During vacation, I read two fantastic beach reads, and they would be perfect choices for the armchair traveler as one takes you to the Perigord region of Southern France and the other one to Tuscany.
The first book, The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart, wittily immerses you in French culture. If you enjoy reading Peter Mayle's books, I think you'd enjoy this one!
Barber Guillaume Ladoucette is a master barber and has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France's Amour-sur-Belle. But as his clientele have grown older and balder, many have sought the services of a Parisian-trained barber in a neighboring village. Now the residents of Amour-sur-Belle are sporting bizarre styles with even more bizarre names, like "the pinecone." Guillaume's lack of customers cause him to change careers mid-life: Guillaume sets-up shop as a matchmaker because according to Guillaume, everyone needs love in his or her life. At first, Guillaume's matches' initial dates are a disaster. Plus, he neglects his own needs and a second chance at dating his first love. While reading this book, I was wondering how in the world Guillame could possibly set things to rights in Amour-sur-Belle, but the ending is very surprising and cute. One thing I adored about this book is the omniscient narrator's voice. His use of repetition while telling the story reminds me of storytellers from long ago. This is truly a charming book, and I highly recommend it.
The second book I read is entitle Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch. This book was also cute, but some of the characters lack the charm of those in The Matchmaker of Perigord.
Manhattanite Lily Turner is a highly successful VP of a Fortune 500 Company. She has the perfect job and perfect marriage. The only thing lacking is children. One day she finds a laminated photo in her husband's golf shoe of a happy family with Italy in the background, and the father of the family is her "perfect" husband, Daniel. This is how Lily discovers that Daniel has been living a double life; his only business in Italy hasn't simply been his wine import company.
So Lily heads off to Tuscany in a half-cocked way (her sister calls this Tipsy Tourism) to find and confront Daniel. She soon becomes the unwitting recipient of services provided by the Secret League of Widowed Darners, a group of elderly ladies who manipulate happy endings for the broken-hearted. Lily rents a room above a bakery from founding members Violetta and Luciana, and soon they are guilting Lily into helping them bake cantucci for their pasticceria. This story is about forgiveness, love, and family. I enjoyed it and was intrigued about the difference between biscotti and cantucci. I'm still a little unclear about it. :/
Here's a video of Sarah-Kate Lynch discussing cantucci and Dolci di Love:
It looks good, doesn't it? I decided to find a cantucci recipe and try it for myself. I ran across Sting's favorite recipe for it (he and his wife live in Tuscany) so I thought I'd try making it. Here is the link for the recipe from Food and Wine Magazine. According to the magazine, these little cookies are usually served with sweet dessert wine at the end of a meal, but since Sting and his wife Trudie are English, they enjoy theirs with tea. We had ours with tea yesterday, and they were a hit!
Cantucci di Prato
Have you read any good books during the Christmas holidays? This is a linky!