These gray gray days require uplifting reading material. I initially picked up Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck and Erol Munuz from my shelves because its bright yellow cover stuck out invitingly. And I love my copy with its beautiful cover containing scenes of the French and Italian Riviera. It was with a sense of snuggling down for a light read that I started the book. I have to say it exceeded my expectations in the most wonderful way.
Essentially it distills David’s experiences while working as a chef on board a luxury sailing yacht owned by one of Italy’s most prominent couples. In the book Il Dottore and La Signora as he calls them, hire him to for the summer as they cruise their way from the French Cote D’Azur all the way to Italy’s Emerald Coast and then back again for the summer season ending Regatta Cup at St. Tropez. And lest you think these are regular folks who want regular meals, they are not. As instructed, David is to prepare three to four course lunches and dinners, taking care not to repeat a single dish for the entire duration of the vacation and using only the freshest local ingredients to make traditional cucina italiana. No mean feat. And let me tell you, as someone who can barely plan a week’s menu, I can fully understand David’s reservations about being able to fulfill the stringent requirements. But fulfill them he does and he passes with flying colors.
This is a book to get deliciously lost into. It is not merely a travelogue detailing the various places they visit, neither is it merely a book on food. It is that wonderful blend of travel and food, that captures with an accurate eye the essence of the places and people that he encountered. It helps enormously that David is a more than an able writer. He writes with genuine flair and even honesty. There is no disguising the fact that his sojourn was mostly work with barely enough time for rest or recreation but through his writing you get a sense of the real love that he has for his work. And if you love to read up on food, this one is full of mouthwatering dishes that make you dream. As an added bonus, he includes recipes of the most memorable dishes at the end of his book.
I closed the book with a sigh, sad that I finished it too quickly. I went to bed dreaming of Positano and red tomatoes ripening in the sun.