September to Remember: Searching for Culinary Pleasures at the Italian Table
Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews and promotes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and is also author of the Toby's Tails series of children's books.
For me, there can be no better book to read than a gourmet travelogue. As a great fan of Carole Bumpus’ “Savoring the Olde Ways series” which have, until this book, been based in France, I was very happy to join Carole and her husband Win (Winston) as they, at his suggestion, started their new culinary tour of Italy in September 1998.
The intrepid American pair had not prepared themselves with Italian lessons, but with guidebooks in hand, had thrown off the shackles of work, and arrived at the Milano Malpensa Terminal full of excitement.
Undaunted by Carole’s lost luggage they carried on to their hotel, and after an ‘interesting’ clothes shopping trip which will make us ladies of, should I say ‘non-model size’ simultaneously giggle and cringe in sympathy with the author, they started their adventure by visiting the Duomo. This incredible building was “Like a giant birthday cake with delicate filigreed spires reaching up toward the heavens and dancing along the flying buttresses, it was a sight to behold.” I was hooked!
From there they headed to Tuscany and stayed in the hillside village of Poderi di Montemerano with their new friend Lisa, who they had met in San Francisco. “After all, who can resist the chance not just to visit Tuscany, but to ‘experience her?’” she had told them.
Arriving on a fiesta (or festival) day, they were treated as part of the family and experience real life in southern Tuscany, where in villages and towns the local produce of the area is celebrated every year, on the same day. They found themselves eating the day and night away, sampling traditional delicacies made, that very day by the villagers. Carole soon discovered that here the world seems to spin at a different speed, the people live in a world connected to nature and the seasons, the gods are everywhere, and your very life depends on these forces working in harmony. This ethos has worked for generations, and will do so for generations to come. They explored this beautiful region, including the Etruscan Tombs of Sovana, which have a beautifully carved temple, and burial chambers in the necropolis or “city of the dead.” Then enjoyed wonderful meals, including Aquacotta, a simple peasant dish the author enjoys cooking today, the name literally means “boiled water” and it is a thick vegetable stew with a lovely poached egg placed on top. The recipe, like many others, can be found at the back of this wonderful book, so you can try them too.
Carole and Win’s adventure continued, with them catching the train to Pisa, then on to Florence, marvelling at the beautiful scenery, with the crystalline Tyrrhenian Sea on one side and the incredible medieval castles, quaint hillside villages. Vineyards and sunflower fields on the other.
Florence was a busy city with amazing shops, and architecture. On their return to Poderi their time included visiting the thermal baths (terme) in Saturnia with its greenish-black moss, now there’s a place with a tale to tell…
Then it was time to visit the Amalfi Coast, staying in Amalfi where they visited the spectacular Piazza Duomo. The author’s description of this place, Pompeii and the Isle of Love, Capri, had me looking it up as a holiday destination. All I can say is WOW I want to go!
However all vacations must come to an end and after a jaunt across country to Apulia, they were off to their final destination, Rome. The Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, the Forum, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the author vividly describes them all. Through her penmanship you can almost see the gold radiating from the Basilica, from both Renaissance and Baroque art. And here, as in other places, she also sends us on a sensory tour with her descriptions of the marvellous meals they enjoyed, of course all handmade, regional, and accompanied by superb wine. A true celebration of Italy.
I believe that Carole Bumpus is such a successful author because of the love and passion she puts into her books, through her writing the landscapes, architecture, and gastronomy of Italy are brought wonderfully to life. Highly recommended!
Author’s Website: https://carolebumpus.com/
Available from Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08DXM6RKF/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1