I’m departing from recipes today to tell you about a moving memoir I read recently — “Keeping the Feast” by Paula Butturini.
It’s a compelling story. Butturini and her husband, John Tagliabue, were foreign correspondents who met and fell in love in Rome. But in 1989, as John was covering the uprising against Ceausescu in Romania, he was shot by a sniper–and nearly died.
Eventually the physical wounds healed, but the psychological effects of the traumatic injury resurfaced later, when John sank into a profound depression that lasted two years. The couple returned to Rome and Paula tried to give her life a form of normality by going shopping in the Campo dei Fiori outdoor market every morning– and cooking and sharing food with family and friends.
Of course, it is far too simplistic to say that the daily pleasure of food–even Italian food(!)– could heal clinical depression. And Paula Butturini doesn’t say that. Instead, she writes about the complexities of the subject with sensitivity and honesty. It reminded me of the people I know who have suffered or do suffer with this condition –and how deeply it affects their families.
On her Web site, Paula writes:
I was thirty-eight when John was shot and am nearing 60 today. I clearly felt a deep need to get all my old, detailed notes into a coherent story for the children before my time ran out. I wanted the children to have our family’s road map through and out of depression. I did not want them to suffer the same conspiracy of silence that I did as a child, and which still surrounds mental illness today. John and I both hope that our experience may help other families realize that depression is not necessarily a life sentence or a death sentence, and that after — or even despite — depression, joy, laughter, and love can reappear, deeper than ever.
Coincidentally, I remembered John Tagliabue’s name from his New York Times’ byline on very thorough and informative articles from Bulgaria and Romania when I was reading and learning about the Gypsies’ plight in Eastern Europe.
And, another aside, I loved Paula’s descriptions of Campo dei Fiori in Rome, and I knew exactly the bakery she was talking about at one corner of the square that makes the world’s best pizza bianca!