Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun, the book.

I have a special love for Diane Lane. Despite our age difference, the characters she chooses to play in movies have always spoke to me. I connect much more with a Diane Lane character than I ever could to a Kate Hudson character or a Brittany Murphy character. At age twenty-one, my divorce recently finalized, I would watch Diane Lane play any number of divorcees and I would feel a kinship. At age twenty-eight, my divorce well behind me, I still can't help but love the woman who helped get me through. So when I saw the book version of Under the Tuscan Sun, I pounced on it.

The funny thing though? (And this really isn't that surprising considering the usual muddling of plot and detail in move adaptations) The book is nothing at all like the movie. For starters, the author, Frances Mayes, does not move to Bramasole in the aftermath of her divorce. In fact, she actively seeks a summer home in Tuscany with her current life partner, a man named Ed. There is no pregnant lesbian bestie. Her daughter comes out for several visits though. (In the movie, she had no children.) Those are just some of the major differences.

Very quickly, I gave up my movie-notion of things and just let the text take me where it wanted to go. It took me to a great many places, describing in poetic detail the beauty that was there. I heard a love for the land enacted in this book. I saw a glimpse of history, culture, life, and most importantly, food.

Yes, my readers, the book version is an homage to Italian cooking. It is equal parts travelogue and food-writing, with a bit of home demolition thrown in. (Boy can I relate to home demolition.) There are whole chapters dedicated to sharing recipes. While I'm not sure my Cleveland ingredients could measure up to the Italian stuff listed, I might try my hand at one or two of them, just to see if the food really is as delicious as Frances Mayes makes it out to be.

I missed Diane Lane in the pages of Under the Tuscan Sun, but I was introduced to a world worth exploring. There were a few times when the author goes into her rich Southern upbringing, with several mentions of a cook and the privilege that comes with it, and while her writing celebrates the land and the people on a grand scale, some of her descriptions of the local peasant life seemed a bit condescending, though it was never not loving in its renditions. Still, these particular issues I noted while reading were few in number and I was willing to overlook them for the story and the exploration, the excitement and the language. I was not disappointed (pregnant lesbians aside). It's hardly the book's fault that Diane Lane wasn't there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Sweater Update

It's Done!

I finished sewing it up on November 15th. That's right. I finished an entire cable sweater in only a month. The pattern is called the Sterling Cable Sweater. It has the lattice cables on the front and the back, plus a series of thee cables running up each sleeve.

The great thing about this pattern: the stitch repeat directions were so lengthy and different that I never got bored. It probably took a little longer to do that a less complicated sweater would have because of all the cabling. But it was worth it for the results.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Unintentional Mushroom Hunting, or how today's soccer ball becomes tomorrow's dinner

Picture it: mid-september in Michigan, my parents side front yard. We are in town and chatting out front while the kids play. The kids throw sticks in puddles. The kids pick up their sticks from said puddles, break them into small sticks, and then throw them in the puddles again. The kids run around the yard. The kids see a bunch of large ball-shaped mushrooms in the front yard and begin to kick one around as though it were a soccer ball.

Of course, I yell at the kids to leave the mushrooms alone. They are poisonous, I say. Get away from them. They are the same mushrooms that have grown in that particular spot since my parents moved into the place back when I was a lowly seventh grader.

Fast forward to the next day. My parents invite a friend of theirs from the lake over and the "grown ups" then traipse about the yard while my son happily watches the television (we don't have tv channels in Cleveland, just static) and I take the clothes out to dry on the line. And what are they out there doing, you might ask? Picking those same large ball-shaped mushrooms, called Puffballs. Because, yes, they are edible, and the guy that just came over, he's taking them home with him, but first, he's going to show us how to cook them up.

Fried Puffball Mushroom
What you need:
A puffball mushroom

1. Slice the puffball into 1/4-inch slices and trim off the harder skin on the exterior.
2. Put slices in bowl of egg. Then coat both sides of each slice in the bread crumbs.

3. Fry in oil a few minutes per side, until both sides of each slice are browned and cripsy. Top them with a sprinkle of cheese, if you choose.

4. Eat.

It was bizarre just how much these pieces of fungus tasted like fried cheese sticks. So next september, you might want to head out and see if you can find yourself some puffballs. Just make sure you research it first to avoid poisoning yourself on an unknown variety of fungi.

Puffballs need to be picked when firm, and they don't stay that way long. Before picking a puffball, put some pressure on it with your foot. If it stays, it's good to eat. If it disintegrates, well, don't eat those ones. Make sure to cut away any discoloration (it should be white white white), and the hard outer shell before cooking.

Bon Appetite.

(Pictured here with a nice rice noodle stir fry)