Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing
by Paula Butturini
It’s probably no secret by now that three of my loves in this life include: travel, food, and themes of healing & redemption. So when I saw this memoir, I knew it’d be right up my alley. It’s like Eat, Pray, Love…but for the foodie in me, even better.
The book is about Paula and John, who met in Italy, fell in love, and got married. It was a charmed life–until less than a month after they married and tragedy struck. They’re both foreign correspondents, and they got sent to Warsaw, and then on to Romania to report on uprisings there. First Paula got beaten, then John got shot. The bullet wound tore open his back, requiring several intensive surgeries and a long process of healing.
But that was just the physical trauma. The emotional work had only just begun.
Interwoven through the entire story, is also Paula’s love affair with food. All her memories, from childhood to adulthood, center around food, and it becomes the language through which she communicates comfort and nourishment, as well as pain and despair. Her descriptions are lush and flavorful, and while abundant, never too over the top. Her writing made me crave Italy as much as it made me want fresh-baked bread, aubergines, and a caprese salad.
For a scrumptious read, this is definitely a book to savor, quite literally. However, the one frustration I had with the book was in the area of healing. The book cover description advertises this: “Paula began to reconsider all of her previous assumptions about healing. She discovered that sometimes patience can be a vice, anger a virtue. That sometimes it is vital to make demands of the sick, that they show signs of getting better.” To be honest, those three sentences made up at least half of the reason I picked up the book. Those “assumptions” about healing touch on an issue that I personally wrestle over, when it comes to questions of mental health. When is patience and space exactly what a person needs, and when is it that loved ones actually become held hostage by the threat of things turning for the worse? I had hoped (and assumed) there would be more discussion of this in the book, but alas, it was not to be found. The author barely mentions these discoveries in passing, with no attempt to delve into why or how it helped so much when she reached her breaking point with John. I can understand that maybe even she doesn’t know the answer to those questions…but even some attempt at mild speculation would have been more satisfactory.
Aside from that one caveat, I highly enjoyed this read, and can definitely recommend Keeping the Feast to anyone who wants to dream about food and Italy for a space of time.
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