Sustenance is so packed with information–makes me want to hop in my car and set off on a journey in your tracks. . . a great example of the need to dig inside these rural cultures and understand them before they just melt away.” Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author, The Essential Mediterranean

In Sustenance, Elizabeth Wholey guides you on a fascinating culinary tour to the farmers and food producers of Italy’s Alta Valle del Tevere, the Upper Tiber Valley. Beginning at the source of the River Tiber on Monte Fumaiolo, near where Emilia Romagna, Le Marche, Tuscany and Umbria meet, you will journey south, through medieval towns in the hills and mountains, to the wide, fertile river plain, arriving in the picturesque, old Roman market town of Umbertide.

Sustenance reveals the local farmers’ age-old traditions of Italian food, necessary for their survival in the impoverished countryside, and their earthy recipes still prepared today,   often with a modern twist.  Highlighted are sixteen exceptional men and women whose products exemplify the high quality and variety available in the Upper Tiber Valley, and how to seek them out. Fascinating historical and gastronomic information is included for visitors interested in learning about the area in depth, as well as listings of lively, seasonal markets and fairs.

“Fabulous–an essential companion to the Upper Tiber Valley!” Eugene Martinez, Florence guide, www.ars-opulenta.com

Elizabeth Wholey - Sustenance

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

California-born Elizabeth Wholey has lived in Umbria’s Niccone Valley near Umbertide for the last twenty years and has developed a close relationship with local farmers and producers. She writes about Italian food culture and the agricultural history of the Upper Tiber valley, as well as its rich arts and crafts traditions. She is a member of Slow Food Alta Umbria, the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), and the Mediterranean Garden Society.

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120 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, full color, map included.

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Book Reviews

Rebecca Winke – Umbria on the Blog

There is no greater joy than receiving a book in the mail. Unless, of course, it turns out to be such a gem of a read that you find yourself thinking two things: 1. I wish I had written this book; and 2. I can’t wait to share this book.

And so it happened last week that I found Elizabeth Wholey’s new Sustenance: Food Traditions in Italy’s Heartland in my mailbox. I’ve known Elizabeth “virtually” for more than a decade; she’s a fellow American expat who has lived in Umbria for more or less the same amount of time I have and our paths crossed years ago on the then embryonic Slow Travel forum. I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with Elizabeth, as she seems to share my same delicate mix of delight and affection for our adopted home tempered with straighforward pragmatism. We are, neither of us, either bucolically Under the Sun nor bitterly Burnt by the Sun.

That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Elizabeth’s new book. Umbria being a small place, I had heard through the grapevine (the grapevine being one of her neighbors, Saverio Bianconi, who is mentioned with much warmth in Sustenance) that she was writing a socio-gastronomic history of the Upper Tiber Valley, an expanse of land where the four regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche meet. Beginning at the source of the Tiber River on Monte Fumaiolo, the Alta Valle del Tevere extends south to Umbertide, traveling through rugged mountains, rolling hills and finally to the fertile river valley, passing a number of Roman and Medieval towns along its meandering journey.

It is the area that Elizabeth calls home and knows well, and as both a Slow Food and International Association of Culinary Professionals member, she is more than qualified to research and publish a thorough academic study of the agricultural and culinary history of the valley. And with that in mind, it goes without saying that I “put it aside for later”.

Luckily for me, that “later” was cut short by a bout of insomnia just the next night. I sighed, switched on the light, and picked the first book from the stack next to my bed which seemed dry enough that it would be likely to put me sleep quickly. Yes, Sustenance.

How wrong I was. I found myself staying up to the wee hours reading this delightful, engaging guide from cover to cover. Part history, part journal, part travel guide, and peppered throughout with tempting recipes for preparing the rustic, genuine dishes which characterize the local peasant cuisine, Sustenance tells the story of this land and its people by highlighting sixteen local, contemporary farmers and food producers who turn out everything from eggs to honey, from olive oil to heirloom fruit.

In its pages, Elizabeth weaves a fascinating historical and social narrative, reconnecting these modern agricultural and culinary hold-outs with the peasant culture and traditions which preceded them (and are in danger of vanishing) and their continued belief in and defence of the exceptional quality and variety of foods still found in this valley. But she also goes one step beyond, making her subjects and their food accessible to readers (and, one hopes, travelers) through both sharing their simple, homey recipes and providing practical instructions to seek them out and sample their food as one should: in the land and with the people who have put their heart and soul into bringing it to the table.

To make it even easier to explore the Upper Tiber Valley, Elizabeth has divided the chapters of Sustenance into carefully curated itineraries, organizing farmers and products geographically, highlighting nearby sites and monuments to visit, and listing local markets and annual festivals and fairs.

Richer than a cook book, lighter than a historical tome, more compelling than a travel guide, I can’t sing the praises of this small but important book highly enough. Sustenance is must-read for anyone-traveler or settler-who wants to discover the Upper Tiber Valley, its history, its people, and, of course, its food.

“This is a wonderful new book, but above all how all Italy culinary travel guides should be for really understanding a people and their land. Many people speak about their ‘passion’, but Elizabeth has written an ode to a stretch of land along the River Tiber with recipes, local markets, people you should meet. Truly impressive.” Philip Kurnow, www.deliciousitaly.com

“For any resident, part-time resident or anyone planning a trip to northern Umbria it is ESSENTIAL reading. Leave a copy in your houses if you are renting them out and draw your visitors’ attention to it. It will enrich their stay in the area.” Jim Powrie, estate agent, Green Umbria

“I’ve finally had a chance to read through Elizabeth Wholey’s fabulously well done book on the foods and artisans of the upper Tiber valley. The book is called Sustenance, Food Traditions in Italy’s Heartland and is an in-depth guide of an area that I am enamored with, the source of the Tiber and Arno rivers above Arezzo and down the valley to Elizabeth’s home in Umbertide.” Pamela Sheldon Johns, author, Cucina Povera

“Great little book. . . wish there was a similar one about every other section of Italy.” Mary Jane Cryan, author, Etruria

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