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Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy

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The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy when they happened upon a small cottage nestled in the Umbrian countryside. The three-hundred-fifty-year-old rustico sat perched on a hill in the verdant Spoleto valley amid an olive grove and fruit trees of every kind. For the Tuckers, The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy when they happened upon a small cottage nestled in the Umbrian countryside. The three-hundred-fifty-year-old rustico sat perched on a hill in the verdant Spoleto valley amid an olive grove and fruit trees of every kind. For the Tuckers, it was literally love at first sight, and the couple purchased the house without testing the water pressure or checking for signs of termites. Shedding the vestiges of their American life, Michael and Jill endeavored to learn the language, understand the nuances of Italian culture, and build a home in this new chapter of their lives. Both a celebration of a good marriage and a careful study of the nature of home, Living in a Foreign Language is a gorgeous, organic travelogue written with an epicurean’s delight in detail and a gourmand’s appreciation for all things fine.


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The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy when they happened upon a small cottage nestled in the Umbrian countryside. The three-hundred-fifty-year-old rustico sat perched on a hill in the verdant Spoleto valley amid an olive grove and fruit trees of every kind. For the Tuckers, The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy when they happened upon a small cottage nestled in the Umbrian countryside. The three-hundred-fifty-year-old rustico sat perched on a hill in the verdant Spoleto valley amid an olive grove and fruit trees of every kind. For the Tuckers, it was literally love at first sight, and the couple purchased the house without testing the water pressure or checking for signs of termites. Shedding the vestiges of their American life, Michael and Jill endeavored to learn the language, understand the nuances of Italian culture, and build a home in this new chapter of their lives. Both a celebration of a good marriage and a careful study of the nature of home, Living in a Foreign Language is a gorgeous, organic travelogue written with an epicurean’s delight in detail and a gourmand’s appreciation for all things fine.

30 review for Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Reads like diary entries from a very lucky person: "Today we met more fabulous talented fun people who took an instant liking to us as well, and we all got drunk and danced around the kitchen. Today our best friend (did we mention in the last 5 pages that she's Korean?) said we were the most fun people she'd ever met. Today we bought the cutest house (they weren't even going to sell it at all, but of course once they met us they fell in love with us and are now our best friends). Today we almost Reads like diary entries from a very lucky person: "Today we met more fabulous talented fun people who took an instant liking to us as well, and we all got drunk and danced around the kitchen. Today our best friend (did we mention in the last 5 pages that she's Korean?) said we were the most fun people she'd ever met. Today we bought the cutest house (they weren't even going to sell it at all, but of course once they met us they fell in love with us and are now our best friends). Today we almost missed our plane, but we made instant friends with everyone at the airport and they helped us get onto our plane. Today we ate at this great little restaurant and now the owners are our BFF's. Today we found the most delicious food in the entire world and washed it down with a bottle of grappa - isn't Italy great? My wife and I are totally in love after all these years, and we have sex a lot. Our kids have great careers and came to visit us at our new Italian retreat this week." etc. etc. While I love Italy, and especially books about ex-pats moving there and trying to start a life, there wasn't any struggle - the authors find a nice house, pay someone else to renovate it (their biggest struggle with home renovations seems to be choosing which beautiful tiles they want to use), and make a close circle of friends almost immediately, and then spend all their time eating fantastic food. Their only obstacles to overcome seem to be how to pay for this fabulous life (I am sure it was more difficult to figure out in real life, but it's kind of glossed over in the book); they're not instantly fluent in Italian; they're gaining weight from all that fantastic food (which leads to a small anecdote about joining a gym, and then is never mentioned again); and the ongoing quest to find the best [insert meat product here]. The hurt feelings of friends they've left behind over the years, when switching cities or countries, is given a very few sentences in the last chapter. I never watched "L.A. Law" and have no idea who these people are, so reading about their lives and careers wasn't very interesting to me. I'm glad they have a nice life, and maybe I'm a bit jealous - I'd love to be able to live part time in Italy. I'd love to be the someone who sees a group of strangers dancing in a field and immediately runs down to join - uninvited - in the dancing. But hey, I'm happy for them, and maybe I can learn a lesson from this about becoming more uninhibited and more open to new adventures and experiences.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Historical Fiction

    I envisioned the story of a couple wholly immersing themselves in another culture when I first discovered Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy, but my expectations proved a little off target. This is the story of a complete snob who loves food, an uninspiring self-congratulatory foray into the life of Michael Tucker. The book rubbed me wrong from the start. “The lobby was empty, too. Of celebrities, that is. There were other people – regular people – but you can I envisioned the story of a couple wholly immersing themselves in another culture when I first discovered Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy, but my expectations proved a little off target. This is the story of a complete snob who loves food, an uninspiring self-congratulatory foray into the life of Michael Tucker. The book rubbed me wrong from the start. “The lobby was empty, too. Of celebrities, that is. There were other people – regular people – but you can’t imagine how easy it is to tell the difference.” Maybe I don’t get his sense of humor, but he reads like a high bow jerk, begging for sympathy over the cancellation of L.A. Law and the ‘traumatic’ change of circumstance that forced him to sell his retirement property in Big Sur. I'm sorry, but I live in the real world and don’t have much compassion for a man whining over a situation that allowed him to purchase and renovate a second home in a foreign country. Tucker goes on to describe all the marvelous dishes he samples, occasionally offering up a small anecdote about the wine, but his brief departures into regional history are lifeless and dull. He does say some extremely flattering things about his friends, mostly expats who read as privileged and arrogant as he does himself, but it bothered me that Tucker didn’t have much to say about Italians or their culture. Pardon me, but there wasn’t enough Italy in the book, just a lot of fluff about Tucker and his friends, people who are no more Italian than he is. If you are going to ‘live in a foreign language’ you should embrace it wholeheartedly, but the only aspect Tucker seems to appreciate is the cuisine. That being the case, perhaps he should consider writing a cook book. Compile the recipes, add the commentary and call it a day.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tisha.temple

    I literally didn't have time to list this book as "currently reading." I started it yesterday and finished it today. It is hilarious, touching, motivating, exciting, etc. I started reading it because it talked about the food of Italy, but continued because it was just a great read. It really makes me wish that it was me living in Italy, cooking pizza in my own 400 year old outdoor oven, buying fresh EVERYTHING, living well and slowly not running around trying to get everything done immediately, I literally didn't have time to list this book as "currently reading." I started it yesterday and finished it today. It is hilarious, touching, motivating, exciting, etc. I started reading it because it talked about the food of Italy, but continued because it was just a great read. It really makes me wish that it was me living in Italy, cooking pizza in my own 400 year old outdoor oven, buying fresh EVERYTHING, living well and slowly not running around trying to get everything done immediately, and learning how to cook from experts in the area who have cooked their entire lives and are as connected to the land and area as if they were literally planted there. I laughed out loud more times than I can remember and just ache to move to Italy. ENJOY!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    A lovely and delightfully written mini-memoir by actor Michael Tucker (remember him from L.A. LAW?) about his impulsive purchase of a 350 year old worker's cottage in Umbria and the year that followed. Fortunately, this is not one of those stories that bog down in the details of construction, coping with ancient plumbing, and finding the perfect iron gate. Instead, it focuses on Tucker's affinity for the place more or less as it is, his appreciation of its history, and his newcomer's delight in A lovely and delightfully written mini-memoir by actor Michael Tucker (remember him from L.A. LAW?) about his impulsive purchase of a 350 year old worker's cottage in Umbria and the year that followed. Fortunately, this is not one of those stories that bog down in the details of construction, coping with ancient plumbing, and finding the perfect iron gate. Instead, it focuses on Tucker's affinity for the place more or less as it is, his appreciation of its history, and his newcomer's delight in the food, friends and festivals he discovers in his new "neighborhood." But it's also a sidelong love letter to his wife Jill Eikenberry (remember her also? from LA LAW?), with whom he is unabashedly, ridiculously and beautifully still besotted after thirty-some years of marriage. Tucker is a small, rather round guy who looks somewhat like Winnie the Pooh, Eikenberry a tall patrician WASP beauty, and every story he tells about her, every quote he quotes, is suffused after decades together with the dazed, astonished joy of the A/V geek who still can't quite believe the prom queen chose him. A quick, heartwarming read that will make you feel good all week, both a gentle reminder of the way the simplest things actually offer the greatest pleasures, and a confirmation that the most impulsive choice can sometimes be the most rewarding one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn/QuAppelle

    This book was fantastic. Having spent time in Italy, I found that Tucker painted a wonderfully fleshed-out picture of living there. I cannot even count how many people I recommended this book to, who also loved it. I loved Tucker's humor and his take on living in Italy and the way he related to his wife and friends. I want to be their friend!!!!! Highly recommended--- and I want to read more. I wish he kept a blog. As soon as I closed the book, I started to miss this couple. This book was fantastic. Having spent time in Italy, I found that Tucker painted a wonderfully fleshed-out picture of living there. I cannot even count how many people I recommended this book to, who also loved it. I loved Tucker's humor and his take on living in Italy and the way he related to his wife and friends. I want to be their friend!!!!! Highly recommended--- and I want to read more. I wish he kept a blog. As soon as I closed the book, I started to miss this couple.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    Fun book. But don't read it if you are hungry. Best enjoyed with a jug of wine & a loaf of bread. Thou is optional. If ever a book could make you want to travel somewhere just to eat the food this would be that book. Fun book. But don't read it if you are hungry. Best enjoyed with a jug of wine & a loaf of bread. Thou is optional. If ever a book could make you want to travel somewhere just to eat the food this would be that book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Dowling

    There is really nothing wrong with this book. It was a fine, easy weekend read. It is squarely in the Californians (in this case, Michael Tucker and Jill Eichenberry of LA Law fame) move to Italy (Umbria instead of Tuscany), buy a house, renovate/add-on to house, travel all over, mention the house keeper and gardener in passing, eat and drink anything and everything and spend the whole time complaining about how broke they are. Anyone who doesn't consider a couple hundred grand a year to be mini There is really nothing wrong with this book. It was a fine, easy weekend read. It is squarely in the Californians (in this case, Michael Tucker and Jill Eichenberry of LA Law fame) move to Italy (Umbria instead of Tuscany), buy a house, renovate/add-on to house, travel all over, mention the house keeper and gardener in passing, eat and drink anything and everything and spend the whole time complaining about how broke they are. Anyone who doesn't consider a couple hundred grand a year to be minimum wage probably won't be too sympathetic -- but that is easy to ignore. The real problem with this book is that it was written by an amateur. It is supposed to be saved by that unabashed revealing of personality that is always supposed to save amateur dinner theater -- it really doesn't work. The book isn't specific enough to make a good travel guide or cookbook. It isn't gossipy enough to be driven by the personalities. It does drive home the point that it is all about the food -- and the wine -- and the grappa; but without the detail that makes the Frances Mayes books so successful. Again, the book is fine. It is mildly entertaining, an easy read, a reminder of all the reasons I would love to have the time and money to have a house in Italy; but it is not the equal of the Frances Mayes books, Alan Epstein's or Ferenc Mate's.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Normally I get irritated with name dropping and the ability to traipse around the world without a care about the cost, but having recently returned from 12 days eating and drinking our way through Italy, I was so happy to read something similar to the food and wine we enjoyed while there. Maybe one day I'll have a little vacation home with an olive grove! "The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy whe Normally I get irritated with name dropping and the ability to traipse around the world without a care about the cost, but having recently returned from 12 days eating and drinking our way through Italy, I was so happy to read something similar to the food and wine we enjoyed while there. Maybe one day I'll have a little vacation home with an olive grove! "The actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, having sent their last child off to college, were vacationing in Italy when they happened upon a small cottage nestled in the Umbrian countryside. The three-hundred-fifty-year-old rustico sat perched on a hill in the verdant Spoleto valley amid an olive grove and fruit trees of every kind. For the Tuckers, it was literally love at first sight, and the couple purchased the house without testing the water pressure or checking for signs of termites. Shedding the vestiges of their American life, Michael and Jill endeavored to learn the language, understand the nuances of Italian culture, and build a home in this new chapter of their lives."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mariia Manko

    I find this book exciting especially for vocation! It is about enjoying the life, and the way it is. We have to enjoy the life with all it imperfections. We have to be flexible and open-minded. The only paradise is in side you, the way you feel. Don't forget it. For sure I enjoyed reading about Italy. I just love its lifestyle. I find this book exciting especially for vocation! It is about enjoying the life, and the way it is. We have to enjoy the life with all it imperfections. We have to be flexible and open-minded. The only paradise is in side you, the way you feel. Don't forget it. For sure I enjoyed reading about Italy. I just love its lifestyle.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bookwoman7

    Maybe it was because I just read Doran's "The Reluctant Tuscan," and maybe the book was just not that good, but I never got a sense of Italy - only Hollywood and people who need a LOT of maintenance. Tucker and his wife spend nearly all their time glued to an expat community in Umbria. Sure the other ex-pats have discovered great butchers and the like, but hearing about being introduced to someone - and finding a place on one's own is altogether different. It was as if there was a curtain betwee Maybe it was because I just read Doran's "The Reluctant Tuscan," and maybe the book was just not that good, but I never got a sense of Italy - only Hollywood and people who need a LOT of maintenance. Tucker and his wife spend nearly all their time glued to an expat community in Umbria. Sure the other ex-pats have discovered great butchers and the like, but hearing about being introduced to someone - and finding a place on one's own is altogether different. It was as if there was a curtain between Tucker and his "discoveries," if you could call them that. It put a greater space between the reader and the country that does not exist in "The Reluctant Tuscan." If you really want a vicarious experience in a foreign land, stick with Phil Doran and Peter Mayle. This "Hollywood-ized" version of those European tales doesn't even come close.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    Michael Tucker's book was a delightful read! His humor, his appreciation for "the good life," and his love of everything Italian, make this so much more than a travel diary. The only thing better than reading this book is BEING THERE. Reading this book makes doing that seem very possible! Michael Tucker's book was a delightful read! His humor, his appreciation for "the good life," and his love of everything Italian, make this so much more than a travel diary. The only thing better than reading this book is BEING THERE. Reading this book makes doing that seem very possible!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    This book seemed like my jam...living abroad, food...trying to assimilate in a second culture. Yay! I had this book on my to read list for awhile--- and this is the year of getting stuff OFF, so....no time like tracking it down as now. First disclaimer: I had never heard of Michael Tucker (the actor) before....though he seems to think I should have. Second disclaimer: I often get annoyed with Americans living abroad and dissing a culture they are forcing their way into. (Yea, I am not sure why I This book seemed like my jam...living abroad, food...trying to assimilate in a second culture. Yay! I had this book on my to read list for awhile--- and this is the year of getting stuff OFF, so....no time like tracking it down as now. First disclaimer: I had never heard of Michael Tucker (the actor) before....though he seems to think I should have. Second disclaimer: I often get annoyed with Americans living abroad and dissing a culture they are forcing their way into. (Yea, I am not sure why I read travel memoirs either...sigh.) I am hesitant to say this book was great--- but it was definitely enjoyable and fun. Once Tucker and his wife actually settled into a space in Umbria, Italy and I got used to his snobbiness....I read and enjoyed his meals, but I have to say....the first 50 pages I was rolling his eyes with all his name dropping and his insulting of the "regular people". He hints often about how famous he is--- and how other fawn over him and his wife....and ya da ya da, get over yourself. I would love to be able to buy and sell real estate as quickly as he does---while in the same chapter complain about how little money I have for the lifestyle I live....but that's the negative! The positive is the reader gets to pretend to live in Umbria and pretend it is that easy to buy real estate in a foreign language, get a visa--- and eat all the food. And....he eats a lot. Read if you enjoy a travel (more of a explanation of ONE place) memoir....while also hearing all about how fabulous a little known actor is....

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    If I could give this book 10 stars I would. I read this book as slow as possible because I didn't want it to end and kept putting it down to make it last longer. When I did finish it, I felt as if I had just had a long enjoyable meal with old friends. The book is written as if you're having a conversation with Tucker. In the book Tucker talks about Jill (Eikenberry), their kids, ITALY, FOOD and love. Love of each other, of family, of friends and life itself. He talks about their worries after LA If I could give this book 10 stars I would. I read this book as slow as possible because I didn't want it to end and kept putting it down to make it last longer. When I did finish it, I felt as if I had just had a long enjoyable meal with old friends. The book is written as if you're having a conversation with Tucker. In the book Tucker talks about Jill (Eikenberry), their kids, ITALY, FOOD and love. Love of each other, of family, of friends and life itself. He talks about their worries after LA Law and then something as simple as lighting a fire in their fireplace in Italy. Their decision to buy their house in Umbria and eventually their home in NY. He talks about the language barrier and food. Living in Italy, the slower pace and food. Friends and food. Do you see a pattern here? There is always food. I walked away from this book full, relaxed and feeling like we were old friends. I already ordered "Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent" Thank you Michael Tucker for sharing this book, your friends, your family and your food with me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ket Lamb

    "L.A. Law" veterans, Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, buy a rustico in Umbria, where they discover the best kept culinary secrets of the area. Learn what makes one butcher's prosciutto delectable and to sample those mouth-watering sandwiches at a rosdside porchetta. Just don't read this book on a diet! "L.A. Law" veterans, Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, buy a rustico in Umbria, where they discover the best kept culinary secrets of the area. Learn what makes one butcher's prosciutto delectable and to sample those mouth-watering sandwiches at a rosdside porchetta. Just don't read this book on a diet!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This book was enchanting right from the start. Michael Tucker has a wonderful sense of humor and at times, his quick wit will have you laughing out loud. Reading this book makes you want to take the plunge and buy a home in a foreign land just for the experience of living and loving abroad. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and didn't want it to end. This book was enchanting right from the start. Michael Tucker has a wonderful sense of humor and at times, his quick wit will have you laughing out loud. Reading this book makes you want to take the plunge and buy a home in a foreign land just for the experience of living and loving abroad. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and didn't want it to end.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I enjoyed living through Michael Tucker while reading this book. I have never been to Italy and it has been high up on my "must do" list, but I felt like I was seeing their home and the dinners they made as if I was a guest. I enjoyed living through Michael Tucker while reading this book. I have never been to Italy and it has been high up on my "must do" list, but I felt like I was seeing their home and the dinners they made as if I was a guest.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    If you enjoyed "Under The Tuscan Sun" you will enjoy this read. Your mouth will water at each chapter as he describes the preparation and enjoyment of each meal in Italy. Living in another country is not for everyone but Michael gives you a real taste of how evolved for them. Great vacation read. If you enjoyed "Under The Tuscan Sun" you will enjoy this read. Your mouth will water at each chapter as he describes the preparation and enjoyment of each meal in Italy. Living in another country is not for everyone but Michael gives you a real taste of how evolved for them. Great vacation read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Mader

    I picked this up at the library just because it was set in Italy, but frankly didn't expect much. I enjoyed it, though, found the writing natural and sometimes funny and I learned some quirky things about Italy. It was a good vacation read. I picked this up at the library just because it was set in Italy, but frankly didn't expect much. I enjoyed it, though, found the writing natural and sometimes funny and I learned some quirky things about Italy. It was a good vacation read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ye Jin

    Reading this book makes you want to follow in their footsteps and take it one step further to become expats. What a wonderful description of the Umbria region of Italy as well as a descriptive collection of the regional food they enjoyed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Diane Haegele

    Average writing (I kept thinking that I could write a book such as this if I had spent a month in another country) Self-congratulatory, self-promotional, self,self,self!!! Other than names of small villages in Umbria, which might be nice to visit), there was little of value....

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Fun little romp with Michael Tucker in Umbria. Descriptions of food and drink were mouthwatering.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Delightful story of two Americans learning to live and eat in a foreign country!

  23. 5 out of 5

    M

    ---- kind of sick of the "I bought a house in Italy and gained a new appreciation of life/food/love" genre --- and yet I can't resist it. ---- kind of sick of the "I bought a house in Italy and gained a new appreciation of life/food/love" genre --- and yet I can't resist it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Cute Book! Anyone who loves to eat and travel will like this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Risley

    This is another memoir about an American moving to Italy. It's written by the actor Michael Tucker. He's good. This is another memoir about an American moving to Italy. It's written by the actor Michael Tucker. He's good.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    Truly light reading but great fun especially if you have spent time in Italy. Tucker is touching in his descriptions of his life with Jill...Would love to visit their little stone house in Umbria!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matt Howard

    This memoir by the actor Michael Tucker is a memoir about love - love for his wife, for good food and wine, and for Italy. Definitely worth reading, even if you never cook.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Sedei

    A fun book about living and eating in Umbria.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    Written by the former LA Law star, he purchased a home with his wife in Umbria. I wanted to eat the food I was reading about and wished I had the money to live there too.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This was a fun book to read .. and made me wish I had tons of money to buy a restored farmhouse in Italy

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