I may write about the smell of asparagus, the color of polenta, or the taste of figs still warm from the sun, but all of it is a personal shorthand for weighing hunger and love, health and nourishment, secrets and revelations, illness and survival, comfort and celebration, and perhaps above all, the joy and gift of being alive.
Keeping the Feast – Paula Butturini
Paula Butturini’s memoir Keeping the Feast is more than a true story about a couple’s enduring love set among a delicious Italian background full of food and flavor; it’s a story of hope, and the bond of family, and the anguish of a person helplessly afflicted with depression.
Paula met her second husband John in Italy. They married when she was in her late thirties. Both news correspondents, both with strong Italian-family backgrounds, Paula and John were meant for each other, and their love endured trials many of us cannot fathom. In 1989 Paula was beaten senseless by riot police in Czechoslovakia, just weeks before her and John are to be married. Barely surviving her own trauma, it is only a handful of weeks later when John is shot by a sniper in Romania. Undergoing several surgeries, John barely survives. The couple land back in Italy to recoup, only John suffers a devastating depression that threatens to tear their marriage apart. Paula takes refuge in her Italian markets, diving into her family recipes, the ingredients which held her together as a child as she hopes they can hold her family together now.
Keeping the Feast is marketed as a memoir about the tribulations a couple goes through, and how food kept them together. But I can’t help but look beyond the ingrediants, the never-ending succulent lists of Italian market-wares and herbs. Paula’s own mother suffered from depression, it was something Paula herself feared her whole life. To have her husband, the love of her life, afflicted by the same disease, was terrifying and my heart goes out to her. Not everyone understands the crippling devastation that is depression, the way it can leach into your life, but Paula did, she saw it first hand and she vowed to never let it bury her. She dealt with her husband’s depression, first with silent fear, and then with anger and outrage, and even though he suffered it more than once in their life together, he always recovered, and she was always there.
Keeping The Feast is a heartbreaking, beautiful memoir of the strength of family devotion, tied together by the delicious façade of Italian ruins, and the mouth-watering dishes of Italian food. I thank Paula for sharing her story, and hope we can all be as strong.
4 stars (I received an ARC of this book from the publisher)