A year has passed since I received the first e-mail with the subject proposal by Francesca from Food Editore. I was sitting in the car in a parking lot lit only by street lights, it was almost eight o’clock in the evening and I was waiting for a friend to have dinner out together. There were just a few days to go before the end of my work contract and the beginning of the new life. I took this e-mail as a positive sign and started to scream of happiness in the car, luckily there was none around who could hear me. I have never told this episode to Francesca since I tried to answer to the email with some composure, but that night my heart was bursting with joy.
Joy, happiness and amazement were my constant companions throughout this year. It was a joy to work with Francesca and Food Editore because they walked me by hand to the final book, giving me at the same time the freedom I needed to follow my path and my ideas.
The week I spent with Ellen Silverman driving around Tuscany to take pictures of landscapes and producers was filled with laughter, incredible discoveries and an unbearable summer heat that we diligently ignored to plunge ourselves into a whirlwind of cheeses, cured meats, wine, beers, truffles, incredibly fragrant extra virgin olive oil and bean soups. A daunting task, but someone had to do it… please think at me and Ellen when you’ll read about brustico, a fish lake cooked on reeds: the photos were taken under the August scorching Tuscan sun, the hottest month of the last two centuries. I just say that to make you appreciate our enormous sacrifice.
Cooking wild boar and polenta, enough fish soup for a country fair, black kale and beans on toasted bread (long live the freezer) and black pepper beef stew in summer may be unpleasant, but then at the end of the day there were friends, uncles and cousins and even a brand new granddaughter to taste the labors of the day, and this, let me I tell you, is what I consider happiness. I could do it every year. The book is actually the result of a collective work: without mum, grandma, Letizia, Gaia, Aunt Teresa, Claudia, Aunt Silvana, Gelsomino and the memories of people who are no longer with us it wouldn’t been the same. That’s the reason I am so proud of I Love Toscana, for the memories it keeps and saves. Here, I’m getting sentimental, I wanted to keep a cheerful tone, I knew it would happen…
Better to talk about the surprises of the book: first of all a non-exhaustive but representative selection of my favourite producers. There’s my favourite pecorino cheese, an extraordinary Tuscan olive oil, a cinta salami whose fat melts in your mouth, the grand chianina cows, the local truffles… if this book will not entice you to come and taste Tuscany I do not know what else I can do to convince you, I’ll just throw in the towel!
The last surprise was the meeting with the writer I consider my hero, the author of the first cookbook I ever bought, Tessa Kiros. Tessa wrote the foreword, and this for me that I love her voice, her words, her grace… well this would be enough to buy the book. We met for an afternoon tea and believe me if I tell you that I spent the whole morning with a great anxiety: just imagine, it would be like having Jamie Oliver as your guest for dinner. As soon as we started talking the anxiety dissolved and Tessa proved to be a sweet and strong person, as she appears in her books. So thanks to the book – and to Francesca – also this little dream came true.
I do not deny that looking back to this past year the work has been a lot, long, also exhausting at times – how much have I stressed you with the translation that was not going on, tell me the truth? – But the result has amply rewarded these months.
And now a few technical details. The book should be available in Italian bookstores from Monday, December 10, but it is already available in pre-order on Amazon.it – you can ship it worldwide! If you happen to browse through the book before me, let me know what you think… I am here waiting to see it in paper and binding, I’ve only seen the pdf for now.
Now I’m flying to Puglia for a weekend to enjoy an amazing olive oil cooking competition and press tour (you’ll hear about the experience soon, too), but on my return I will come directly here to see what has happened and if someone has already had the chance to browse the book… Have a good weekend!