Singing in May in Umbria…

April 26, 2011

Pino and I had been working the land here outside of Assisi for about eight months and collapsed into bed exhausted on April 30th (1975) - as we did most nights in those days! At around 2:00 am, we were awakened by robust, joyous male voices singing under our window, accompanied by rollicking accordian music and the jangling of a tamburine: our first introduction to the maggiaioli! ("May singers"). read more...

“Planting May” in Umbria

April 26, 2011

On the vigil of May 1st, a small Umbrian hilltown not far from Gubbio, San Pellegrino, celebrates a curious May ritual grounded in Christian tradition but celebrated with a decidedly pagan flair: la Festa di San Pellegrino. Culminating moment of the festival is the "piantarmaggio" ("the planting of May"). read more...

GRAN FINALE to the 2011 U.S. Tour

April 18, 2011

My stay in the Washington, D.C. area was a perfect wrap-up to a memorable 7-week (almost!) coast-to-coast U.S. cooking lessons/lectures tour. It synthesized what my annual U.S. tour is about: connecting with family, old friends and former tour guests via my lectures or cooking classes of Umbrian rural cuisine. In the D.C area, five superb cooking classes were the gran finale: such an interesting variety of people involved in stimulating and interesting work (consider the area!). I learned much in conversation with many of them while cooking... read more...

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...

Spello’s Infiorate: Flowers of Passione

April 17, 2011

It all started on a late June Sunday in the early 1900's when an elderly woman from Spello (Umbria) scattered shredded bunches of brilliant yellow wild broom and mossy green wild fennel on the cobblestone street in front of her home. She had scrambled the slopes of Mt. Subasio, backdropping Spello, to pick the fragrant broom and pungent fennel for her floral "carpet" laid out to welcome the Communion Host venerated by Catholics as the true Body of Christ. It was carried through the streets by the bishop on the Feast of Corpus Domini... read more...

Bevagna: Passione for the Middle Ages

April 17, 2011

I often tell my tour guests that appreciating Italian passione is key to fully understanding the Italians. Passione is the underlying theme of all things Italian: from the elegant presentation of colorful gelati behind pristine glass to the artistic display of meats on butcher's shiny metal trays to the full involvement for months of all the townspeople in preparation for the many local festivals which bring alive Italy's culture and history. read more...

Birthday Candle in the Tiramisu (Mar 21, 2011)

April 14, 2011

Kathleen and Bob's Arlington, Virginia cooking class was a celebration of Bob's birthday - but the gifts were for all of us! All the "chefs" in this festive group cooked in Italian-flag aprons with sharp (in all senses!) new paring knives... read more...

How Much is Quanto Basta? (Mar 20, 2011)

April 14, 2011

"Q.b." for quanto basta ("as much as you need") is the most common annotation in Italian cookbooks. It's a secret I like to share at the start of each cooking class, whether here in our Assisi area farmhouse or at U.S. cooking classes each winter. Paulette and Jim's group really took the quanto basta to heart when we cooked together in Ft. Washington, Maryland, at their home in mid-March, 2011. When anyone asked me about the right amount of olive oil or wine or salt or vinegar needed in the recipes, my most frequent response was "q.b."... read more...