Helena Attlee: The Land Where Lemons Grow
I love eating, I love reading, and so I love reading about food. And what I like most are books that combine history and food. So when I was browsing in the Brussels Sterling Books bookshop, I was immediately attracted to the beautiful cover of this book and when I leafed through it the scent of lemons seemed to jump from the pages and Italy, with all its culinary and historical attractions beckoned...
It's been quite a while since a non-fiction book gave me such joy as this. The subject itself is fascinating, and since I know the difference between our supermarket-citrons and the real Sicilian thing citrus fruit fascinates me. I will allways ask travelling friends to bring a few of them over when they come from an area "where lemons grow", and I keep being amazed by the rich taste and intensity of these fruits. A visit to the Flower Island of Mainau in Lake Konstanz (the Bodensee) introduced me to my first citrus collection and here I became aware that there was also a story behind them and that they were once quite special and exotic, and that people collected them.
I love this book. The author has the power to transport you straight into an Italian garden, so you can almost taste the fruit. Chapter after chapter she brings on other stories about the history of the lemon and the regions and gardens where it grows, about the history of its cultivation, its origins, its economical importance and the disappearance of this importance, and when she talks about the harvesting of the esrogim, the perfect citrons that the Jews need for their Sukkoth feast, it is as if you are there, sitting next to her.
The book is sprinkled with recipies that tempt you to walk into the kitchen and try them. It is a pleasure to read it, it is beautiful prose, and the short chapters make it perfect for short moments of happiness on dreary days. It will probably make you change your holiday plans and go to Italy instead, but, hey, what a sacrifice...
To be read with a glass of limoncello or a good white Pessac-Léognan (I like them most smelling and tasting of citrons and oranges) with a good percentage of the sémillon grape.