Buono come il pane

January 30, 2012

"Buono come il pane" ("as good as bread") is how the Italians describe a good-hearted, generous person. For the Greeks, bread was "the food of the gods", for the Anglo-Saxons, "the staff of life". "Il pane e' una cosa sacra", Peppa told me the other day as she sliced crosses across the tops of the two loaves she'd just formed, holding them almost tenderly in her hands... read more...

Bread: Rural Lore, Rural Traditions

January 30, 2012

I finally have my matera - or the traditional Umbrian bread cupboard. Many years ago, our farm neighbors, Peppe and Mandina, had decided to chop up Mandina's old and well-used matera for firewood. The doors were coming off the hinges and were cracked. They would not have been able to afford restoration, nor were they in any way attached to their matera. They were suprised when I told them I would love to have it and they were happy to give it to me. Mu husband Pino and I took it to a carpenter who also restored wood furniture. When we went back for it, he told us the matera had been beyond restoration and so he had chopped it up to fuel his woodstove... read more...

Perugia’s SAN COSTANZO – and a Sweet Wink

January 27, 2012

Perugia is not just proud of its chocolate, Etruscan artifacts and the Umbria Jazz festival: this provincial capital of Umbria also boasts not just one but three patron saints! Legend tells us that one of them, San Costanzo, first bishop, was buried outside of the city's Roman walls after his decapitation in the 3rd century. Celebrations start the night before his feast day, January 29, with the luminaria, the candlelit procession to the Church of San Costanzo, built on the site of his martyrdom. read more...

Sant’Antonio e il Malocchio

January 19, 2012

Our beloved San Francesco di Assisi might be revered as the patron saint of animals in other countries but certainly not here in Italy: Sant'Antonio Abate, 4th-century hermit saint who lived in the Egyptian desert with just a piglet for a companion, is the protector of Italy's animals. On his feast day, January 17th, animal-lovers gather at a designated church - cats in arms, dogs on leashes, turtles in boxes, canaries in cages, sheep harnessed, horses bridled - to have their animals blessed... read more...

Cilento: Finalmente!

January 17, 2012

South of Salerno, curvy wooded coastal roads rim rugged cliffs that plummet to the pristine sea below. Tiny towns hug the rocky cliffs hanging over hidden coastal inlets of aquamarine water. Superb seafood restaurants entice visitors to picturesque ports. Oh, yes, Roman ruins, Saracen towers, Bourbon French fortresses, Greek temples, medieval monasteries, and abandoned mountain villages are there, too, in case the splendid seaside is not enticement enough. read more...

2012 U.S Tour: Cooking IS Communicating

January 11, 2012

I've been offering cooking lesssons of Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes since 1998 - when Cathleen from San Anselmo invited me to bring Umbria's flavors into her kitchen. I've never yet had a stated U.S Tour "theme" but I think that I will this year: "Cooking IS Communicating." read more...

Il Calendario di Sale

January 9, 2012

Onions and salt to predict the weather in the New Year? Over our years on the land, I've learned how farm women can take off il malocchio, how St. Anthony's image in a stall will keep the animals healthy, how a cross made of woven reeds can protect the crops in the field and that you never shake out a tablecloth nor throw out the crumbs swept off the floor after the Ave Maria (ie, after 6 pm) - and now I've learned how to predict the coming year's weather with onions and salt. read more...

Naples: A Street-life Nativity

December 22, 2011

In a bustling narrow alleyway in downtown Naples, Neapolitan life and Naples' highest craft traditions merge. I can't imagine Christmas without a walk in Via San Gregorio Armeno, nor any visit to Naples without a stop here. The sacred and the profane blend in wondrous harmony in the Neapolitan creche tradition - and are alive on the streets. read more...

Near Lucca, “il Ciancino” Lives On

December 20, 2011

On the tables, the silverware flanks the menus: laminated plastic cards listing the full array of Ciancino goodness, though not all dishes are served each day. Black magic marker rings the dishes offered. I wanted to try the pasta calabrese (with beef, olives, hot red pepper) but like the picciante, "tutto esaurito." I opted for the tasty rosticciana in umido (ribs in spicy tomato sauce with local black olives) while Pino and friends made good work of the boiled meats special: beef and tongue served with pickled red onions and a caper/ancovy sauce on the side. Desserts enticed as much as the main courses: zabaione semifreddo, profiteroles, fruit tarts, to name a few. read more...

Italian Cooking in U.S. Schools?

December 13, 2011

Children certainly do need to learn maths, literature, history and geography in school. They also need to learn about an important means of communication, necessary for their health and well-being: cooking - and the making and sharing of foods with others. I so enjoyed teaching Italian cooking, healthy eating and nutrition in a Texas school in 2009. Time to get back into the schools, taking the message of Nadia with me, too. read more...