But on to the books that inspires me to eat or cook or just imagine I am doing either! The Five Little Peppers & How They Grew by Margaret Sidney firmed up the notion that even the humblest celebration is grander with food shared (and made) by everyone . Just think: lowly brown flour cakes become "cunning, elegant, light as a feather, splendid" creations in the eyes of the hard-up but plucky family! Imagine reading about an egg-less wonder of a cake that's “particularly plummy, with a raisin standing up on one end with a festive air” firing up my taste buds and can-do spirit!
Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife made me think of my mom and Helen as kitchen improvs. Mom has never transformed three day old pom-pom fish into a sweet, tender feast though! This book crystallized for me the notion that cooking and food marks any time and feeling. The smells and eye candy, these shared ritual for sustenance became a way to keep tradition and handed down recipes, embed milestones to memory, show sympathy, and strengthen any flagging of the soul. “Any excuse to live life as full as the stomach can hold” as the book says, I've taken to heart.
My PR jobs provided plenty of opportunities to eat what I read (not the book, silly!). Before Eat, Pray, Love there was Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes , set in Liguria's press your- own- Olive Oil and grow- your- own-backyard- tomatoes village life! As I read how two English sisters adapt to a contrary lifestyle, I developed a love for Italian food (the real thing) and respect for orto (veggie garden) enthusiasts. Reading about antipasti made me want to eat salads and hanker for side dishes! Domesticity never sounded so good! Later, I would welcome my mom's getting into the herb garden trend because then I'd have basil, thyme, spring onions, leeks, finger chilis, pandan, gotu kola and mint to snip away into pasta, salads or salsa. My nephews love their (commercial) cheesemelt sandwich with a basil leaf or two, a slice of tomato, salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce. When I’m feeling rich - magari - I splurge on mozzarella. We all put it away as if it was secondo piatto (main course).
I love chocolate, too! So Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and The Girl with No Shadow are it! The sequel is my favorite, for the happy ending; the nice sorting out of unfinished business; love-hanging-on-a-whiff (of chocolate) and a prayer (of sorts). Both books I love for all things chocolate - tempering, snapping, boiling, mantling fruits, wantonly displayed in gold or silver foil winking in a sun-filled café ...I want one right this minute! Chocolates and a cheery craftsy café of my own, with mismatched Goodwill furniture made over in Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic-est (decoupage, flowery, pastel hues and and milk paint) before Martha Stewart pandered bespoke chairs and candy colors. Incidentally, I like the look of My Sweetie Pie, brings out the girly-girl in anyone!
Ps. Magari loosely translates to "chance would be a fine thing”. Hah! Like me living in a mod/cons villa on a mod/cons farm in Italy with a hunky yuppie guy who loves to cook for me! Wishful thinking, much?