I will remember this 2018 also because at the end of May my first book was born. It’s a little book, made with love. It’s written in Italian and in English too. It’s about bitter orange blossom water, an ancient product, a natural distillate that has been used for centuries as a beauty secret, as an herbal remedy and above all as an aroma in the kitchen.
Watching the copies there, stacked on top of each other in the box just came out of the typography is a great emotion.
I hold my book in my hand, I stare at it, I weigh and I think back to when Ilaria Fioravanti (my adventure companion) last year, on a rainy winter morning in front of a cappuccino, proposed me to write together a cookbook.
I think back to the various visits at la Vecchia Distilleria in Vallebona – where Pietro Guglielmi grows bitter orange trees few years ago completely lost and distils orange blossom water with the old methods of his ancestors (his product is a Slow Food Presidium of Liguria). In particular those visits in May when I participated together with the family of Pietro to the harvesting of the flowers. I remember the dazzling white of the starry flowers, the intense perfume that permeated the warm air, the chattering of this and that, the gnarled hands of the octogenarian Nonna Ines, delicately detaching the flowers, today as when she was a girl.
I flip through my book and think about when I decided to take pictures of some of the recipes that we would have included in the book during the harvesting, organizing a real country picnic: my car full up to the roof of baskets, tables, tablecloths, plates, pillows, blankets, fruit, drinks and sweets of course. Hundreds of photos taken under the scorching sun by planting the tripod in the tall grass and risking several times to fall down the hill backing away in search of right angle. I think about the evenings spent to review and select the photos, wondering how it was possible to make so many shots all similar to each other.
I also think of the afternoons spent with Ilaria to jot down the scheme of the book, to share the topics, to decide which of the dozens of recipes collected from the cuisines of all the world prepare and publish in the book.
I look at the book once again, it is in one hand. But writing it took days spent in the library, between university students and some retired person, to browse stacks of botanical texts, old and new to learn more about the bitter orange plant, its origins, its uses. It was exciting to discover always new anecdotes and see that the story that little by little emerged between the lines of the books spoke of famous women all tied by the same fragrance: Queen Marie Antoinette, our Queen Margherita of Savoy, Anna-Maria Orsini, Princess of Nerola, even the Venus of Botticelli.
Then I think of the time spent in front of the computer screen, the words that never flowed like I would like (please do not ask me if today I am fully satisfied), the anxiety and at the same time the determination to carry out this small project .
And the mind map! Yes, because since a couple of years I have fallen in love with mind mapping as a method for developing and organizing creative thinking. I wrote the book’s mind map on a large A3 sheet, I completed it day by day, as I gathered new information and topics. It accompanied me for so long, it was so colorful. I should frame it, if it were not so cumbersome.
Then the meeting with the publisher, SAGEP, the drafts of the press to see and review the book two or three times to make sure that there were no typos, and the cover to choose from many samples.
Today the book is here, it came out of our minds and our computers and now you can touch, browse, smell it(does not smell orange blossoms, unfortunately, but after reading it, perhaps, with a little of imagination …), once can buy it and give it as gifts. The idea that my words can circulate from hand to hand, with a physical weight, continues to surprise me and, I am sincere, makes me proud.
If you are interested you can “comfortably” buy it online on Amazon (it’s in English too, did I already told you?) and in a couple of days you will find it on your kitchen table. If you read it and cook the recipes therein contained, please share them and let me know what you think! Did you perceive that romantic Italian Riviera smell?