Blessed Easter Abundance in Umbria

April 18, 2011

Driving through the Umbrian countryside during the week prior to Easter, you'd note whiffs of smoke drifting up from the outdoor stone bread ovens fired up by the farmwomen. Holy Week for the Umbrian farmwomen is a busy one, an exhausting one: making the torta di Pasqua ("Easter cake") or pizza pasquale, as it is often called, in the stone bread ovens is a major task. The traditional Easter "cake" or "pizza" is a raised cheese bread, make of eggs, flour, olive oil, salt, pepper and three kinds of cheeses: parmigiano, pecorino and groviera... read more...

Treasured Gifts: Rural Life, Rural Friends

April 18, 2011

I've been writing for quite some time about our life on the land here in Umbria - and our rural friends, "givers of the greatest gifts". I started sharing the memories long before I launched the blog. Our farm neighbors remain our dearest friends... over the years, each has given us treasured gifts... read more...

Revered Rural Rite: La Veglia

April 4, 2011

For Roosevelt, a "fireside chat" denoted intimate dialogue with the people. The fireside chat - called "veglia" ("vigil") - was always an intimate moment of life in central Italy's rural culture. I miss those years of the "andare alla veglia" ("going to keep the vigil") at our neighbors' farmhouses on winter evenings, where so much rural lore and rural wisdom was passionately shared by our farm friends around the fireplace. read more...

“In vino veritas?” …Maybe

February 20, 2011

Wine and its sharp-tongued sister, vinegar, are certainly sacred in rural culture, if not harbingers of truth. Our wise farm friend, Peppa, told me that when her family farmed, weak baby chicks were strengthened by wine... read more...

Our Farm Friends: Givers of the Greatest Gifts

December 15, 2010

After living the rural life with them for over thirty-five years, I am still learning from our farm neighbors. Over the years, each has given us treasured gifts. The gifts keep coming. Here are some of the people who taught us about the land. Some are still alive. Others are gone. Each has given us the greatest of all gifts: of themselves, fully. read more...

MOSTRA/MERCATO or “Show-and-Sell”

November 30, 2010

Not "show and tell" but "show and sell" is the theme of the Italian mostra mercato. These markets - generally open-air - can feature just a handful of vendors or hundreds and anything on display can be bought - and in some cases, tasted. For us, no better way to warm up a chilly November night than at the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo near Valtopina... read more...

Truffles Reign Triumphant

November 24, 2010

The truffle has always been the richest and most refined element of Mediterranean cuisine. Certainly not desired for its beauty - it resembles a measily rotten potato - the truffle grows underground, like the potato, far from light and air, taking its nourishment, like other mushrooms, from the forest undergrowth. read more...

Monteleone di Spoleto: Chariots, Chickpeas and…. Farro

November 16, 2010

Monteleone. The picturesque hilltown's name, "Mount of the Lion", denotes force, domination and greatness. The name might seem pretentious for this tiny mountaintop village in the Val Nerina area of Umbria, not far from Spoleto, nearly abandoned, with two cafés and one restaurant But the sixth-century B.C.gilded bronze biga (chariot) - unearthed here in 1902 - and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - "was certainly owned by someone powerful," local "chariot expert", Roberto told us proudly. The chariot - of possible Etruscan workmanship - embodies a glorious past. read more...

Corn Harvest, Past

November 5, 2010

Like bent over old men, dried cornstalks stand forlornly in fields joining our farm land. The corn has been picked and who knows if it has been pulverized for chicken feed or for the corn mash which will fatten the pigs, turning their rear thighs into tasty prosciutti? Then again, the corn might have been ground for corn flour for polenta or brustengolo, one of the few sweets which highlight Umbrian rural cuisine. read more...

‘Open House’ at Umbria’s Olive Oil Mills

November 5, 2010

Umbria, called "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains of our region and the silver-green of the olive trees which cover our hills. The superb olive oils of Umbria (and particulary those of the Assisi/Spello area) - considered the best in the world by Alain Ducasse, famed French chef - are celebrated in the Frantoi Aperti (best translated "Open House at the Olive Oil Mills") festival from the end of October to early December... read more...