A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany: Exploring and Eating off the Beaten Track is a gem of a book. Author Beth Elon takes readers through the few parts of Tuscany that have not yet been discovered by the thousands (or is it millions?) of tourists that visit Italy every year. The reader will be transported into the kitchens of more than 50 restaurants where cooks reveal their recipes.
The book is divided into sections organized by the different regions of Tuscany; with some jaunts into what I believe is Liguria. The regional sections begin with explanations of what makes Tuscan cooking so unique. You’ll read about a bean so beloved by a village that it’s been elevated to cult status-but that is totally unheard of a few kilometers down the road and the endless array of vegetable tarts found
only in Lunigiana and Garfagnana.
Ms Elon has organized ten itineraries that include stops at gourmet shops, food festivals, greenmarkets, and private kitchens. She includes recipes and descriptions of different regions, along the way pointing out overlooked art, architecture, historic sites, churches and museums.
Beth Elon has lived in Tuscany for more than 30 years. Her extensive knowledge of the history, legends and folklore of the area along with her beautiful writing will make you long to visit one of the many restaurants that appear in the book.
I was surprised to see a restaurant that I visited in Bolgheri make an appearance in the book. I visited the restaurant with a couple of Italian friends who live in nearby Livorno. Her description of the restaurant was right on target:
“A wild orange tree rambles over the outdoor tables in front of La Taverna del Pittore”. Its perfume engulfs the entire place. The restaurant, owned by the young Gofredo d’Andrea has two lovely little rooms inside, with walls covered by the work of local artists.”
Ms Elon provides the name of the restaurant, the address, phone number and the schedule of when the restaurant is open. She also lets you know if the prices are expensive, moderate or inexpensive. Maps of the different regions are included so you can see where the towns are located.
Beth takes you to restaurants that are popular with the locals but often overlooked by tourists. Since the restaurants she visits are generally small and family owned the recipes included in this Italian cookbook are perfect for the home cook. These are recipes that have been passed down through generations of families and not developed by five star chefs.
Other books by Beth Elon include “A Mediterranean Farm Kitchen” and “The Big Book of Pasta”. Beth Elon lives in a small village in the foot of the Appenines.
I have A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany sitting on my coffee table and it never fails to attract the attention of my guests. It is a great book to flip through and pick out recipes that will inspire you to go to the kitchen and start cooking. You can almost smell the sauces boiling on the stove while you read.