The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, will visit the Tuscan Kitchen this May. Courtesy photo.

 Meet Frances Mayes

• For dinner: Friday, May 16, at Tuscan Kitchen, 67 Main St., Salem. There will be two seatings, one at 5:30 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m. Reservations are limited and tickets cost $125. Includes dinner with wine pairings, signed bottle of Tuscan Sun Wines and a signed cookbook. Visit
• At a signing: Saturday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tuscan Market, 67 Main St., Salem, next to Tuscan Kitchen. Mayes will be signing bottles, books and the movie based on her memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. Wines, the cookbook, memoir and the 2003 movie will all be available for purchase at the event. 

Sharing some Tuscan sun
Author visits Salem with her new wine label


 When you’re spending your days under the Tuscan sun, you’re bound to pick up a few culinary notes. Author Frances Mayes (known for her memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun, and the 2003 film adaptation of the same name) has written a number of books reflecting on her Tuscan home, as well as a cookbook called The Tuscan Sun Cookbook. Now, Mayes is also a partner of a wine label, Tuscan Sun Wines. Mayes is currently on tour for her newest book, Under Magnolia, which was published this April, but she’s making a stop in Salem to promote her wines during a special wine dinner and book signing. She will be at the Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market on Friday, May 16, and Saturday, May 17. Mayes took a few minutes to talk to the Hippo from the road. 

Most people know you for your memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun, and more specifically, the movie that was based on it. How much of the movie is true to your own life and memoir?
Basically the story is the same. A woman goes to a foreign country and starts a new life on her own terms. That’s big drama in itself, but my memoir is much more involved with the place and the restoration rather than the cool romance with Raoul Bova! When there’s the big screen to consider, a lot more drama has to occur. I loved the movie and think that Diane Lane was spectacular.
Although you spend most of your time writing and recently published Under Magnolia, you’ve also found the time to start your own brand of wines. How did that process come about, and how long have you been producing wines?
We launched Tuscan Sun Wines in Italy in July 2013. Danny Keefe of Curious Cork is my wine partner and he lives, as I do, in Cortona, Tuscany, for part of the year. For a long time, we’ve tossed around the idea of a wine label that really exemplifies our intimate knowledge of Italian wines. We don’t have a vineyard. We tasted over a hundred wines from different growers and selected the ones we loved. So we’re working with several winemakers. We had to adore each choice and to find that it fits with our main idea: wine is food.
What is your favorite Tuscan Sun wine? Could you describe it? 
Well, I love all our choices. For any Italian wine, I’d say that it’s perfect to me when the wine tastes of the place it’s from. I said to my husband when we sampled Tondo Tondo, “Remember that hot May? Can’t you taste the sun?”
You’re also a cookbook author. I can imagine Tuscan cuisine is full of inspiration for writing cookbooks. What do you enjoy about Tuscan cuisine? Do you have a favorite dish from your cookbook?
Our cookbook is packed with everything we cook on a day-to-day basis in Tuscany. A favorite? Oh, no! Well, I love the hazelnut gelato. And our ragù recipe is a foundation of our kitchen. Everything in The Tuscan Sun Cookbook works beautifully because the recipes are our daily feasts. What I love most is the simplicity of Tuscan cooking. If you see a recipe for a Tuscan dish and it has tons of ingredients, you can be sure it is not authentic. Great ingredients, a lovely wine, a starry night — that’s heaven.
When you cook in your own kitchen, do you find you cook mostly Tuscan-inspired meals?
In Italy, yes. But I live part time in North Carolina and adore Southern food. There’s a big food revolution going on down here, and we happily pair our wines with shrimp and grits, watermelon and beet salad, and low country boil.
You’re visiting the Tuscan Kitchen in Salem in May. This will be a particularly fun event, since it’s not just a book signing but a wine dinner. What are you looking forward to? Do you do many wine dinners?
These dinners are really fun for me. I love to see what the chefs do with our recipes and with pairing our wines. And it’s just a super convivial way to get to meet so many fantastic people. I am lucky to travel this way.
What’s something that the average person can do to have a “Tuscan” moment in their everyday life?
On the spur of the moment, invite six people to dinner. Throw on a handful of extra pasta, pull up the chairs, pop open the wine and relax. 
As seen in the May 1, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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