Let's bring this blog back 'round to its original intention. Food. I am pleased to announce that physical labour has nearly returned my appetite to its teenage glory days, and luckily there is no end of things here for me to eat. These are some of my favourites from the past couple of weeks.
It's nut season, and so we've been cracking hazelnuts for everything from pesto to cake and I've gathered walnuts from trees around the yard. Chestnuts are also aplenty; after slicing into the side of each one, Elisa boiled a large batch of them in water for 40 minutes, then pulled back the skins and scooped out their fleshy insides. She pureed the chestnuts with milk and we ate this mildly sweet and nutty porridge for breakfast. Delicious.
This past week some friends of Elisa and Gabriele visited, bringing with them all sorts of treats from Northern Italy. These included homemade bread, blueberry jam, dozens of yellow tomatoes, and impeccable culinary skills. For lunch one afternoon they made gnocchi with butternut squash rather than potatoes. They tossed the bright orange dumplings with poppy-seeds and sage, and I imparted my appreciated with a constant, poppy-seeded smile. The beverage for this meal was provided by Marco, who also runs the farm; he gathered and crushed the grapes which hung in perfect bunches from his patio arbour. The sweet, dark purple juice was delivered in a big glass bottle and we anti-oxidized ourselves for several days.
Two nights ago I had the privilege of learning how to make/eating a lot of pasta fresca. I assisted Michele (a chef/cheesemaker who also lives at the farm) with a private cooking class he did for four Americans renting a villa just up the road. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, they were ridiculously friendly people with whom I gleefully spoke English as-fast-as-I-could all evening. Michele made two kinds of bruschetta and then taught us how to make three different kinds of pasta, each served with a different sauce. My favourite was the freshly-made pesto, and we finished the evening off with tiramisu and hugs.
Yesterday was also special because the circus returned, and everyone knows I love the circus. They had left much of their equipment here and disbanded for several weeks before their next show in northern Italy. Seven of them came back and stayed for lunch, happily satisfying the old-nonna's desire within me to feed everyone I like. We ate two big pots of pasta tossed with roasted peppers and tomatoes, sliced eggplant baked with tomato sauce and cheese, and bread. The food was good, however the best part of this meal was where we ate it; Irene setup a long wooden table outside under a walnut tree, and the ten of us stripped off our sweaters under the hot sun and crowded around the table. Joy.
Finally, a food experience I never saw coming. My hosts are Hare Krishna and on Sunday there was a special festival at the temple, which was crowded with people. First we listened to a man read a story (in English and Italian) about villagers being saved by Krishna from a raging flood. He lifted up their sinking island with his little finger, rescuing every person, plant, and animal on it. This was followed by a great deal of music, singing, clapping, and dancing in front of two men who held up a large piece of orange cloth. Something was hidden behind this, and after fifteen minutes it was finally revealed. What was it? A CAKE!! A massive flour, butter, and sugar reconstruction of the island that Krishna saved. Its two separate layers were covered with all kinds of cookies, sweets, animals, people, rivers, and lakes, and while people gathered around it, I loooonged for my camera. I thought it would be inappropriate to bring, then kicked myself as soon as thirty cell-phone cameras appeared to document the whole scene. Oh well. We enjoyed a delicious Indian meal afterwards, and of course, the cake. I will forever remember the woman serving it, because she gave me the kind of obscenely large piece I always wished for at birthday parties, but sadly never received.
Although I have no photos of the cake (sigh), here are some others...