On the Cusp of the Season

September 12th, 2012

48 degrees this morning, steam rising from the meadow, and I’m lured early by the rose garden, where yesterday we planted six new beauties. Six, because that’s all I could wedge into the car. Our local Witherspoon Rose Garden is having a sale so it’s a perfect moment to replace some of the puny ones that have hung on in this garden since the 1950’s.  This garden I speak of is not in Tuscany but in North Carolina. We changed our USA base in August and moved to Chatwood, an 1806 house with wonderful gardens that need a big shot of TLC, plus some redesigning. This was taken in spring, when my daughter lived here.  It faces the meadow. The Eno River runs by the back.


The photo above is the back of the house. That sunroom is where I plan to read and write all winter. At the end of A Year in the World, I wrote about a fantasy of moving to a yellow house–a traveler’s rest kind of place, where all the mementos of my journeys find a home and all the people I’ve met along the way can come and stay and cook. I imagined evenings of poetry readings and music. Sometimes fantasies swing around into reality–this farmhouse seems just the sort of place I dreamed of. In short, a home. Bachelard in The Poetics of Space says the good house is one that protects the dreamer.  Many dreamers have lived here, since the house was built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. I hope they all felt protected.

Moving proved to be more of a challenge than I remember. I think it’s like labor: you’re supposed to forget the pain so you’re willing to repeat the experience.  Now the tons of books are unpacked, if not yet in alphabetical order, and everything is stowed somewhere.  I think the snakes, possums, and mice have been exorcised from the basement. I think the gutters have been cured of their Niagara falls habits. I have a couple of weeks to play in the garden before we decamp for Italy. The olive harvest beckons! Unpacking and placing books inevitably led to reacquainting myself with my library and to getting lost in a book now and then. And when I couldn’t face another box, I took to my bed with a book. I’ve enjoyed rereading Nabokov, Henry Miller, and Michael Ondaatje.

What I also have taken time to do is revel in the summer vegetables and fruits. The raccoons and squirrels feasted on our garden, leaving us nothing except the jalapeñoes. Fortunately we have a farmer’s market to rely on. My favorite summer dish, hands down, is a multi-vegetable tian made with pesto and parmigiano. Sometimes one recipe comes to represent a moment in time and place, and this is it for the summer we moved. Woven into the preparation is the music I listened to over and over as I cooked: Bach’s concertos for unaccompanied cello, some of the most magnificent music every written. It seems to play on your own heart’s strings. I listened as I roasted eggplants and peppers, sautéed onions, zucchini and yellow squash, sliced wonderful tomatoes, then layered all these in a deep pie dish, adding a layer of fresh pesto and a layer of grated parmigiano. Some thyme, salt, pepper, crunchy breadcrumbs–there you have it. Just a twenty minute bake in a 350 degree oven. Love this, and the leftovers are just blissful on a focaccia sandwich.

 A bit blurry, I see.  From my deep heritage as a southerner, I made several times a version of the yellow squash casserole I loved as a child. I make my own béchamel rather than use the canned mushroom soup my mother’s recipe lists. Frankly, I’m not really sure that mine is any better for all the updates. Here it is; one for us, one for my daughter’s family.

Melted sunshine! Here are my favored crunch breadcrumbs again, some sautéed onions and some sharp cheddar and herbs. I lightly steam the squash, then combine everything with some béchamel  and bake.

This new/old house has electric ovens. I’ve always preferred them, though have put up with gas ovens for years. Ed was thrilled the first time he made a soufflé here. The top practically crashed the top of the oven! He’s made this Julie Child recipe for years–especially on Sunday nights–and knows it by heart. We do 1 1/2 times the recipe and there’s never a crusty morsel left in the dish.

There’s a reason that panna cotta is Tuscany’s ubiquitous dessert. You can make it in five minutes, flavor it with vanilla or orange or lemon, and dress it up with berries or melted chocolate, or citrus. And it’s a bit glamorous. The recipe is in The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.

 Isn’t that pretty? I had a thing for tole trays for awhile and accumulated a dozen or so from eBay. I’m over it now but they are charming!  We are thrilled to have our cookbook on hand in the kitchen. It saves us so much time searching through index cards and folders looking for our favorites.

Not in the cookbook, but included in Bringing Tuscany Home, is Nancy Silverton’s Brown Butter Plum Tart. It is fall-out-of-your-chair good, and right now plums are just luscious. I like cooking with them especially because, unlike most fruits, they don’t need to be peeled. This tart is rich and juicy. The unlikely aspect is the butter. Not only do you melt it, you actually brown it until its nutty and smoking. Grazie, Nancy!  I used a tart pan with a removable bottom. Here she is–ready for the oven.

We served this to friends and fortunately there remained a slender slice for my breakfast!

I would love to hear from you if you’ve cooked from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook! It’s fun to hear readers’ variations on the recipes.

I am happy to be back on my blog. A curse on the jerk who hacked! My next post will be from Italy.

Hope everyone has a smooth transition into a delicious, eventful, gorgeous fall.

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75 Responses to “On the Cusp of the Season”

  1. AdriBarr says:

    Welcome back! I so enjoy your blog, and shame on me for not commenting until now. As always, the food you have presented looks so enticing. And as to your spammer – pox upon him!

  2. mrswhite says:

    I am all about making some stone fruit tarts lately but haven’t tried plums yet. Perfect with champagne on these earlier-than-normal chilly evenings we’ve been having up here in Asheville. Safe travels, Ms Mayes. 🙂

  3. Jeff Minnich says:

    Welcome home, Frances and Ed! We had an abundance of yellow and green squash this summer, and cooked the old, Southern favorite I never tire of, with an Italian twist: your oil. In a huge Lodge cast iron skillet, some of your oil goes in to saute a generous amount of Vidalia (or sweet) onion; when they are translucent, in go the sliced squash. A little fresh oregano, and voila: heaven on a plate with a peppery twist from your oil. I could eat it every night!

    I’ll be anxious to see your garden work unfold at Chatwood via your blog. A new project is fun, always! I’m in the midst of redoing bathrooms here at Woodland Cottage and I know we’ll love the changes.

    So glad you’ll get a break in Italy soon–sending you off with all our best–
    Jeff and Steve

  4. BrittArnhild says:

    Lovely to have you back in blogworld Frances. Your “yellow house” looks great. Yes, I remember reading about it in your book. I hope people you met along the way also mean facebook and internet meetings 😉
    Autumn has also hit The House in the Woods. My husband is harvesting potatoes today. We just ate cod, potatoes and “lefse” for dinner.

    Cooking experiences from your book? I have a few, but mostly I use it to get ideas to blend into my own kitchen.

  5. Linda says:

    All of those dishes look amazing and have inspired me to branch out and try something different. Your new place looks fabulous. How do you decide which seasons to spend in Italy? We used to have a place in Provence and stayed there from May to November-it was just too hard to leave.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Linda, we go back and forth a lot but always are there for the olive picking season. Love all the seasons there, esp. Christmas time, and I haven’t been there then for several years. thanks, Frances

  6. Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    Your new garden is gorgeous and your sunroom sounds like a lovely reading and writing spot! Now I’m craving your vegetable tian – wish I had a large slice for lunch!

  7. Bonnie Gibson says:

    I am so glad you are back on your blog! We have all missed your narratives and pictures. Your new house is wonderful! Will you paint it yellow? I think it would be lovely! Welcome back again.

    Bonnie Gibson

  8. Anne - Music and Markets says:

    What a luscious post – glad I wasn’t too hungry as I read! Loving the last dishes of summer here too… and looking forward to fall’s market bounty both in Virginia and Aix.

  9. Judy N says:

    How lovely to read this and see pictures of your beautiful new gardens. It’s a reminder to live more fully. Just reading it, I feel I have!

  10. gereon de Leeuw says:

    Dear Ed and Frances,

    I wish you all the luck in your new home. The funny thing was that I always wanted to ask you if Chatwood was your dreamed of yelloow house from A year in the world? I hope you are both inspired enough in your new environment to write down your adventures, that I and a lot of others are dying to read.
    Very happy your blog is back. Saluti cordiali Gereon

  11. Linda (Tampa) says:

    Wonderful to have you back. Is that the home where Ashley was married?

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Linda, good eye! Yes she had the wedding here. Though the house is “new” to us, we moved into many memories of their five years here.Frances

  12. Scott says:

    Dear Frances: How odd to think that we will be leaving for our first taste of Tuscany in a little over two weeks–the fruit of almost two years of planning. We have rented the bottom floor of a villa in Cortona and will remain there for two weeks, tasting all that we have read about over the years in your books, and beginning a new life: I step down from a full-time University administrative position I’ve held for the past 25 years. When I return almost a month later, I will work half-time on special projects until I take the dive into full time retirement. Our Italian trip (which we will take with our good traveling friends/cohorts in fun)is what dreams are made of and we’re looking forward to all of it. Although I have always loved to travel, I must admit reading “Under the Tuscan Sun” helped put it all in perspective for me and so my real hunger began. (I’m embarrassed to admit that at 50-something, this is my first trip abroad! How fitting that it will take us to Cortona, which we will use as home base when we explore Florence, the surrounding area, and visit a friend in Bologna.) Thanks for planting the dream! With best regards: Scott

  13. Robbin Stephens- York says:

    Many Blessings for your new home! Looking forward to seeing more on Chatwood and the adventures of nesting in your old/new digs. I’m sure it will be inspirational. Moving is never easy, and since I may be facing the same relocating adventure soon, your blog just may keep my spirits up and keep me inspired to feather an old/new nest.
    Oh and by the way, your Zucchini with Lemon Pesto, and your Baked Peppers with Ricotta and Basil have been enjoyed ever so much, over and over…..and over. Love the cookbook!! Actually, I’m quite fond of all your books! Thank you! Robbin Stephens-York

  14. Elizabeth Johansson Aponovich says:

    48 degrees there and here in New Hampshire mornings and evenings have been very cool, which leads me to thinking that with the figs ripening it could be time to make the fig and walnut tart from the Tuscan Sun cookbook.
    Your new place sounds perfectly romantic. I can imagine the music playing and smell the food cooking….you certainly are one who knows how to follow your heart.
    Tanti auguri!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      The fig and walnut tart would be just right about now. A friend just wrote from DC, saying she made it and her husband told her it was the best thing she’d ever made. And she’s a wonderful cook! Let me know how you like it! Frances

  15. david terry says:

    Dear Frances,

    Well, dang….if I’d known that you and Ed were going to Witherspoon’s, I’d have asked you to pick up the six roses (eden/pierre de ronsard/s) waiting there for me these past three or so weeks. Of course, youwouldn’t have had room for them.

    Does vicarious shopping (particularly when it comes to roses and houses) work for you, Frances? I happen to loathe shopping (and, as you know, buying and moving into “new” old houses). I’m currently nursing the fantasy that, if I just give you the money, you’ll go out and giddly do the shopping. I already have two friends who do this for me, but I could always use more of such.

    My tiny, oddly scatter-brained (he’s a physicist and the regional head of the French Socialist Party) French father-in-law arrives on Monday for a 3-week stay, during which time he’s scheduled to tackle the neglected rose-garden here. Nothing’s been done to it, here in humid Hillsborough, for at least seven years. Consequently, and as you might guess, it looks like Nagasaki after the bomb….great barren swathes of desolation, with an occasional, spikey ghost rearing up out of the ground to remind you of what once was.

    Wish us luck….

    Level Best as Ever,

    David Terry

    • Frances Mayes says:

      David, you must have cornered the market on Pierre de Ronsard, one of my favorites. I didn’t see any. Know you’ll enjoy introducing H’b to your in-laws! Frances

  16. Kathleen Fischer says:

    On March 19, the day after your cookbook arrived, I made the roasted tomatoes. Even though I used Walmart cherry tomatoes and store-bought herbs, the tomatoes were wonderful. What a treat in late winter! I planned to make roasted tomatoes many times this summer, but July in Kansas saw temperatures over 100* every day and my tomato plants suffered. I did make a version several times: roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, tons of herbs for about 3 hours and then whirled them in the food processor for pasta sauce. Wonderful!
    I’m so glad you are back online. You add a lot of pleasure to my life!

  17. Jeanette Pompi says:

    Frances, the photos of the house above are beautiful. Where is this? I know it has to be in either NC or VA…..too Southern for anyplace else! I am in South Carolina…my husband is Italian so I know about the joys of Italian life. I read most of your books and copied many of the recipes down from one of them – don’t remember WHICH. I have yet to create them. We too, are moving…and you’re right – WHAT A PAIN. I didn’t know I had this much ‘stuff’. And did I throw anything out? Heck no!!

    Ciao – a presto!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Jeanette, best of luck with your move! We are in Hillsborough NC, a small town packed with artists, writers, historians, and other assorted eccentric people! Frances

  18. david terry says:

    P.S. I keep forgetting to mention this, Frances, but (and given your own delight in/penchant for buying houses)?….

    When I was in college and first learned of the writer, Peter Taylor, his friends and collegues used to tease him about his mania (this was quite beyond a penchant) for buying houses….not as “investments” (particularly given that they were nearly always in small college towns where he was teaching), but simply because Taylor LOVED houses. I find that really charming. The running joke was that he would have kept them all if he could have done so on his professor/writer’s income.

    He bought and sold (and generally lived in) something around 20 or thirty houses in his adult life, including two in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough’s “Seven Hearths” (where he wrote and more-or-less “set” his story “Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time”).

    By the way, I seem to be living your dream….I was raised in an old, yellow house, lived in another one for the past ten years, and have just moved into yet another yellow house. I can attest that, if nothing else, the color doesn’t eventually get on your nerves.

    —-david terry

  19. Kirsten Olesen says:

    I am SO HAPPY that you are back!

  20. Marsha says:

    So great to have you back! I have really missed hearing of your adventures. Your new gardens look wonderful, quite an inspiration for a painter.

    I have a question completely unrelated (hopefully you can help a complete low-tech person),… when in Italy with a laptop, is it necessary to use a converter when plugging in? I’ve been told by someone (who has never tried it)that the little box thingy in the middle of my power cord is sufficient to convert between the two currents. I thought I would ask someone who has, no doubt, already had to deal with this. Would not want to fry my laptop.

    Yes, the olive harvest is upon us. Looking for festivals in Tuscany. Any in particular that you would recommend?

    Spero di vedervi in piazza.
    Marsha & Chris

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Marsha, no converter needed. For festivals, check websites of the towns you’ll be near both for festivals and market days. Have fun! Frances

  21. Robin Broumley says:

    Dear Frances, I just returned from Tuscany, including Cortona! I am enjoying the third book of yours I have read – Every Day in Tuscany. Ahh –
    A fellow traveler and “foodie” just sent me a link to your blog. What a joy!

  22. Lisa at Amalfi Blue says:

    Ciao Frances,

    We are often tied to a home’s soul and you are blessed to have this garden and house to dream and create. As much as we all love, love, love Italy, joy at home is always where you can be secure and happy. Now, I’m hungry from seeing those pics.

  23. Marisa Bergamasco says:

    Dear Frances,

    what a joy you are finally back!! Your house, and the place, they are both fantastic, no need to say that! Complimenti!!!

    I wish you the best in this new environment, the best readings, writings, meals, friends, all… you definitely deserve all of them, definitely!

    My great love for Italy was borned after watching Under the Tuscan Sun, as I’ve told you many times. After 6 years of dreaming I went to Italy in 2009 for the first time. Now, next October, I will be in Italy for my 5th trip, can you believe that?????

    What I’d like to tell you is that in some way I owe you this magnificent joy I have discovered, it is difficult to explain it in English, but the thing I would love you to understand is that when I ask you to meet you is because I feel the strong desire to say THANK you in person, to tell you the entire world I found in Italy -including many precious friends- and maybe, sometimes, I finally could hug you and thank you for all this.

    Maybe this October?

    Tanti auguri!

    I am glad you are here again…

    Marisa Bergamasco

  24. Jill Devaus says:

    Hello Frances

    I am not sure if my comments on your blog are getting through. I didn’t keep copies of what I wrote however I know I asked whether you would be in Cortona on Thursday 18 October 2012. We are 5 Australian ladies who travel to Italy each year. We have been to Cortona a couple of times and are spending an afternoon and evening there on Thursday 18 October. I am bringing your wonderful cookbook with me and hope that we will be able to meet you in the piazza in the afternoon. We have 10 days in Italy then head off for 10 days in Greece. It is such a long trip from Australia but worth it. I have just remembered that I also mentioned I have a cousin (I have never met him unfortunately)who lives with his family in Asheville North Carolina – your neck of the woods I think.
    Enjoy your stay in Italy this year – such a beautiful country. I’m hooked!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Jill, my blog was hacked so possibly your comment was lost… I will be in Italy then, though I have no idea what I’ll be doing on 18 Oct. Please contact me closer to the date. Hope you have a marvelous time!! Frances

  25. Spring says:

    Ms Mayes- I am deeply thankful for the message your Tuscan experience has given me time and time again. I would love to meet you- when will you be doing a public engagement in the Southeast United States? I am hoping I see my Lady Bugs soon!!!

  26. Scott Kenney says:

    Dear Frances: How odd to address you by your first name, even though I have e-mailed you before! It feels so presumptuous of me!

    A week from today we will be enjoying the good life in Cortona. Your cookbook arrived last week (an early birthday present for my wife, whose birthday is tomorrow) and we were very pleasantly surprised to find that we will be staying in the villa owned by your friend, Ivan, who has already proven himself to be the kindest of hosts. (We e-mailed him to confirm that he was, indeed, ‘your’ Ivan, and he was very sincere in saying he never wants to exploit his friendship with you and Ed. Such a gentleman,truly. It also looks like he bakes a mean blackberry tart!)

    When I’d e-mailed you earlier, you had replied that you would see me at the Piazza. How ironic that we may actually see you at Ivan’s! The world gets smaller and smaller, or so it seems. I believe you are in Cortona now. So hard to believe that we will be there soon, too! With best regards: Scott

  27. Sharon says:

    Hi Frances, I have enjoyed our twitter conversation! A few years ago I was researching places to rent in Cortona and came across a home which was listed as ‘Bramasole’. It had pictures of the inside and grounds, which were beautiful. Do you indeed rent out your home when you are in the states? I will be going back to Italy and am interested in staying for awhile.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Sharon, Some people in Cortona also call their house Bramasole. Whatever happened to originality!! Would recommend Classic Tuscan Homes for rental ideas in this area. Buon viaggio. Frances

  28. Karen McCann says:

    So glad to have you back with us! The house looks delightfully homey, and the food descriptions are mouthwatering. I have been experimenting with Bulgarian cuisine, preparatory to an Eastern European train trip next year. It tastes delicious, but isn’t nearly as glamorous to look at as these lovely dishes! Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Karen McCann

  29. Penelope Novak says:

    Years ago while driving in Cortona’s outskirts, our guide Giovanni pointed out your house…I was aghast that he would stop and point and then yell and say Buon Giorno!! Well…here I go again…Buon Giorno Frances! And welcome back to the good ol USA. Your rose post was timely as I too have recently inherited some anemic roses…and just today thought to myself…time to purchase some perky plants. So thank you…I’m off to do just that…domani.

  30. Sabine says:

    Dear Frances,

    I am very happy that I found your blog. I love your books and during our summer holiday this year in Tuscany we visited also Cortona. Its wonderful there an I was wondering if you were also there at that time. It is always exciting to visit places you know from a book. We surely will return to Cortona in one of our next holidays in Italy.

    Thank you for you wonderful books an this wonderful blog.

    Tanti saluti e un bel tempo in Italia, ciao

    Sabine from Germany

  31. Anita Lewis says:

    HI Frances,
    I am sorry to have missed you in Cortona in the beginning of September when I had my art exhibition opening evening. (Please see my FB page Anita Lewis-Art for Modern Life). I was lucky to have met Gian Maria at the Galleria Nazionale, through Andreas at the Il Nobile leather shop. I was there in May (enjoying the green hills and valleys),and was asked to come back in September for my show, (then being able to enjoy the blond hills and valleys). NOw I am asked to return next year to give art lessons. I am still developing my ideas on that. I will post as soon as final. Would love to have you join us! I am thinking of May/June. Also, please don’t hesitate to have a look at my work at the Galleria Nazionale in the meantime. It will be on display for a year.
    Cheers and ciao!

  32. David says:

    Hi Frances, I have a unique request and hopefully you can help me out or can direct me to someone who can. I recently discovered that my girlfriend is a big fan of the book / movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Furthermore, she’s told me that she has always wanted to find the blue vase that Frances took from her home, as it represents a special meaning to her. Unfortunately she hasn’t been able to find it. Would you know how I could get one for her? I’d like to get it for her as a surprise. (and hopefully she doesn’t read this post or else I guess I just let the cat outta the bag!).

    Thank you,

    • Frances Mayes says:

      David–Can’t help you there. That was an invention of the movie. You could take her to Venice and have a special one blown for her by the glassmakers!! Frances

  33. June says:

    Carisima Frances, Mio marito, Scott, ti ha scritto per dire che andiamo in Italia e passeremo due settimane a Cortona. (29 sett-13 ott)Gli hai detto “See you in the piazza.” Ti scrivo perche’ Scott mi ha comprato il suo libro di ricette per il mio compleanno questa settimana. La sorpresa era vedere le foto di Ivan e sua nonna. La nostra prenotazione e’ per passare la vacanza alla Casale di Pietra con loro. Ivan ed io ci hanno scritto email in italiano per lo meno dodici volte. Non sono italiana, ma l’ho studiato da gennaio dell’anno scorso quando abbiamo deciso fare un viaggio in Italia. Forse ci vediamo alla casa di Domenica. Arriviamo sabato.

  34. Leonard Brabson says:

    We are near Cortona now in Santa Angelo till Friday. Preparing a wonderful Tuscan dinner now. The smell of garlic is heavy in the air. The Sangiovese wine bought at the Co-op in Camanuchi is flowing. An opera is playing on the Ipad. What a wonderful corner of the world. Life is good.

  35. Joy says:

    Dear Frances,
    I am looking to spend a few months in Italy. Re: major life shifts etc. I love to bake and cook and would love work/learn somewhere in Italy. Do you have any suggestions on who I could get in touch with about this? You are an inspiration. Thank you.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Joy– I really don’t, though many ask me for this kind of advice. All I can say is that those who come here seem to work something out. Of course, you can’t legally work here without permits… Good luck–Frances

  36. Teresa says:

    Dear Frances

    Its a rainy, foggy Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C. Fall always brings thoughts of soup so I turned to your cook book to look for a soup recipe. I just read (haven’t made it yet) the recipe for Minestrone. When I read the suggestion of putting a heel of parmigiano cheese in the soup I was reminded of my mother who did the same thing every time she made what we all called “grandma’s soup” And yes you are so right what a treat it was to find the warm softened chunk of cheese in the soup. Thank you for the memory and your writer’s eye that brings to life so many details of the Italian life.

  37. Leah says:

    Francis, it is so good to have you back in business on the blog. Congratulations on your gorgeous new home! Those windows are to die for! I just bought my first house in May and have also been giving it lots of TLC. I often think back to some of your stories of Bramasole and what a task it truly must have been, an enjoyable one filled with adventures and lots of backbreaking work. Enjoy the olive harvest. Can’t wait to see more pictures and updates.

    Best of luck to you in your new home!

  38. Marie says:

    Beautiful and lovely – delicious – and merci for the twitter link plug for PK – poet, gardener, muse, citizen of the world – we love you

  39. Kris says:

    Frances – WOW! From everything in bloom and the truly mouth-watering recipies … thanks for sharing!

    We have had several visits to Cortona – last year we spent a month there and are ready to return. We miss the food most of all – and how the Italians SO know how to practice the sweetness of doing nothing! (We live in Savannah, GA)

    Say hello our good friend Ali at Maledetti/Toscani — he was teaching us “words of the day” in Italian. Can’t wait to see how his little son Brando has grown.

    I will be getting your cookbook for my hubby – he’s the chef in the family.

    Ciao Kris (and Kevin)

  40. Margie says:

    Dear Frances, Your books are wonderful! I have read all of your books and I am currently reading, Every Day in Tuscany. As an artist, your art history references are very enjoyable. I have looked up each painting to see the beautiful works and I love your observations. A painting by Luca Signorelli in Sansepolcro of Saints Eligio and Anthony (Antonio) came up on Google and as you suggested I was studying the foreground details. In this work there are 4 little white robed figures which I have not been able to find any art history references on. Have you seen this painting and if so are you aware of any local legends about what these might be? Thank you very much and best wishes to you! Margie
    P.S. I think you would be a great artist. It is easy to start if you have the desire. I would be happy to help.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Margie–I will look into those figures! I like to try watercolors but am truly terrible at it! Thanks–Frances

  41. Gail says:

    Please blog from beautiful Cortona!

    • Hannah says:

      Gail, I’m with you there…waiting, and waiting and waiting for Frances’ new blog post from autumnal Cortona 🙂

      Frances, how are you doing?? We’d love to hear from you.

      With love from the UK,

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Hannah, hope to post tomorrow. Still having trouble loading photographs on this slow, slow internet. Each one takes about an hour!! Forza!! Thanks-Frances

  42. Tanya Shylova says:

    Dear Frances,

    Thrilled by your books, I decided to post some of your recipes on my live-journal in Russian language. Motivated by the enormous and enthousiastic response, I kindly offer you my services to help conquer this interesting market.

    However, first of all I’d like to thank you for the books I purchased via www. “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” gives a lot of inspiration and new approach to well known ingredients, sets the mood and motivates enormously to enjoy life and simple things around what we tend to take for granted. When I finished ” Every Day in Tuscany”, I felt more strong about myself, but relieved as well, since we also go through the line of problems related to expat’s life in another country and other culture.

    15 years ago I moved from Ukraine to Holland, and 10 years ago we bought an ancient farm in the southwest of France, and settled in the countryside. Also here, everything which seems simple in a big city, such as electricity and telephone communications, renovation or basic rural order as far as neighbourhood is concerned, seems very complicated. Some things even demand a lot of courage, since “putting a grenade” by your house, might be one of the ways some people may choose here as well.

    However, like you, we also found great friends among local people, and other foreigners who moved here as well. These people around, the beautiful nature and a great kitchen, the main reasons we managed to overcome all the challenges “la douce France” has prepared for us.

    Since I have a background as professional interpretor English – Russian (v.v.), combined with an extensive experience translating recipes and presenting results prepared by myself, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I strongly believe that I am well positioned to help you to succesfully publish your books in the Russian language.

    For this I am ready to meet you and/or your publisher at any convenient place.

    Looking forward to your positive response,
    with kind regards,

    Tanya SHYLOVA

    P.S.: As a reference, some of the recipes I posted in our journal that we write in Russian and English, and which found surprisingly big number of fans and followers from Russian and Ukrainian speaking people : the tag is under the name “Фрэнсиз Mэй – Frances Mayes”

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Ciao Tanya, thanks for the note. The way it works with translation is that you and a publisher would contact my publisher. Thanks for the offer!

  43. Scott says:

    Dear Frances: Although you are hard at work in Cortona, I wanted to e-mail you again to let you know that our trip to Tuscany was something straight out of your books: the reality was actually better than the anticipation of the trip and we were greeted by Ivan and the rest of the Italiani family as if we were indeed family. I’ve never encountered anything like it. Our days in Italy were pure joy and we loved being in Cortona, viewing the history of the area and the beautiful scenery. The gods were smiling, though, because all of the wonderful food and too much Italian wine seemed to be compensated (or, at least, held at bay) for any weight gain due to all the walking we did. The cobblestoned streets of Cortona are not for the faint of heart!

    We loved it all and feel very much connected with the area. After just 2 weeks there, I can understand all too well your love affair with the area over the years and wonder (for me) if I will ever truly get to know everything about the area, regardless of how many repeat visits I may make. There are so many wonderful layers to it.

    Bologna and Firenza were train rides away–and we drove to Deruta (twice!) and can sadly confirm that the wonderful Italian pottery can be shipped from Italy to the U.S. quite easily. (We have two shipments coming within the next month! We were happy to do our Christmas shopping early this year.)

    Not sure if your husband mentioned the middle-aged stalkers who greeted him in Cortona last Friday. He was more than gracious and I hope he didn’t find us intrusive. We enjoyed meeting him.

    My sincere thanks to you for planting the seed and confirming my theory that each day needs to be savored. I carry forward much of the beauty that we saw and experienced in Italy back to New Jersey–and the serendipity of winding up with the wonderful Italianis and in the area you had specifically written about makes me feel especially fortunate.

    I know you are busy writing and look forward to reading the results. With best regards: Scott

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Scott–You landed in a fortuante place. The Italiani family is great. I’ve had some of the best dinners of my life at their table! So glad you enjoyed it all! Frances

  44. Philippa says:

    Ciao Frances,

    come stai?? I follow you on twitter, along to Bergamo, the Lakes, risottos, Florence’s roofs, guests to Bramasole…I was hoping to find an ample memorandum here but have been disappointed, so far …please, dear Frances, share your stories with us here as well, don’t forget your lovely blog readers! 🙂 Twitter is sweet but it just feeeeeds our appetite!

    We’d love to be with you when you enjoy autumnal Tuscany!!

    All the best,

  45. Jill Devaus says:

    Hi again Frances
    Here we are in wonderful Toscana – staying at a villa in Monteroni d’Arbia. On Thursday 18 October we will be in Cortona in the afternoon and evening. We are driving up from Orvieto, stopping briefly at Castiglione del Lago then continuing up to Cortona. We are hoping to dine at La Bucaccia then return to our villa. I have brought your cookbook with me and am hoping that you might be able to meet us (I and my 4 friends from Australia), one of whom has already made meals from your cook book. We are having a fabulous holiday and meeting you would just top it off! Please let me know whether it might be possible to meet you.
    Kind regards

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Jill, what time will you be going to la Bucaccia? Possibly I could meet you just prior. Frances

  46. Linda Sigmon says:

    Frances, my husband and I so enjoyed your talk at the Duke Gardens. We are now enjoying your Tuscan Sun cookbook. Each year at Christmas we host a meal in our home for about 35 family members. We always choose a different theme. This year we were thinking about doing a Tuscan meal. Could you suggest a menu that would be traditional and that incorporates recipes from your cookbook? We aren’t Italian, but our guests always seem to enjoy “traveling” to different cultures. Thanks for any advice you may have! Linda

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Linda–With that many, I’d do a big antipasto platter, as described in the cookbook, followed by a baked pasta such as vegetable lasagne or the one with sausage and four cheeses, then Ed’s pork roast–very grand and festive but easy, too. The rolled stuffed rabbit could be served too, if you want to be lavish. With it, I suggest roasted winter vegetables, and a dessert of sorbet and ricotta wine cake. There, that might be my Christmas menu, too. Frances

  47. Suzanne @ Le Farm says:

    Bonjour, Frances!
    Your early life at Bramasole has been both an inspiration and a reality check for me! Last year, I purchased a small farm property in Hartsville, SC after moving from Stem, NC. (I have been to the lovely Hillsborough Farmer’s Market many times!) My “new” home was built in 1869 with original cedar timbers hewn from the property. It could not be more lovely…or was at one time!
    As much as I’d love to say that following in your footsteps would be a dream come true, I admit the snake in MY bedroom was about the last straw! That must be a rite of passage for single women and old farmhouses. God help us.
    I stumbled upon your Blog and the next chapters of your life at Chatwood. I am thrilled to discover the story continues!
    Suzanne @ Le Farm

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Suzanne, Oh yes, we’ve discovered a copperhead nestled in the dining room draperies, and several blacksnakes love to coil in the front porch cushions. Since we started sprinkling sulfur around the perimeter of the house, we’ve had only on visitation. I stepped out of the back door onto a thin green-black snake whose tail end whipped up and hit my leg. Did I scream loud enough for everyone in the area to come running. Try the sulfur; I think it helps. You are still there! Frances

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