Tuscan sun cookbook

Il ricettario de “Il sole della Toscana”

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook 

Some people win you over with "hello"; some books, with an irresistible cover or title.  Frances Mayes had me with one spell-binding sentence about the choreography of the kitchen (la coreografia della cucina). The moment I read it, I wondered how it would sound in Italian. With the help of my invaluable colleague Valentina Medda, here is the translation: 

*I peel (io che sbuccio)

*you scrape (tu che gratti)

*wine spills (vino che si rovescia)

*bag splits (borsa che si rompe)

*beans simmer (fagioli che cuociono a fuoco lento)

*sink slurps (lavello che inghiotte l’acqua avidamente)

*petals fall (petali che cadono)

*flour drifts (farina che scivola)

*crust splits (crosta che si spacca)

*aromas spread (aromi che si diffondono)

*lights flicker (luci che sfarfallano)

*chocolate melts (cioccolato che si scioglie)

*glass shatters (vetro che va in frantumi)

*sauce thickens (salsa che si addensa)

*finger bleeds (dito che sanguina)

*cheese ripens (formaggio che matura)

*crumbs fall (briciole che cadono)

*sweat drips (sudore che cola)

*spoon bangs (cucchiaio che sbatte)

*meat glistens (carne che brilla)

*oil spatters (olio che schizza)

*wine breathes (vino che respira)

*garlic smashes (aglio che si schiaccia)

*lettuces float (lattughe che galleggiano)

*silver shines (argento che brilla)

*apron snags (grembiule che si impiglia)

*you sneeze (tu che starnutisci)

*I sing 'oh, my love, my darling' (io che canto ‘oh, amore mio, tesoro mio’)

*and dough rises (e pasta che lievita ) in soft moons the size of my cupped hand (in morbide lune, delle dimensioni della mia mano a coppa),

*as planet earth tilts us toward dinner (mentre il pianeta Terra ci inclina verso la cena).

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from our Italian Kitchen, by Frances and Edward Mayes, celebrates the soul- and appetite-satisfying essence of la cucina povera (the poor kitchen) of rural Tuscany. If you could  capture the sweet and savory joys of Italian food and friendship in a book, this sumptuous volume would be it. It delights the eye, tickles the taste buds and warms the soul. 

More of a buona forchetta (hearty eater) than a cook, I found the words as mouth-watering as the dishes, including such savory ones as:

*scottadito: finger-burners, small grilled lamb chops you eat with your fingers

*stagionata/o: seasoned, used for cheeses aged about a year until hard and flaky; semi-stagionata/o, aged for three or four months

*sformato: unformed, sort of a quiche without a crust (or form)

*pomarola: tomato sauce. Cans of Italian tomatoes are pelati.

*pasta asciutta / pastasciutta: dry pasta that comes in dozens of tongue-pleasing forms, such as mezze maniche (short sleeves), radiatori (radiators), strozzapreti (priest stranglers), stellette (little stars), orecchiette (little ears), penne (pens), vermicelli (little worms), linguine (little tongues), farfalle (butterflies) and cavatappi (corkscrews).

Another essential lesson: The abbreviations “q.b.” or “q.s.” in Italian recipes stand for quanto basta and quantum sufficit (whatever’s enough) — something Tuscans always seem to know.

Click here for a sample recipe and below for a virtual visit to the Mayes’ kitchen:

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.