Monday, April 12, 2010

Coming from the Ends of the Earth to Share Dessert, and A Sweet Life...

The beauty of Marlena de Blasi's memoir A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE is that it's true. In 1992 she was a chef and travel writer, saddened by a ghastly divorce, who reluctantly visited Venice to write articles about the food. He, Fernando, was a middle-aged, somewhat depressed Venetian banker who concealed a blazingly passionate heart beneath his pinstriped vests. He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love at first sight--or rather, half-sight, for as he told her later, he saw only her profile, her wild and unmanageable mass of pinned-up black hair, and a beautiful woolly white coat that covered her to the ankles. He had been agonizingly shy his whole life, and he was afraid to speak to her. She did not notice him at all.

A year later Marlena returned to Venice. The day came when Fernando saw her again, in a cafe, and this time he spoke. She rebuffed the blue-eyed stranger, but he had found his courage and refused to disappear. He spoke no English, she spoke almost no Italian. There were false starts, and a Venetian storm kept them apart, and she fled back to America. This man who had been so shy, self-doubting, and cautious his whole life, pursued her across the ocean with the confidence of an arrow that will absolutely not be deflected from its target. He had found his mate, and that was that.

It took Marlena a little more time to share his feelings. However, in the meantime she cooked him a marvelous meal. It is wonderfully described in her book. The meal ends this way:

"He seems content with silence. I've made a dessert, one I haven't made in years, a funny-looking cake made from bread dough, purple plums, and brown sugar. The thick black juices of the fruit, mingled with the caramelized sugar, give up a fine treacly steam, and we put the cake between us, eating it from the battered old pan I baked it in. He spoons up the last of the plummy syrup, and we drink the heel of the red wine. He gets up and comes over to my side of the table. He sits next to me, looks at me full face, then gently turns my face a bit to the right, holding my chin in his hand. "Si, questa e la mia faccia," he tells me in a whisper. "Yes, this is my face."

(quote from A Thousand Days In Venice, by Marlena De Blasi)


  1. i love, love, loved this book! don't forget to read "a thousand days in tuscany", "that summer in sicily", and "the lady in the palazzo" as well as her cookbooks on regional cuisine of italy! they are all fantastic!

  2. Yes, her books are amazing! There's a new one coming out called "Amandine" that I'm looking forward to reading.