wednesday, January 20th: Baking Delights
Thursday, January 21st: Brunette on a Budget
Tuesday, January 26th: Farmgirl Fare
Wednesday, January 27th: Booklust
Tuesday, February 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, February 4th: Caribousmom
Tuesday, February 9th: Books, Lists, Life
Wednesday, February 10th: Book Addiction
Important update: Lisa M. of Books On The Brain, is hosting a discussion with Paula Butturini on February 22 at 5:00 PST. You may want to tune in for a chance to chat with the author or just to listen in.