American expatriate Frances Mayes's third best seller about this Italian region, In Tuscany details village life of the "most hospitable people on earth." We can envision their "joyous occasion" dinners; scenery; minor medieval artists ("the `Birth of the Virgin' stops you like a siren"); and old churches (one is "miraculous"). A smart home cook can emulate those Tuscan dinners with tips on meats, fish, wild mushrooms, fennel, herbs, and olive oil. No specific recipes are given or needed here. Unfortunately, Mayes's precise reading, occasionally pausing in mid-phrase, can diminish the flow of some sentences. Her audio director should have coached her or at least questioned elisions that sound like "babtized," "inerferes," "Febuary," "sodering iron," "appoined," and, odd for her, "pace de r‚sistance." Mayes's husband, Edward, reads his short section in a pleasing voice. This set is informative for those who enjoyed her previous books and those who miss them. For general collections serving active and armchair travelers. Gordon Blackwell, Eastchester, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Riding on the success of her previous books, Mayes, who here collaborates with her husband, returns with a curious amalgam of cookbook, coffee-table book, travel guide and memoir. As in Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Mayes lovingly admires her adopted Tuscany, where she purchased a villa 10 years ago. Chapters are loosely organized around general concepts: for instance, "Baci (Kisses)" focuses on Italian effusiveness; "La Piazza" centers on the meeting place of Italian village life; and "La Festa (Celebration)" opens with a quote from a song by Jovanotti (an Italian pop band) and goes on to classify the many types of celebrations held in Italy, from Siena's Palio to weekly Sunday lunches. Mayes includes 25 recipes throughout the book, though concentrated in the chapters "La Cucina" and "Il Campo." While there are local recipes such as Onion Soup in the Arezzo Style and Chicken Liver on Little Crusts, some of her choices are puzzling. Mayes freely appropriates non-Tuscan items such as Capri's famed limoncello and Parmesan cheese and even provides a recipe for the mirepoix that is the base of many Italian dishes. A list of resources provides a calendar of festivals in the region as well as addresses and phone numbers for bars, restaurants and specialty stores. Kirst's (Spirit of the Place) endearing photos of Tuscan life fill the pages. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.