28 March 2010

Food For Thought - Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell

Sometimes a book comes along that takes you by surprise. I figured this book was going to be a tongue-in-cheek tale that gave you a bit of food history as it told a sweet love story... but Adam Schell has done much more here. What a witty guy!  He manages to bring the whimsical, comedic atmosphere of a Shakespearean farce to us through his tale of love, hate, prejudice, honor, the history of the introduction of the tomato to Italian food culture ... and olives.

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!


  1. Hey There,

    I read this book and loved it as well, and have been following it on google since. Very nice review! Have you been to the author's website? He's got a series of cooking videos in which he makes the foods of the book. Excellent!

  2. Susan @ Tracy29/3/10 8:53 AM

    Hi Tracy!

    Thanks for stopping by ... welcome! The Schell website for the book is so sweet... love the graphics, his humor, and the video elements. As for recipes, I am dreaming of the Tuscan toast with fig jam and honey... a truly special and easy breakfast feast!

  3. Caio Susan,

    Adam Schell here. (My web person has it so I get an email when TR pops up on the web.)

    Obviously, you are a woman of exquisite erudition, taste and sophistication--not too mention, you still appreciate a good donkey cazzone joke! And yes, your next Sunday brunch would be well served by Tuscan Toast with Fig jam and cream!

    Thank you for your sweet and wonderful blog/review. I appreciate it immensely and I'm happy you enjoyed the book. TR has a FB Community page, "Tomato Rhapsody Community Garden," that you can get to thru my website or facebook. I think you'll really like today's lead.

    Thank you again, keep in touch and please share your Tomato love.

    May the Sauce be with you!

  4. I will definitely have to get this book - I've been looking for something to take on my holiday - this sounds like the perfect read. Thanks for the suggestions!


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