28 March 2010
Food For Thought - Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell
Our young hero, Davido is a young Jewish man heading straight for an arranged marriage with a scrawny young Jewess in 16th century Florence. This will take him away from the family farm in the Tuscan countryside and his beloved grandfather, Nonno. Davido can think of nothing worse than living in a dirty, plague-infested city with a woman he doesn't know or love unless it's returning to a city where Jews are restricted and looked down on. His passion for farming is all he wishes for in life... growing tomatoes, the dreaded ' love apples', and tending Nonno's farm so that it continues to prosper.
Mari is a young Tuscan woman whose mother is crippled and step-father is villainous. She holds the family olive farm and winery business together. She would dearly love to have more control of her life, but her step-father refuses to set her dowery, for in seeing her happily married, he would lose his free labor. Caught in society's snare, she plods on day to day, caring for her failing mother and growing and harvesting olives and wine that are known for their quality.
Mix these two characters' chance meeting, the politics of the Renaissance Catholic Church and the skullduggery within the Italian aristocracy, the societal suspicion and prejudice aimed at Jews, hilarious episodes in the villagers' everyday lives and you have a wonderful Italian stew of a story... an easy, fast, and satisfying read .
You will probably want to try some of the food that becomes central to certain events in the novel ... eggplants, artichokes, garlic, tomatoes, olives, and wine. They all get some delectable treatments that just might inspire you to ceate your own kitchen rhapsody ... salut!