I spent, though not a thousand days in Venice, time enough to understand her appeal. Yes, I wrote 'her'. Venice, the Dame. La Serenissima. The most serene. There is something magical about an entire city that exists on the water.
I loved how Marlena allowed the "stranger" to sweep her away. I also loved how, being more mature, she had limited expectations of what a move to Europe would mean and was only slightly disillusioned by the whole thing. I loved all her experiences at the market place and I felt for her trying to live without all the conveniences with which she was accustomed.
In Italian, to get married is sposarsi. We don't use the metaphorical expression "to tie the knot" (literally, fare un nodo). The current selection of our Cook the Books, A Thousand Days in Venice in which author Marlena de Blasi talks about her marriage to a Venetian man, brought to mind the expression. My passion for turning pasta dough into interesting shapes did the rest: I tried to tie pasta dough into small simple knots and the result was pleasing.
Pleasing, indeed, Simona!
I loved the imagery of the story. The descriptions of the places and the foods makes me desperately want to visit Venice and experience it for all it is. Despite that, I had trouble connecting with Marlena. I’m not sure if it was because I spend most of the book thinking it was a novel (versus a memoir) or just because I’m at a very different stage of life than she is (she’s older and divorced with grown children, I’m younger, married, and my kids are young.)
An exuberant American chef with flamboyant taste in textiles falls inexplicably in love with a repressed Italian bank clerk with daddy issues, and through him falls explicably in love with Venice.
For me, de Blasi just couldn't quite convey why she was attracted to her stranger. She herself seems like a glorious broad who I'd love to go drinking with, but he remained a mystery. But then, this is a memoir, not a romance, and other people's relationships are often a bit baffling. I never understand how people who really like food end up with people who don't much care what they eat.
When it was not raining I prowled the Rialto Market, fascinated with its glorious riot of vegetables and freshly caught seafood. I wandered the dank callees and discovered the local wine bars, among them, Vino Vino, which is mentioned in the first pages of the book. It was near my hotel and became my favorite place to stop by for a warming glass of red wine and nibbles of the appertivos lined up behind the glass window. With only a dozen seats and flanking a canal, the place offered a cozy respite from the damp chill outside.
I liked the fact that De Blasi isn't some young thing and had lived a full life before finally finding love with her "stranger" but, I couldn't quite get the immediate appeal of a somewhat needy, slightly stalker-ish Peter Sellers. (A somewhat needy slightly stalker-ish George Clooney or Liam Neeson maybe...)
If Marlena was your friend, would you think her decision was a bit strange or “as a friend,” would you be supportive of her decision each and every step of the way?
Marlena seems a larger-than-life character and has a bit of bravado, after suffering a tortuous first marriage and a "grim childhood, scattered here and there with the hideous". As a fellow romantic, I rooted for her to make things work with Fernando and sighed with pleasure when they did. It was not a shudderingly violent sort of love affair, but one that was quiet and sure: "Now all the doors are open, and there is a warm yellow light behind them." Ah.
As Camilla is always the first to post, I am usually the last.
It wasn't hard for me to pick a recipe. I love pasta. I love mushrooms. I love wine. (It was just hard for me to find the time to make the recipe. It didn't help matters that I misplaced my copy of the book. For the last two weeks, I have been searching frantically. Of course, I had put it in a very safe place.)
I made Braised Mushrooms with Homemade Tagliatelle (based on de Blasi's "Wild Mushrooms in Late-Harvest Wine").
To sum up, I think some of us "more seasoned" readers identified more with de Blasi even though we were all a little confused about the attraction. I think we all loved her descriptions of Venice and the food references and recipes. I leave it to you whether or not you follow the rest of Marlena and Fernando's adventures in Italy as chronicled in her other books.
Again, thank you for participating in this round of CTB.Please join Cook the Books for the October/November selection: That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx and hosted by Simona of briciole. I started this book as soon as Simona announced her selection and I have to say, "I LOVE IT." I love Proulx' writing style and the description of the scenery of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. But, I have said enough.