On October 28, 2010, Fairfield University welcomed back Fairfield native Paula Butturini for a discussion and reading of her acclaimed memoir, Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy. Free and open to the public, this Arts and Minds event was co-sponsored by the following University programs:
- Modern Languages and Literatures
- Italian Studies
- Catholic Studies
- MFA in Creative Writing
Butturini began her discussion with an overview of her memoir and the catalyst for it – the severe beating she and her husband endured while both were covering the fall of Communism in 1989, and the sniper bullet that nearly killed her husband during the ordeal. When Butturini’s mother committed suicide shortly after, she began to look to the simple pleasure of preparing, cooking, and enjoying meals with her family as a release from the incredible strife they were undergoing. While the intention of the book was to record a chronological and precise description of her husband’s struggles for his older two children, then 14 and 8, Butturini discovered the need to balance the chronicle of their suffering with their joy of eating – and the healing that comes with simply sitting down to three meals a day with one’s family.
Butturini shared with her audience of Fairfield students and community members her philosophy that food is more than just fuel – it puts heart into each of us. Taste is our primal connection to the outside world. Food – and its associated activities of preparing, eating, and sharing with family – became her lifeline to normalcy while her husband battled two bouts of severe depression and she came to terms with her own sadness. She urged audience members to reach out for help if they ever felt the isolation and pain that her family is all too familiar with, and ended her discussion with passages read from her memoir.
Attending this event helped me to see how important it is to spend time with family members, be it while preparing or sitting down for a meal, or spending a day together doing activities we enjoy. For Paula, her Italian-American background steeped in tradition surrounding food helped keep her family afloat through such unbelievably hard times. As an Italian-American myself, I understand the role food can play in bonding familial relationships, and will carry her lesson about family support with me for the rest of my life.
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