Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Good winter reading on Italy – A Year in the Village of Eternity

I just finished reading A Year in the Village of Eternity: The Lifestyle of Longevity in Campodimele, Italy, by Tracey Lawson. The author decides to visit the village when she hears that a disproportionate number of residents in Campodimele live into their 90s and 100s – she wants to learn about their food and their lifestyle to gain insight into why they live longer.

I enjoyed it, and found it to be engagingly written with a light, cheerful tone. She narrates short vignettes of her experiences learning from the residents about daily life in the mountain village, month by month through the year. Each month is a separate section and has multiple pages of recipes, tied in to its in-season ingredients and festival dishes.

The individual stories within each section are very short, which makes for good bedtime reading. There are a couple of color-photo-sections too, which are fun to look through after you’ve read most of the book and been introduced to the personalities shown in the photos.

I haven’t tried cooking from the book yet, but plan to. The recipes range from simple-looking one-pagers, such as the Fresh Beans with Oil, Garlic, and Parsley, to four-pagers or more, such as the Lasagna with Minced Veal. One challenge may be getting some of the ingredients called for, but I plan to swap in where necessary. This book might just inspire me to make more of my own ricotta!

The author also gives recipes for traditional foods that are unlikely to be made by your average cook, but an adventuresome few will find it intriguing – such as her recipe for Air-Dried Spicy Sausage, where the chopped meat is to be piped in to fresh, rinsed, pig intestine.

I look forward to some winter cooking fun with this one, and since the recipes are so seasonal I expect I’ll be pulling it out in spring, summer, and fall as well.

Piedmontese as the “Scots of Italy”

I just got a new book out of the library about Piedmont. Lots of interesting tidbits about the food and the people. Here’s a quote I like: “Although the people of Piemonte live mainly on the plains, they think of themselves as mountain people, heir to the mountain ways. They have been called the Scots of Italy – hard-working, enterprising, direct of speech and manner, and careful about money.”

Puglian Wolverines?

I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of The University of Michigan, whose mascot is the wolverine. So, that particular mammal is mentioned quite a bit around town – the hundreds of UM sports teams are avidly followed here – American football being the most popular.

It’s a bit ironic, that although the state of Michigan does have moose (I’ve met Michigan moose – they are large, kind of like horses on stilts), bobcat, coyote, wolves, and apparently cougar (happily I’ve not met one of those), among many other animals, the wolverine has long been extinct in Michigan.

So what do wolverines have to do with Puglia? I wasn’t worrying about the absence of the Michigan wolverine, but I’ve been reading up on Puglia. The latest book I read, called “Venturing in Italy: Travels in Puglia, Land between Two Seas”, is a collection of essays by a group of writers who traveled to Puglia in 2008. Joanna Biggar, one of the contributors, writes about her visit to the large, wild, national park in Puglia, called the Gargano. It is one of the few areas of Puglia that still has dense, original forest – the Romans deforested much of Puglia thousands of years ago, and so created some of the large agricultural areas in Puglia that have remained ever since, but they did not touch the Gargano. Joanna lists some of the flora and fauna in the Gargano, including, wolverines!

Our trip to Puglia will be to areas south of the Gargano, but still, it’s fun to know that when I travel in Puglia I’ll be visiting a region that managed, unlike Michigan, to hang on to its wolverines.