Thanks to all who participated in the August/September round
of Cook the Books. This was my first
hosting gig and I appreciate you all reading A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi with me. I was awed by the cuisine that was created.
First out of the gate is Fiori di Zucca al Forno
Culinary Adventures with Camilla
. (Camilla is always the first to post up.)
She references her year spent working in Rome during her post and I was envious. While in the country she was able to visit
Venice, too. She writes:
I spent, though not a thousand days in Venice, time enough
to understand her appeal. Yes, I wrote 'her'. Venice, the Dame. La Serenissima.
The most serene. There is something magical about an entire city that exists on
Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
loved the book and
pointed out (along with others) that she enjoyed that the story revolved around a more mature couple:
I loved how Marlena allowed the "stranger" to
sweep her away. I also loved how, being
more mature, she had limited expectations of what a move to Europe would mean
and was only slightly disillusioned by the whole thing. I loved all her experiences at the market
place and I felt for her trying to live without all the conveniences with which
she was accustomed.
Simona from briciole
(one of the other co-hosts of CTB) has also visited
Venice and you must go to the post to see her wonderful photographs of the gondolas. Simona was inspired to make pasta, but not just any
pasta. She made nodi (knotted pasta)
In Italian, to get married is sposarsi. We don't use the metaphorical expression "to tie the
knot" (literally, fare un nodo).
The current selection of our Cook the Books, A Thousand Days in Venice in which author Marlena de Blasi talks
about her marriage to a Venetian man, brought to mind the expression. My
passion for turning pasta dough into interesting shapes did the rest: I tried
to tie pasta dough into small simple knots and the result was pleasing.
Pleasing, indeed, Simona!
I loved the imagery of the story. The descriptions of the places and the foods
makes me desperately want to visit Venice and experience it for all it is. Despite that, I had trouble connecting with
Marlena. I’m not sure if it was because
I spend most of the book thinking it was a novel (versus a memoir) or just because
I’m at a very different stage of life than she is (she’s older and divorced
with grown children, I’m younger, married, and my kids are young.)
Nonetheless, she whipped up a keeper of a dish, Pappa al Pomodoro
, putting a twist on di Blasi’s recipe and serving it up in bread bowls. Since we are nearing soup season, I am
definitely keeping this in mind.
Alicia at Foodycat
made me smile. She first sums up the book:
An exuberant American chef with flamboyant taste in
textiles falls inexplicably in love with a repressed Italian bank clerk with
daddy issues, and through him falls explicably in love with Venice.
For me, de Blasi just couldn't quite convey why she was
attracted to her stranger. She herself seems like a glorious broad who I'd love
to go drinking with, but he remained a mystery. But then, this is a memoir, not
a romance, and other people's relationships are often a bit baffling. I never
understand how people who really like food end up with people who don't much
care what they eat.
Although I love the book, her statements are truly apt and I would like to share a glass of wine with de Blasi as well.
Alicia decided on Seafood Risotto
, a perfect dish to
celebrate a book about Venice.
When it was not raining I prowled the Rialto Market,
fascinated with its glorious riot of vegetables and freshly caught
seafood. I wandered the dank callees and
discovered the local wine bars, among them, Vino Vino, which is mentioned in
the first pages of the book. It was
near my hotel and became my favorite place to stop by for a warming glass of
red wine and nibbles of the appertivos lined up behind the glass window. With only a dozen seats and flanking a canal,
the place offered a cozy respite from the damp chill outside.
I truly laughed out loud when I read Deb's description of
I liked the fact that De Blasi isn't some young thing and
had lived a full life before finally finding love with her "stranger"
but, I couldn't quite get the immediate appeal of a somewhat needy, slightly
stalker-ish Peter Sellers. (A somewhat needy slightly stalker-ish George
Clooney or Liam Neeson maybe...)
I think her description of "The Stranger" is dead
on. I also think she nailed her dish.
Joanne at What's on the List? Also made Fresh Pasta with Walnut Sauce. Joanne loved the book and has even read it multiple times. She says,"I
am a sook (Aussie lingo for a softie in a good way) when it comes to romance.” She does question Marlena’s decision to fall in love and move to another
country as being a bit extreme.
Marlena was your friend, would you think her decision was a bit strange or “as
a friend,” would you be supportive of her decision each and every step of the
also is dying for this book to be made into a film and asks her readers who should
be cast in the title roles. My vote is
Helena Bonham Carter for Marlena. Woody
Allen for “The Stranger”???
Claudia from Honey from Rock
was also inspired by this same recipe. I definitely think three votes for Walnut Sauce means I must try this dish out soon.
She also enjoyed the book, writing:
I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true. And, so descriptive, so well written. The woman is a poet.
I, however, think Claudia might just be the poet.
Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside. Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways. Which is actually a good thing. A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished. Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.
Here is her rendition of de Blasi's Walnut Sauce
Marlena seems a
larger-than-life character and has a bit of bravado, after suffering a tortuous
first marriage and a "grim childhood, scattered here and there with the
hideous". As a fellow romantic, I rooted for her to make things work with
Fernando and sighed with pleasure when they did. It was not a shudderingly
violent sort of love affair, but one that was quiet and sure: "Now all the
doors are open, and there is a warm yellow light behind them." Ah.
Rachel drew inspiration from both Southern Italy and her fall garden
where she found “white eggplants, parsley, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil”
for her caponata (or what she calls Sicilian version of Ratatouille).
As Camilla is always the first to post, I am usually the last.
It wasn't hard for me to pick a recipe. I love pasta. I love mushrooms. I love wine. (It was just hard for me to find the time to make the recipe. It didn't help matters that I misplaced my copy of the book. For the last two weeks, I have been searching frantically. Of course, I had put it in a very safe place.)
My pasta did not turn out as beautiful as Simona's nodi, but this sauce is unbelievable.
To sum up, I think some of us "more seasoned" readers identified more with de Blasi even though we were all a little confused about the attraction. I think we all loved her descriptions of Venice and the food references and recipes. I leave it to you whether or not you follow the rest of Marlena and Fernando's adventures in Italy as chronicled in her other books.
Again, thank you for participating in this round of CTB.
Please join Cook the Books
for the October/November
selection: That Old Ace in the Hole
Annie Proulx and hosted by Simona of briciole
. I started this book as soon as Simona announced
her selection and I have to say, "I LOVE IT." I love Proulx' writing style and the
description of the scenery of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. But, I have said enough.
until we meet
again to discuss it all.