Harkening back to the pre-Fixer Upper year of 1996, we chose Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes as our next book club installment. This time, however, we more aptly named the event series “Book & Dinner Club,” given that an entrée and dessert constituted more than just conversation refreshments.
Before it was popular (and Instagramable) to buy a vacation home abroad, Francis Mayes and her then partner, Ed, bought Bramasole, an ancient property in the hills of Tuscan Italy. The book describes (in no chronological order) almost three years of home renovations, cultural assimilations and relationship developments as the two university professors from San Francisco stretched their time, budgets and patience on a restoration project half-way around the world.
Much like our first club book, Under the Tuscan Sun included recipes—a mixture of Southern favorites from the authors childhood and her take on authentic Italian cuisine and all of which were big hits for our guests!
Favorites included pici pasta with tomato cream sauce, pizza with balsamic onions and sausage, hazelnut gelato, lemon and basil chicken, ricotta stuffed peppers, wine-steeped pears with gorgonzola and walnuts, lemon cake, ribollita, clementine sorbet, and bruschetta.
Over the course of six weeks, we followed Francis’ journey from a new vacation home owner in Cortona to a seasoned hostess and gardener extraordinaire. For 288 pages (plus an additional 20 for the majority of us who had the 20th anniversary edition), she waxed poetic about everything from weeding terraces to Etruscan tombs, from rose varieties to her ambivalence on religion. There was consensus that this wasn’t anyone’s favorite read largely due to the lack of plot and endless descriptions of seemingly pointless details. But as always, the food and company were outstanding.
p.s. Given that our second season at the Farmers’ Market is rapidly approaching, we decided to take a break from book club for the summer to focus on maintaining a home bakery (and our sanity) for the next few months. Don’t worry though—we’ll be back!