Much Better Than Expected

Gathering Dinner in My Skirt

I never expected to be a gentleman farmer’s wife.

What I had imagined was someday vacationing at a Tuscan villa or a countryside cottage in Provence with working gardens and orchards, a la ">Under the Tuscan Sun or ">A Year in Provence style. Drinking co-oped wine, finding local meats and produce to play with, eating, walking the countryside and lolling in the sun. Now, that would be some treat.

The opportunity to reinvent my life presented itself several years ago through a simultaneous empty nest and divorce. My new, expansive imaginings had me gearing up to live an ultra-urban lifestyle. Replete with a tiny high-rise loft in the heart of a larger city, in my dreams mornings would start with coffee and the paper at the corner café, then I’d catch the trolley for the office. At the office I'd exchange my flats for the heels I'd carried in my day-pack, like Mr. Rogers in reverse. My lunch would be brown-bagged, and I’d pick my groceries up at the shi-shi yuppy grocery and carry them up the block to home in eco friendly bags. I’d prepare delicious meals-for-one in my miniature kitchen. I’d bounce into yoga class three times a week on my way home from work (I'd already thanked God for the day-pack,) and in the evenings I’d meet friends at hip nightspots for cocktails. Saturdays, I’d be in a cozy yarn shop window nook stitching socks and sweaters with my fellow knitters. Sundays, I’d peruse secondhand bookstores and from there walk to the art museum where I would have an annual pass. All the while, I'd be saving up for Tuscany or Provence. I’d have it made. Just me, myself, and I.

And then… Love came waltzing in.

And Love happened to live in the country.

My Sweet Baby

Once I recovered from the whiplash of aligning my paradigm with a new reality, I learned that to love well and be well loved was my truest, most sincere, deep down dream, far surpassing any lifestyle I could conjure. And while I wouldn’t say no to the possibility of visiting Tuscany and Provence, my dreams happen everyday, right here at home. Being surrounded by a working garden and orchard, preparing delicious meals-for-two (and having delicious meals prepared for me, as well,) having a cellar full of amazing wine, lolling in my own back yard, and walking gorgeous golden hills steps from the back door all come with the Love package.

I wear heels far less often, My Baby makes my morning coffee better than any cafe with beans purchased from a local roaster, and occasionally my lunch is a burger and beer from the tavern in town.

When I put on my "this could almost be Italy" glasses, it is food like this I imagine. Simple, pure Pizza Margherita. The freshest of tomatoes go into this sauce, as in 10 minutes from vine to oven, just like I picture it to be in Tuscany.
Our Frequent Pizza Wine

Exceptionally Good Pizza Crust, stretched thin (allow it to relax on the pan a good long while before you even think of stretching it in order to get a nice, thin, Euro-style crust)
Fresh tomato sauce (recipe below)
8 oz. fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced 1/4 thick
Several sprigs fresh basil, picked from your herb garden

Fresh Tomato Sauce
15 small plum tomatoes
Hefty pinch (about 3/4 teaspoon) dried Mediterranean oregano (because no cooking is involved with this sauce, I opt for the condensed flavor of dried oregano over fresh)
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Go gather 15 small plum tomatoes from your garden. Cut a small X in the bottom, then drop them in the boiling water for about one minute. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. (Your X-cut and the boiling water make them practically peel themselves.)

Place tomatoes and remaining ingredients in bowl of food processor. Pulse 4 or 5 times until a moderately chunky sauce is formed.

Schmear sauce over stretched crust. It won't be too thick, just a light layer of sauce. Arrange sliced mozzarella over top. Bake at 450˚ for a standard oven, 475˚ for a convection oven, for 15 minutes until golden brown top and bottom.

Tear basil into small bits and scatter atop. Slice and serve with a fresh-from-your-garden salad, homemade balsamic dressing, and a great Italian Montepulciano. Sink your teeth in, sigh, and realize sometimes things turn out much better than expected.


  1. You are going to create a lot of friendly tears of joy today. What a beautiful reflection on where you have come from and where you are going. And of course the pizza and wine look fantastic!


  2. What a fabulous post! Very touching and that pizza looks delicious!

  3. What a beautiful life you have in the country, city mouse! P.S. You could roast your own beans and pull your own mozzarella, all in an hour, if you were so inclined. (How's that for local?)

  4. Great post and that pizza looks amazing!!!

  5. Looks fantastically fresh and delicious! This post is great... a perfect example of why it's so important to be open minded!

  6. Loved reading this post, truly from the heart and it sounds like your life is full and beautiful. :) Oh, and I would like some of that tomato sauce as well! Are you sharing?

  7. Pam, that's a wonderful post! Your life in many ways is like mine except I'd been divorced for about 28 years when I fell in love. All I wanted was someone fun to hang out with and I found the love of my life! It just goes to show you that sometimes life gets in the way of our plans and we find that it's so much better the other way. Kate

  8. Isn't it lovely how life can work itself out better than we could have ever expected? I'm so glad that you were so pleasantly surprised. Plus, that pizza looks delicious!

  9. That's y kinda meal - wine included! YUM!

  10. The sauce recipe sounds great and the pictures are beautiful - but I was really touched by the lovely story about your man . . . very sweet! I found myself moving to the Midwest from San Francisco under similar circumstances. Isn't life funny?

  11. What a beautiful story and pizza. Life is what you make of it, and you have made a beautiful life. I've been married to my Sweetie, chef, and sous chef for over 9 yrs, and have never been happier.

  12. My favorite wine. Go farm!

  13. Love can sure change everything. I spent the first half of my life never having left the South. Who knew I'd fall in love and spend the last 26 years as a California girl!

  14. It's a lovely post and lovely pizza :)

  15. Isn't it amazing how we can think we know exactly what is good for us and then life can come along and throw a spanner in the works? In your case it seems to have been a wonderful spanner :)

    Great pizza, I'm sure it's just perfect to eat out in the garden :)

  16. simple is usually best -- as you have proved here. I could go for a slice (or 2) of that! Theresa

  17. Another great post, as always. Thanks for sharing!

  18. oh i LOVE that wine and you are so right... perfect with pizza. Nice blog. I look forward to reading it!

  19. Beautiful post, Pam. You describe your love life so eloquently. Your gentleman farmer must be a Renaissance Man if he does calligraphy, too! (Of course, the pizza looks wonderful, too.)

  20. So now that I'm done with the swooning, I have to give props, yeah? Beautiful blog and pizza. So many of us here, including muggins, can relate. That's amore!


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