“Keeping the Feast”

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.

Here’s Paula Butturini’s Web site and an interview with her on NPR.

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!

A citrus wrapper I found at Campo dei Fiori a few years ago, after the market had closed down for the day

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3 Comments

Filed under bread and pizza, musings, Praise for other cooks, Uncategorized

3 responses to ““Keeping the Feast”

  1. Carol Hogan

    This sounds like a really interesting story, and I’m going to forward it to my book club friends. We’ve all had experience with depression at one time or another — I at the tender age of 28. That’s something I never want to go through again!
    Carol

  2. Suzi Belle

    dear toby…I’m so enjoying your kitchen blog! thankyou for sending. i always have such a lovely response….i can always smell the kitchen,your magnificent kitchen, and hear your laughter…so sweet, so lovely!!! im going to get this book…thank you for the recomendation.

  3. Suzi Belle

    dear tob…ameleah sent me the book as part of my mothers day bundle!!! thankyou for the reccomendation,dear!still love your blogs…something so sweet and filling to look forward to….bless your heart,all ways,suzi belle

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