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...

The Olives are In!

December 12, 2011

What's my favorite late fall day? The day or two when we pick our olives or the day the olio novello comes back from the mill? In every Umbrian farmhouse, stainless steel cannisters now hold every farm's cold-pressed, recently-milled olive oil. Lift the lid, put your nose in...and ah...the fruity pungent smell of the olio nuovo carries you away. It's hard to think of a dish here not enhanced by this italianissimo condiment. Our farm women neighbors even use it in the place of butter in tasty moist cakes. Olive oil stars as king of the Mediterranean diet, now UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Intangible. Over 50,000 acres of Umbrian farmland are given over to cultivation of our "liquid gold" but - mamma mia! - production is down this year. read more...

Umbrian Hilltown tours of “Auntie Annie”

December 10, 2011

Our final tour together, the Rural Life Revisited tour, might have been the highlight of the Italy stay of this San Diego family. Chiarina won over little Van when she made us bruschetta with the olio novello. Kathleen and Jon enjoyed tasting the family's wine. When farm friend Gentile asked Aeriel to stay and live with her, Aeriel asked her mother, Kathleen, if she could say "SI"... read more...

Gubbio’s Guinness Record Lights the Mountain

December 6, 2011

Who could ever imagine that a quiet medieval Umbrian hilltown- not even on the railroad line - would merit a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Gubbio did it with Albero di Natale più grande del mondo. Between 7 and 8 pm on December 7th - vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - thousands of excited Eugubini gather in Gubbio's piazzas, eyes on Mount Ingino backdropping the town, as the lights are lit on the World's Largest Christmas Tree (Guinness World Records, 1991). Read more...

Imola Draws Every Buona Forchetta

December 6, 2011

In Italy, la buona forchetta is not a favorite eating utensil, not a special serving fork: it's a person who knows and relishes good food. For any buona forchetta, the cooking of Emilia Romagna is the apex of culinary ecstasy. Bordering Umbria on the northeast, this region is known for its Parmigiano, balsamic vinegars, mortadella, salami, nourishing soups, lasagne, tagliatelle and endless variations of tortellini (not to mention cappelletti, tortelli, tortelloni, ravioli, and ravioloni). Hearty foods offset the bleak and foggy, bone-chilling winter weather typical of the region. Read more...

Spello Celebrates its Gold

December 6, 2011

Acclaimed "la citta' dell'olio", Spello celebrates its "liquid gold" with the Festa dell'olivo e Sagra della Bruschetta every year in early December. Its 50th anniversary edition transforms this medieval hilltown gem into a showplace of art and photography exhibits, open markets, traditional Umbrian song and dance performances, oilve-oil tasting events - and more! - the second weekend of December. The president of the local Pro Loco (small tourist board), Umberto Natale, says " This manifestazione is much-loved by our Spellani and is dedicated to the land, our traditions, and a cultivation which has been the livelihood for centuries for many our families. We have now become a reference point for the production of top extra-virgin olive oils. We owe this to the excellence of our producers." read more...

A Thanksgiving Turkey – and More

November 22, 2011

We'll celebrate our Thanksgiving on the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving, as we always do. Giulia and Keegan and friends are celebrating in Perugia on THE day - and have pre-dinner games planned on the Thanksgiving theme. I love their invitation, featuring a most original turkey, ie, our former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi all set to be roasted, with the usual smirk on his face as he heads for the oven. read more...