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You Had Me at Hello
Our greatest gastronomic experience to date happened in a remote, medieval village called San Gusmè just north of Siena in the Chianti mountains of Tuscany. It is here that the most delicious meals at an osteria called Sira e Remino are lovingly prepared. We literally stumbled across this isolated slice of heaven several years ago after getting lost looking for a winery. The tiny San Gusmè boasts not one but two churches, an octogenarian enologist who also produces olive oil from his groves and, our beloved restaurant within its walled hillside spot.
After parking down below the walled village, our hungry group ‐‐ my mother, step‐ father, husband, daughter and I ‐‐ climbed up the cobblestoned main road, under the arches into the hamlet’s center and onto a narrow walkway where we spotted a sign that read: osteria. Perfetto, as the Italians say. Not sure exactly what would meet us on the other side, we reluctantly walked in. A fragrant cheese case, metal platters topped with thin slices of salamis, and garlic stems hanging from the ceiling greeted us. Within moments we were met and seated in the rustic dining room by a man who was Sylvester Stallone’s doppelganger, who by the way, spoke no English only to be matched by our severely limited pocket dictionary Italian. There were paper placemats and green paper napkins set on the tables and murals of Siena’s famous Il Palio horse race painted on the walls. The menu, also all in Italian, was quaint with it’s handwritten words and lovely drawing of a cinghiale (wild boar) in the corner. I recognized a whopping two words: vino and carpaccio. Sly Stallone’s twin smiled at us while we pointed and nodded at the menu, especially the word vino. We truly had no idea what we ordered but trusted that Sly decided on dishes typical of the Tuscan tradition.
Giggling at ourselves for the morning’s predicament of getting lost and then finding this ancient village, we settled in and waited for our meal while we sipped on the carafe of red wine that Signor Stallone instantaneously put on the table. Soon, the first (of what was four) courses arrived. Our mouths watered as Mr. Stallone placed two round platters arranged with assorted cured meats, briny olives, pungent cheeses, spreads, various just‐picked‐out‐of‐the‐garden veggies, pork cheek, and the reddest, ripest tomatoes on crostini before us. The first savory bites we took caused us to blissfully pause; however, we instinctively knew that bites two, three, and four would be unbelievably better than the first. On and on we ate, practically in silence, with many “hmmmms” and “you have to try this!” as we shared food and slurped the house red wine to wash it down. We couldn’t wait for the next course. Fortunately for us, pici caccio e pepe (a tubular black pepper and parmesan spaghetti) and papardelle al cinghiale (wide noodles with wild boar sauce) didn’t fail us, nor did the third course of grilled tenderloin Chianti style or the grand finale: tartufo gelato we somehow managed to squeeze into our replete bellies.
We’ve now been to Sira e Remino a handful of times and it never fails to delight. We’ve dragged other family members and friends across the Atlantic and forced them to go with us to San Gusmè so they, too, can share in its charming isolation and a first rate meal at Sira e Remino. We even convinced some German bicyclists to go and ended up seeing them there each time we went back, too.
On the other hand, we’ve also followed the herd and fallen into the trap of, “You must go to Over‐Priced‐But‐Its‐Worth‐It new restaurant. It’s so fabulous. You’re a foodie, you’ll love it.” In anticipation of an enjoyable meal, we hire a babysitter, get dressed up and excited to finally patronize the newest, chic, farm to table, we make our own everything, small batch bourbon, exclusive wine list establishment that everyone has raved about only to wait twenty minutes for our table (even though I made a reservation), be seated near the drafty door at a table where a Liliputian and his date could barely stretch out, and then wait another fifteen minutes while several servers waltz by us in a flurry as if we’re invisible and all we want is for someone to acknowledge that we’ve just trudged across the desert and seriously need a drink. The initial few moments have set the stage for a failed experience that we seriously contemplate getting up and walking out, but we don’t because, “we don’t want to be that person.” When the flat champagne and melted ice in the bourbon does finally arrive delivered by a server who seems to wish he was someplace other than here waiting on us, we know, no matter how much we don’t want to abandon the ship, that sometimes the rats have it right. Jump over now and swim to shore. Don’t give it another moment of your precious time.
Reading a book can prove to be a similar sense as the dining out experience. A cover might not be what you would have chosen, but the inside flap description gives you hope. You crack the first few pages and if you’re like me, read the dedication and wonder who the heck Oran is and why was he important to the author, and then flip the page to the words: Chapter One. It is here that the author has his or her last chance to hook the reader. If the first few sentences fail readers, unlike my husband and me who give bad restaurants a chance, the book is closed and casually tossed aside like the rats jumping off the Titantic. The beginning is it. No matter how many clever plot twists and turns or prosaic words or complicated, developed characters the author has in store down the road, the reader may never care to know. There will be no chance to indulge in the finale; the tartufo gelato after three huge courses of Tuscan dishes. Life is too short to read a book that doesn’t hook you at Hello. Carpe Diem!
About Tori Eversmann:
Tori Eversmann, wife of retired First Sergeant Matt Eversmann, the soldier who inspired the lead character in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, lives in West Palm Beach with their daughter, two black Labradors – Maybellene and Pamuk, and two cats – Genghis and Gatto.
More info can be found here– including why she wrote THE IMMORTALS.
About THE IMMORTALS:
Say the words “Army wife,” and what often comes to mind is the image of a teary-eyed woman running to hug her returning combat soldier-husband or a caricature based on a slickly produced reality TV show. The Immortals is different. This stunning first novel full of emotion addresses the truth of the female predicament — the unsung heroes who are left behind on the homefront of war. We experience the love and challenges between husband and wife, we feel the closeness of mother and daughter, and we bond with the most unlikely of women. When we first meet Calli Coleman, a classically trained musician from a well-connected Baltimore family, it is the summer of 2005 and the United States has been at war in Iraq for two years. She has been uprooted from the hometown she adores and abruptly lands in the role of Army wife in provincial Sackets Harbor, New York outside of Fort Drum. Naïve to all things military, Calli has no idea what’s in store for her when Luke’s infantry unit deploys to the Iraq War to an area CNN dubs “The Triangle of Death”. Left back in New York with their three-year-old daughter Audrey, black Labrador Satchmo, and a fat cat named Charlemagne, Calli has a steep learning curve as she tumbles into a complicated social hierarchy where she finds her well-heeled childhood does her more harm than good. Desperately missing her friends and family and amid the impertinent Army wives, unlikely friendships evolve with Josie, Rachel, and Daphne. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, and certainly unlike her dynamic, jet-setting best friend Eula, these women will nonetheless come together for courage, support, and to embark upon the deeply emotional roller coaster ride of being an Army wife.
With only letters and email as their communication, Calli knows very little about Luke’s mission in Iraq. Through their letters we get a beautiful picture of their love for each other and what it means to serve our Nation but Luke cannot share much about the confidential assignment. The news on the radio and television is never good. Calli dreads the phone ringing to tell her of more soldiers being blown up by IEDs or killed by gunfire and she fears “The Trifecta” – the casualty assistance officer, rear-detachment office, and chaplain – will be sitting in her driveway waiting to tell her the worst news she can imagine. In Luke’s absence, Calli, alone with her daughter, learns that if anything is worth fighting for, it’s the unpredictable new friendships that will sustain her through loneliness and the ever-present specter of widowhood. At the end Calli will find herself on an unexpected course full of epiphanies about herself and her marriage.
The Immortals is an emotional examination of marriage, friendship, war, and death. Tori Eversmann, through her distinctive voice that comes from her own time as an Army wife, has given us an unforgettable story.
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