FROM THE MARKETS OF TUSCANY By Giulia Scarpaleggia
Guido Tommasi Editore, $35
Food markets in Italy are unfettered. Visiting them for locals is a reflex, like visiting the bathroom every morning. They’re part of the fabric that make up Tuscany’s countless, cypress tree-lined small towns.
Giulia Scarpaleggia, who was born and raised in the countryside somewhere between Siena and Florence, beautifully organizes Tuscany’s markets. First by the region’s sub-regions (Florence); market (Sant’ Ambrogio Market) – highlighting what to buy (avocadoes) and from who (Maria); recipes (Roast Pork Loin with Pears and Pecorino Cheese) with the ingredients purchased from said market and repeat for 300 pages. These simple recipes are specific to the region and the more you talk with the farmer you realize everyone in a Tuscan kitchen puts their own twist on dishes. Scarpaleggia also finally exposes the simplicity of what a market should be.
The farm-to-table movement started here, but it wasn’t invented as a way to improve anyone’s lives. Friday (or Saturday or Tuesday – time doesn’t really exist in this region) is market day. The farmers bring freshly picked and baked goods into the town square (why are they always square?) for their neighbors to take part in the fruit of their labor and actual fruit. The markets are a place of community, for people to come together and discuss life, catch up on the previous week, probably talk in their own dialect so us tourists cannot understand them making fun of how much we pack. There aren’t any discussions on whether the tomatoes are organic or if the olive oil is quintuple filtered or if the wild boar was humanely raised and slaughtered. The markets dictate what you eat and nobody complains. They’re grateful for what they can cook.
The farmers markets in the United States need to take a cue from Tuscany’s. The former has turned from an affordable way to eat healthy into an obnoxious way for its patrons to tout some putrid cause on a crappy tote bag. Grocery shopping shouldn’t be difficult or turned into a giant soapbox. Look to Tuscany, America, and you’ll realize life can be simple. All it takes is delicious food.
— Jason Stahl
DEAR LUPIN: Letters to a Wayward Son By Roger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer
Constable and Robinson
First published in May 2012, Dear Lupin follows the relationship between a father and son told through letters from the father to his totally out of control offspring, attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to guide and keep him on a productive path over 25 years. It is also a tribute to the art of letter writing from an age when letters were the best form of communication.
I first heard about this book through my mother, who told me one of Charlie’s friends was a gorgeous cousin of mine, who I had a crush on from an early age.
This book is the perfect pick up and put down as the letters are mostly short and cover Charlie’s life from his time at Eton, through his various and diverse occupations which included an officer in the Coldstream Guards, roughneck on an oil rig, pop group manager, vintage car restorer, a mechanic in Africa, an estate agent, an antiques dealer and a manufacturer of boxer shorts, all of which caused his parents exasperation and disappointment, although they always conveyed to him their unflinching love and support. To parents it is confirmation that you are not alone -– to children it should be required reading. As Roger Mortimer says “I am very fond of you, but you do drive me round the bend”.
— Camilla Paul
MIDNIGHT TRAIN By Jim Weatherly and Jeff Roberson
Yoknapatawpha Press, $27
This is a lovely memoir, an engaging tale of the dual, competitive and savage lives of sports and songwriting (and it’s a toss up of which is more brutal). Jim Weatherly played college football as a quarterback for Ole Miss on their National Championship team of 1962, when they won every game, the only time they achieved that. And he wrote “Midnight Train to Georgia”, a hit immortalized by Gladys Knight and the Pips (and butchered by a million and counting anonymous Karaoke singers). He wrote songs for Country artists like Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, but he also, in an act akin to bringing tea to China, wrote a song for Neil Diamond.
So, a great man! A great life! Co-written here by fellow Mississippian Jeff Roberson.
— Bob Guccione, Jr.
A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN By Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin’s Press, $28
Well, you know what they say about well-behaved women seldom making history. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont married into the Vanderbilt family during New York’s Gilded Age, and later divorced her uber rich husband after he relentlessly cheated on her. After eventually marrying for love. she became a suffragist who fought tirelessly for women’s rights and was one of the founders of the National Women’s Party. On April 12, 2016, President Barack Obama established the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington D.C., honoring Alva Belmont and Alice Paul.
Fowler spent three years researching Alva after she became frustrated with the adjectives frequently used to describe her. She was far too complex to be described throughout history as a pushy, overly ambitious social climber. Fowler’s newest work of historical fiction is crazy rich New York at its best, with a true heroine we can root for in the midst of patriarchy. Which she smashes, and she is my hero forever.
— Emily Gatlin