Sharing a couple of articles

October 24th, 2016

Buon giorno! I am flying to Rome today!  Olive harvest, travels in Puglia and the Marche, cooking with all the delicious fall treats–mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles. Fall is glorious everywhere, of course, but there’s something about the slant of late afternoon light and the linden trees turning golden and the owls at night that seem more present than in the rest of the year.

Before I zip my suitcase, I’m sending links to a couple of articles that I hope you enjoy. “Frankye’s Cookbooks” is a one-sentence ode that came out in The Oxford American awhile back.

The other, a few thoughts on the writing life, appeared last week in The Guardian, which is my favorite paper for literary articles and reviews.

More later!!!

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47 Responses to “Sharing a couple of articles”

  1. Rick says:

    Reading about your mother’s recipe’s on little scraps of paper, old checks, etc. reminds me so much of what my wife Anne, used to do too. For the first half of our marriage, she collected and catologed her lifetimes worth of recipe’s in a drawer in the kitchen. There were two drawers that each served a different purpose, one we called ( and still do today) “the junk drawer.” A drawer whose sole purpose is house a few tools, a roll of tape, some miscellaneous electrical and plumbing fitting as well as the overflow from my wifes’s recipe drawer which over time, overflowed with clippings and scraps. There came a time when we chose to renovate the kitchen and all of these items needed to be packed up. It was also a custom in our home that I had the official job of trash master, the guy who takes out the trash. Often, my fastidious wife would leave small plastic bags neatly tied and sitting in the kitchen sink for me to take out to the cans in the yard. As we neared the time to begin packing up the kitchen in anticipation of the renovation work, more of these little “gift” bags appeared and I dutifully brought them to the can. One day I spied a large plastic bag stuffed full and neatly tied and I fulfilled my husbandly duty and took it out to the curb as the collection was the next day. A few days later, my wife appeared before me as I sat watching TV and asked if I saw a large bag in the sink. I felt the blood drain from my head and realized this was not going to go well. She knew the answer already. a lifetime of recipes, gone in an instant. I can only liken her expression to that of actress Faye Dunaway as she played Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest” when she discovered the $300. dress on a wire hanger. I was dead…. and I knew it.

    There were words that came out of my wife that I didn’t even know she knew, followed by tears, that cut like a hundred little razors. I think I would have been foregiven with less drama if I had been caught red handed in an affair. She was inconsolable: the memories of so many great dishes and the hearts that loved them so well, discarded like yesterdays trash. To this day, I’ve waited for an absolution, that I know will never come.

    Over time she was able to replace many of the family favorites by going back to the original source of the same. There were several, including a few of my favorites that have never been replicated. Today, she catologs everything in a tremendous accordian style folder, damn thing weighs a ton, but at least it’s not likely to happen again. Still, I get great pleasure out of watching her sort through the folder and discuss different dining options. Each recipe has it’s own set of memories attached to it, where you first had it, who loves this more than that or the loving hands that taught you how to make such heaven on a plate. I hope to one day scan them all so that she has a back up… that is assuming I will ever get her permission to touch the folder.

    My daughter recently married in Rome (it really was wonderful!!) and one of the many gifts my wife had for our daughter was a handwritten book of all my daughter’s favorite recipe’s. The cycle lives on to another generation. More golden memories to come.

    Enjoy your stay at Bramasole and the treasures that only fall in Tuscany can provide. Be well Frances and Ed.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Rick, thanks for sharing that story. I bet she knew many of them by heart. Saw photos on Facebook of the wedding and everyone looked so thrilled! Happy fall, Frances

  2. Cindy Mucci says:

    Hi Frances! How blessed you are to be in Italy during the fall – O, the colors!, the light!, and warmth of the sun on a cool day! – I can only imagine!! (I am blessed with a good imagination and the mind of a dreamer, thank God!). Please treat us to some “dreamy” stories and “colorful” pictures of your fall holiday – wishing you exciting travels!” (An idea: maybe someday you can make a book of a compilation of your famous “quotes” and stunning pictures (to have them all in one book, instead of the yearly calendars). It would be “exhilarating” to have that on my coffee table to inspire and take you away to Italy and all the beauty it presents to us, awakening our mind and senses! I would adore it!!!).

  3. John says:

    Hello Francis,

    Enjoyed reading your articles, especially the one about your mother. I have passed them on to my daughter who is an aspiring writer working on her first novel. Looking forward to reading more and hearing about your travels to Puglia. Autumn has arrived in full force here in Canada and we had our first snowfall a couple of weeks ago. Seen you on the Debbie Travis TV series a few weeks ago about her adventures in setting up her villa.
    Hope all is well and the oil harvest is successful this year, anxiously waiting for our delivery.


  4. stighezza franca says:

    Bonjour Madame Frances,
    Je suis une lectrice franco-italienne de vos magnifiques livres. Je vous remercie de nous donner tant de bonheur par vos écrits , vos photos, vos recettes et votre joie de vivre!. Pourriez-vous me faire savoir si vos derniers livres sont sortis en langues française et/ou italienne ?
    Merci et surtout continuez à vous émerveiller !!
    avec mes meilleurs messages
    franca stighezza-ricci

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Ciao, The twentieth anniversary edition is coming out soon in France. It’s the same Under the Tuscan Sun, but with an additional chapter at the end. Some of my other books are published by La Table Ronde. Merci! Frances

  5. anthony farrugia says:

    Dear Ms Mayes,

    It has indeed been a great pleasure reading your books. They give me such a sense of serenity….I live in a tiny island, Malta, about 60 miles below Sicily. It would be wonderful to welcome you and your partner on our wonderful island which is so rich in history and cultural heritage. From prehistoric temples to Roman remains and to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem and the Great Siege of 1565….We are so close to Italy and yet so different in some ways.
    I hope you’ll include Malta in one of your travels. I am sure you have many fans here and we’ll definitely be happy and honoured to make a visit here a wonderful experience.
    Maybe, who knows, it might inspire you to write another book!

    God Bless you,

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Anthony, Thank you. Malta has long been on my list. Hope to get there before long. Frances

  6. Ann Pope Boland says:

    Frances, you probably don’t remember me from RMWC (ex-’62) but I remember knowing you at least a little. I read Under Magnolia a year or so ago and felt almost like I was reading my own story. But I suppose that would be common among RMWC alumnae. I am reading Under the Tuscan Sun now and loving it! It is reminiscent of Julia Child’s My Life in France. I haven’t seen the movie but will after I finish reading the book.

    I live in Albuquerque in a retirement community. My husband of 56 years has Alzheimer’s. I would love to get together if you are ever out this way.


    • Frances Mayes says:

      Ann, of course I remember you! Thanks for the kind words. The movie is a good take-me-away on a winter night! Very sorry to hear about your husband. All the best, Frances

  7. RiccardoDeMedici says:

    Frances! Enjoy Le Marche and Puglia! They are two very special places in Italy – and so different!

    Le Marche is hilly all the way to the coast. Those hill towns thrill when they look like unknown constellations on a clear night as you drive the edges of the narrow, dark, treacherous mountain roads without guardrails! Something about the night-lights of the hill towns magically captivates you as they sparkle, glow and spellbind. In the winter fog, some hill towns take on a nightime appearance of glowing, sulphurous and volcanic embers as they present themselves as burning and steaming from the bowels of the planet – but it is only an illusion on the hilltops caused by the wisps of vaporous fog highlighted by the moon. Then there are those white, chalky cliffs of Monte Conero that give sparkling views of a turquoise Adriatic that reflects and twinkles like crinkled aluminum foil in the sun or moonlight! The views are never exaggerated but are naturally extravagant in beauty. Yet something about the simplicity of life in Le Marche is satisfying and makes one feel comfortable and complete and all that beauty seems natural. Nothing is ever ostentatious or vulgar, but it sends you into a spin. There is always a feeling of home in Le Marche. There is something just right about Le Marche, like old, soft, pliable leather ciabatte. Even those servings of Vincisgrassi and glasses of Sangiovese give one comfort and a feeling of elegance…

    Puglia is as wonderful and very different. The Salentino is marvelous with all the beauty of those groves of ancient olive trees with enormous trunks surrounded by white, stone fences without gates. In Puglia, there is always the Baroque – and no place defines the word Baroque and its unrestrained beauty better than Lecce. It always seems that Lecce should be in South-Eastern Sicily with Catania. Noto, Ragusa and the other Baroque cities – but it is in Puglia, in a world of its own. It is that distinct place where too much was never enough and when they added one more thing to a baroque building it always seemed just the thing to do and was never considered extravagant. Like the Baroque, too many Pasticciotti are also never enough! Those divine morning pastries are composed of pasta frolla made with lard and have crema pasticcera in the center! Good ones boost morning espresso to the highest form of sublimity and the pastry and caffè become a perfect marriage – creating a kind of symbiosis! All those conical Trulli in the Itria Valley truly delight like a child’s storybook. You expect to see Peter Rabbit or Mother Goose or some other children’s book character personified as an animal darting about here and there. Those atypical buildings hardly seem real! The Trulli seem a perfect setting for “Alice in Wonderland”, as you expect her foot to spring out of a door or window and her head to peek or burst out of a conical stone roof. Then there are those white washed towns that crawl across mountainsides and always make one think of prehistoric bones that suddenly appeared because of erosion and await excavation. It is all as warm and satisfying as a big bowl of Orecchiette con cime di rape or a glass of Salice Salentino.

    It is all there to enjoy – and I know you will! You will make them your own and enchant your readers with many more new magical stories that will enhance people’s lives for more than several lifetimes!

    I hope that you survived the earthquake without alarm. Meanwhile the scosse continue and will hopefully dwindle. Stay safe!

    Thinking of you and your neighbors!!!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Riccardo, what wonderful descriptions, esp. of the effect of the hill towns at night and the white villages that look like prehistoric bones. I can see you know these two fabulous regions well. And appreciate them deeply. Thank you, Frances

  8. Christine Snyder says:

    Dear Frances, I have enjoyed all your books about Tuscany! My husband and I have recently purchased a villa in Pratovecchio-Stia, north of Arezzo and Bibbiena. It took a year to renovate and modify, but it is beautiful. We are here now. We have been here from Sept. 29, until November 20. On November 13 we are having a Benedica here in our home. It you are in Cortona, it would be nice if you would drive north for the festa! I would love to meet you, and get some hints on living here. My parents were born in Italy, but they left when they were children. They never spoke Italian in our home in the US, so my knowledge of the language is limited at this time.

    Our address is Localita’ San Leo-Ama #13A It is off Via Kennedy (which is next to the train station in Stia). If you think you could join us, we’d love it. The hours are 2:00 until 6 in the evening.

    Warm regards, Christine and William Snyder
    Ph: 904-377-5897 (my American Cell)
    39-331-968-3197 (my Italian cell)
    Let us know.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Christine, thank you and congrats on your new home and adventure. We will be traveling at that time but want to wish you years of happiness!! Frances

  9. Scott says:

    Hello Frances! Waking up to today’s election news brought me light years away from the joy of waking up in Cortona just a matter of weeks ago! A bit of a struggle to process things today and so I am thinking happier thoughts and remembering the joys of being in Italy again–and this time for almost 6 weeks.

    As for Cortona, it seems to be harder and harder to leave, especially after a 3-week dose of Ivan, Domenica, and Giovanni making us feel so welcomed and cared for. What a wonderful family!

    Our trip was wonderful from start to finish and our first taste of Venice is still very vivid. Such a special, beautiful place and, despite the many tour groups and grinning tourists taking selfies, we were able to thoroughly explore the beautiful island, climbing over many a bridge and taking many pictures in the process. Verona was also very crowded–a bit too much, frankly, at first–but we got to explore there as well before heading to Rome again for a refresher course on some of our favorite places there. It was going to Cortona–our home base for three weeks–that felt more like going home for the holidays: we knew Ivan and family would be waiting for us and their hospitality knew no bounds. Loved the outdoor market in Camucia–and managed to get to Florence for a couple of nights, to Bologna, Assisi, and even Pisa. Lots of memories made and probably a tad too much prosecco enjoyed in the process.

    Hope your stay has been a good one and that the olive harvest went well: we have a prized bottle of your oil and will think of you and the Italianis when we open it. Ciao: Scott

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Scott, Yes, they are dear, dear people! No family more welcoming and hospitable! We’re enjoying the best fall weather and some traveling! Best, Frances

  10. Harriet Rose says:

    Frances and Ed, It was an honor to meet you both and hear a few stories of the beautiful Villa Laura where we were staying. I so enjoyed re-reading Under the Tuscan Sun which enriched my stay in many ways and especially our group’s visit to the olive press. Would I come to Cortona at any other time than fall? I doubt it. Thanks to you and Ed for stopping by and making another “moment” for me to cherish of my trip to Cortona.

  11. Kristi Anne Brooks says:

    Dear Ms Mayle, I have just acquired your “Under the Tuscan Sun” from a Little Free Library (amazing program, do you know of these?) and while I am only half thru it I wanted to thank you. I feel as if the Tuscan Sun is warming me on every page. For 25 years I have been making my way in the world as a garden designer and maintenance crew chief so the references to unearthing ancient links to the agricultural history of your home truly are thrilling. I hope that someday your travels bring you to Southern California so I may thank you in person.

  12. Margaret Mullins says:

    Frances. Thank you so much for recommending Jan Morris’s The World of Venice. Have enjoyed
    her writing more than any author in a long time. Was not familiar with her before but want to read
    other books by her now. Her style was so unique and
    evocative of the people and places of Venice that I felt that I was there in the moment in the present
    or the past – crying and laughing at almost the same time. Do you have any other books by her
    that you would recommend She has joined the ranks of other favorite writers that I have discovered
    .thanks to you- like Freya Starke , Shirley Hazzard and so many others. Many thanks to you again for not only giving your readers the joy of your own wonderful books but introducing us to other special and distinctive writers.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Margaret–I liked her book on Trieste. Google her fore some interesting interviews too. Venice is my favorite! Frances

  13. Katherine says:

    Your loyal readers have heard nothing for some time. I check your blog every day but no updates. I hope everything is OK.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Katherine, thanks, I’ve had trouble with the site–it’s been impossible to post photos. AND I’ve been writing a novel that has seized my days. Hope to get back to the blog soon. I miss it! Frances

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Kaatherine, I miss the blog! I’ve been writing a novel that has seized me. Now through and hope to get back to this! Frances

  14. Gary N. says:

    Hi Frances, I wanted to know if you ever visit the abbey known as Sant’Antimo at Castelnuovo dell’Abate near Montalcino. I understand its monastic community is leaving and the local bishop is searching for a new one. Are you familiar with the situation? If so, please contact me via email. I have some ideas in mind that I wanted to run by you. Blessings and regards. Gary N.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Gary, Yes, I’ve been several times but am not aware of the situation with the monastic community. Such an awe-inspiring place.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Gray, an awe-inspiring place. I haven’t heard of the situation you mention. Frances

  15. Maria says:

    Dear Mrs Meyes
    I have just finished for the fifth time your book Under the Tuscan Sun. It is one of the “feel well” books I keep for the moments when I do not feel good at all and I need something to make me feel better.
    I know Cortona quite well: I even have an aquaintance there. A ligurian like me, architect, Enrico Lavagnino, who has his study in the centre of town!
    Last time I have been there I had been with a dear friend of mine, a lover of Italy, Eva, from Germany who died just a few weeks ago, and our husbands. We used to rent a house on the Siena hills, or near Perugia, a spend our days visiting that lovely part of Italy and in the evening enjoying a feast made of italian food.
    Thank you for the love you express to my Country, Italy! now I live in the South of France, not a bad place, but everytime I can, I travel back to Italy, expecially Liguria, to get the feeling of good uncomplicated food which is Culture in itself.
    Warmest greetings.

  16. Line says:

    Hello Frances,

      A greeting from France in this early spring, the garden must be exhuberant in Bramasole … a bunch of smells and happiness!
    I always look forward to the book “under magnolia” in French …
    I suspect that it does not take too long to love and appreciate your writings.

    May these days be delightful for you .
    Ciao Line


  17. Tam Mehuron says:

    Hi Mrs. Mayes! Just a note to say how much I have enjoyed your blog, your books, and musings! I look forward to future offerings from you. I hope that you and Ed and all your family are well. You have been in my thoughts in the wake of the ongoing earthquakes in Italy, I think not that far from Bramasole. All the best to you and yours! Tam Mehuron, April 7, 2017

  18. Nikol Toteva says:

    Dear Frances,
    I found myself rummaging through an antique store here in my hometown when I came across Under the Tuscan Sun. I knew that I had a trip to Italy coming up so I bought your book to get an inside look on the lovely Tuscany. I quickly fell in love with your words and the way you cherished Bramasole. In June I will be enduring a trip to Florence all the way from Atlanta, Georgia and though it may be impossible, I am hoping to meet with you in Cortona to ask you a few questions. I will be traveling to Verona, Cinque Terre and Rome but my main goal is to arrive in Cortona to speak with one of my favorite role models. I recently started up a travel blog and would absolutely love for you to appear in my photos. You truly are one of my idols!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Ciao Nikol, Sorry I didn’t get this earlier. Hope you had a fantastic trip! Best, Frances

  19. Alex says:

    Seven months since we’ve heard from you – I hope all is well in your life.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Alex, Thank you! Back soon! I have been in the throes of writing a novel and a travel book! Frances

  20. Rita says:

    Ciao Frances,
    I’m writing a piece for the online newspaper La Voce di New York about our project Save San Filippino I’m including a quotation from your book “Every Day in Tuscany” about our town Castiglion Fiorentino. I’d love to connect with you about this to see if you’d like to add any current thoughts about our town, especially as it relates to our project to save an abandoned 17th century baroque chapel in CF’s historic town center. We also have a Facebook page I look forward to hearing from you!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Rita, sorry I didn’t get this. I have been in chains, writing two books at once. Just about to emerge by the end of the year! All best with the project! Frances

  21. Jan says:

    Ciao Frances! We are in Cortona for the 4th time, right now, and fall more & more in love with this magical place. I was wondering if you have “before” pictures of Bramasole? I would love to see the transformation!
    Thanks again for writing your awesome book which brought us here!

  22. Melissa says:

    Hello Frances!
    I just stumbled upon your blog this Sunday afternoon…and something about your description of Fall in Italy stirred me. The olives, the chestnuts, the late Afternoon light. But when you described the “slant” of afternoon light, I recalled a poem I often recited to myself of Emily Dickinson’s. Do you know it? “There’s a certain Slant of Winter Afternoons…” It evokes a pensive mode, as do most of her poems, and describes this “slant of light” as being both mysterious and revealing, heavy and illuminating, mournful and awakening. I’ve often thought that the very contradictions in this poem remind me of the contradictions of Italy as a place; it is broken yet entire, a place of levity and depth, earthy yet angelic. Dickinson is always writing on the “Circumference” as she says –the slant, the oblique, the crescent, the afternoon glow of Autumn light — and so I wonder, have you found in Italy a sort of creative or “autumnal” mode unmatched by any other place? Can you describe it, if so? Is there something about Italy that epitomizes “autumn”…or something about Autumn that epitomizes Italy? I am a writer from the States, and yet have been to Italy many times. I feel that poetry and Italy go well together, and cannot actually imagine the one without the other. Have you written any poetry since being there, or has your new genre been your primary focus? Thank you for sharing, and hopefully I would be able to meet you if I ever make it to Cortona! Siena, it seems, is my “post” when in Tuscany 😉

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Melissa, any season in Italy is a chance to rejoice in the light. I especially love the view from my house into the valley at dusk, when there seems to be a veil thrown down from the sun.But, yes, thousands of slants and bursts and radiances, many with that old-world glow. I try to put what I learned from writing poetry into my prose. When I moved to Italy, I stopped writing poems but recently have written one! Maybe it will come back to me! Thanks for writing, Frances

  23. Penny Lyle says:

    Dear Frances Mayes,
    I have just finished reading Under Magnolia, which is enjoying a whirl this summer in Madison, GA. It’s a wonderful book – so much nostalgia for southerners. I am just a year older than you and grew up in Atlanta; however, I was fortunate enough to spend some of my preschool years in a little country town in Alabama where mother and I lived with her grandmother while Daddy was in the Navy, and to visit there several times a year all through my younger days.
    The most exciting thing about Under Magnolia for me was getting to know Fitzgerald! Mother said her father was always vague about his family, and said they were originally from England, lived in Canada and then Missouri. The thing that mother never knew is that her grandfather, James William Huggins was an officer in the union army and after the WAR moved to Fitzgerald with the Blue/Grey experiment. ( I found this, and much more on He was made postmaster of Fitz in 1900 and, according to local news of the day, was going to build a fine house next to the Presbyterian Church. Unfortunately, he dropped dead in January, 1901 while walking from the post office to home.
    My grandfather an his brothers attended high school in F and I have a declaration of sympathy sent to them by their classmates. My mother would roll over in her grave to learn there was a yankee officer in her woodpile. In fact her mother’s family would never have accepted her father into the family if they had known. I have been so curious about Fitzgerald ever since finding the facts, and your book made me feel I had actually at least stayed there, if not lived there for a while. We did stop for the day a few years ago to find JW’s grave in the cemetery.
    Thank you, Penny Lyle

    • Frances Mayes says:

      So interesting, Penny! It’s a very special town with a history to be proud of! Frances

  24. Paula says:

    So nice! I read “Under the Tuscan Sun” while on my first trip to Italy, several years ago. I definitely got in the mood.
    Now, I’m finishing “Bella Tuscany”, but I do not want to finish it, because I will be sad. Great books and wonderful descriptions bring there there. Grazie.

    I love tomatoes and am just reading at the end of “Bella Tuscany”, about Anselmo’s tomatoes. My first thought went I first went to Italy was that the tomatoes were beyond anything I could imagine. I have a few in my garden and hopefully with all the spring rains they will be fruitful, tasty and abundant. I have a little store on Etsy called Il Piccolo Giardino and that is because I went to Italy and stayed at a few hotels with those names. On Etsy it is ilPiccoloGiardino. I love my little garden. Right now in the early weeks of July in England, am enjoying some sunshine after many rains.
    Tanks so much.



  25. Katherine says:

    I am so sad that this blog appears to have been abandoned. I hope everything is OK.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Thanks, Katherine–I have been swamped with two book deadlines. Hope to be back here soon. I miss it!

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