Posted on 06 October 2011 by

Book Review: Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

During the summer, I normally take some time to enjoy at least one good book.

This year’s reading list was full but I had not really taken the time to even start the first book.

Community garden responsibilities, my yard and garden, and thesis work always seemed to get in the way of my limited leisure time.

But as I was about to throw my literary hands up, I was contacted by a friend who recommended this book.

So away I went to the bookstore in search of Tomato Rhapsody.

Once I discovered the book, the cover intrigued me. It resembled an old painting that I would have expected Michelangelo to have painted. The crackled appearance I would discover added to the mystic of the story.

As I cracked open the book, I was greeted with an introduction of the main characters and an explanation of the time period. How wonderful this addition was since I am not familiar with the social workings of the 16th century.

The story centered on European history and was intertwined with the story of the tomato, love, social class, and everyday living in the 16th century. Tomato Rhapsody was structured by the guidelines of Pozzo Menzogna whose eloquent treatise created a guideline to follow when creating a story.

As I began my journey into the 16th century, I found myself only stopping for one thing and that was to go to the grocery story for ingredients that were mentioned in the story. Every time the characters created a recipe, I felt the urge to recreate the dish. While the directions were not always clear it added to the story and I enjoyed them immensely.

Tomato Rhapsody intertwined a world and relationships that collided in the center of the history of the tomato and along with Davido and Mari and their love. Their love included what they felt for each other but also for each family’s specialty. This included Davido’s tomatoes and Mari’s olives.

But intermingled in between the lovemaking was the life and death struggle of the Duke, his soul, and his family. Through the Duke’s character, one can see first hand that the royal life is not all that it is cut out to be and the cost can be immense. But even through the expense of royalty and love, gratitude shines through and makes the reader cheer with joy.

Two very interesting components of the story were the footnotes and its detail to the speech habits of those in the 16th century. The footnotes explaining certain elements of the story were very helpful and made me desire more. I am a lover of all things agriculturally related and history.

The second interesting component to the story was the writing style. It was written in the rhyming style of the time when people could not read. It is believed that the uneducated spoke in rhyme to help in the memorization of what was said. While this may be distracting for some readers, I felt it added to the story line and delivered the reader right into the middle of a 16th century marketplace where all the action was taking place.

So until we blog again, Tomato Rhapsody is the place where everything takes shape. Summer reading is the best to tie into pizza, wine, and the rest. Try a little culinary delight by cooking up Davido and Mari’s tomato sauce delight. If the lust gets into you make sure to make two vats of sauce, one for me and one for you.

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