Faith & Penelope

We do a lot of research for our trips, and we carry a lot of material with us.

Two country-specific books on food have become bibles to us for their respective nations.

We affectionally and respectfully refer to them by their authors’ first names — Faith and Penelope.

Faith refers to Eating in Italy by Faith Heller Willinger.

Penelope is Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide by Penelope Casas.

Both authors are married to men native to the countries about which they write.

We first heard about Faith Willinger two decades ago when we read an article in The New York Times saying that among foodies she was the most highly regarded expert on Northern Italian food. We ordered the book in the original 1989 edition and liked what we saw: good summaries of the regions, sensible tips, and reviews that seemed to reflect the same points of view we had. A revised edition was published in 1998.

The book deals almost exclusively with food and wine. The only problem is that it is a bit out of date in — restaurants are gone and there are, of course, no references to some wonderful new ones. But, overall, we have gleaned an enormous amount of useful information from it and check it first when we are headed for the areas covered. It is still a trove of great information. We found several of our still-favorite places from it. If we had only discovered Luchin in Chiavari, the book would have been worth the price. But we got much more.

Penelope Casas’ book is different in that it covers a lot more than food — scenery, historical context, and art and architecture. It is more of a complete touring guide. On a recent two-week drive through northwestern Spain we found it very useful. and, even though we were using the original 1992 edition, it was still very accurate. Most of the eating places mentioned were still operating. There are later editions or printings listed on the internet, but we have not seen these.

An interesting gastronomical footnote to our Spanish trip is that the menus had changed  very little from what we had almost two decades ago, whereas in France, where we spend a majority of our time in Europe, the menus have changed dramatically. Unfortunately, the changes have been in the dreaded direction of inventif. The traditional in Spain seems to be held in higher regard than in France.

Copyright © 2012 Jean & Peter Richards


About oldmainetravelers

The Old Maine Travelers are Peter and Jean Richards, who met more than a half century ago covering President John F. Kennedy on what would become his last trip to Boston.  They worked for many years as wire service and newspaper reporters and editors.  Peter did a nightly television show on WGBH, Boston, before he went into government in the administration of John V. Lindsay, mayor of New York City. After they moved to their brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Jean did a spell on Madison Avenue in the real “Mad Men” days and later became public relations officer at Chase Manhattan Bank.  Since 1973 they have worked together first as owners and publishers of a group of award-winning newspapers in Dutchess County, N.Y., and then as antiques dealers.  Now they are old and live on the coast of Maine and in the Southwest of France when not traveling further afield. In the red barn by their house in Damariscotta, Maine, they tend an antique shop specializing in 18th and 19th century furniture, metalwork and accessories, buying objects they know about and like and selling them from May to October to delightful people of obvious discernment and taste. In France, they live in an old stone house in the shadows of the remaining towers of an unfinished 17th century church and above Roman drains in a town along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. They love it — for its authenticity and abundant boulangeries.  The rest of the time they travel the world together seeing the sights, seeking out museums, stumbling into interesting conversations, savoring local specialties and otherwise bumbling along in their own style. For years they have sent article-length postcards to family, friends, fellow travelers and some media. Many of these will now be posted here.
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