Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I say it's time for the publishing industry to create a new book category -- one for Foodie Memoirs. The books are definitely out there, and are some of the most influential books there are, yet I have never seen that section in any library or bookstore. Don't believe me when I speak of their power and influence? Well, think about this. When did you start thinking that Tuscany might be a nice place to visit? When did you start seeing houses and condos popping up everywhere, built to look like Italian villas? When did you start eating Tuscan food in restaurants, and filling your shelves with Tuscan cookbooks? When did you start buying so much olive oil, and spending big bucks to get one with superior flavor? When did mass-produced paintings of Tuscan hillsides become ubiquitous?

I'm guessing it was shortly after this book came out.

And, what did we eat and decorate with and book our vacations abroad around before that time? Why, all things "Country French", n'est pas? And why do you suppose that was? Well, it was because a guy named Peter Mayle wrote a book called A Year in Provence.

I'm tellin' ya, these books are revolutionary! Don't believe me? Well think on this. Think about this whole farm-to-table movement that has swept our country and changed the way we eat, shop, and think. Where do you think that got started? Why, in a little cafe called Chez Panisse in Berkley, California, which was opened by a young woman named Alice Waters.

Why do you suppose she was inspired to open this restaurant and concentrate on using only the freshest, most local ingredients she could find or forage? Well, for some reason, she had decided to take time out from her studies and career plans, to go off and spend "a year in Provence." It changed her life. And ours, too.

Revolutionary, I tell ya.

Eventually the furor over Tuscany began to fade, but my interest in Italian travel never did, thanks to the discovery of a whole slew of foodie memoirs by Marlena de Blasi. No other books have ever made me salivate the way these did.

Her book The Lady in the Palazzo got me curious about the town of Orvieto, in Umbria, which led me to this couple, who launched their travel business by inviting people to "Discover Orvieto", and travel in the footsteps of Marlena de Blasi. Know what's really cool? After a while they started bringing in different artists to conduct workshops in conjunction with these tours, including personal favorites like Jacqueline Neubold, Joanne Sharpe, and Tracy Verdugo. Definitely on my bucket list!

Come to think of it, perhaps they need, not one, but two new genre categories -- one for foodie memoirs, and another for foodie fiction. As it turns out, most of my favorite memoir writers eventually turned to writing fiction, and once a foodie, always a foodie.

After all, was not this delightful little mystery responsible for the most memorable meal in an absolutely epic visit to Marseilles?

A little cafe hidden behind a butcher''s shop.
Beef Cheeks with Foie Gras
If only they made it easier to find these sorts of books. We probably would have journeyed to Montreal and Quebec City long ago, if only we could have found just the right books to read. The Louise Penny mystery series is great but, alas, that poor woman must not give a fig about food!

Fortunately, I hit the jackpot when I googled "books set in Charleston" for our upcoming Mother-Daughter adventure. By the time I finished The House on Tradd Street, by Karen White (about a realtor who sees dead people) I not only had an entire page full of places to eat and things to see and do, I knew exactly what to order at each of them!

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