10 February 2011
Perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had was at a roadside truck stop. In Italy. On Sunday. I can’t remember which exits it was between on the Autostrada, or even which number of Autostrada I was traveling on, but it doesn’t matter. Autogrill is at all of them, a fast-food convenience chain geared toward the casual traveler or the serious trucker, with a range of merchandise for either profile, or shades between.
04 February 2011
Macerie di Filattiera, Toscana, Italy
Red kidney beans were pouting in a plastic container on the counter tonight, a half-pipe carved out where a sausage one laid. I was on leftover duty again, having proven my chops at the helm of late. Frozen ground beef, puree of tomato, loads of thyme, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and oregano... Lauren’s almost-authentic-except-for-the-cumin-Texas-Chili. I plunked a whole onion in the pot as well, creating a completely stewed and flavorful item to grill when the chili is gone.
Podere Conti Olive Farm
Tuscany, Macerie/Filattiera di Lunigiana/Pontremoli, Italy
03 February 2011
Sick kids and friend-in-residence at home with a cold all week + Regardless of weather, Spring is coming and so are guests + Newborn baby and four other boys keep Mom and Dad on high alert = Lauren digging through leftover ingredients and getting creative to use everything I pull out from deep within the restaurant’s fridge here at the Agriturismo.
I left the main house, sweeping past my room to grab the upside-down, nearly dry salvia (sage) from the knob on my kitchen cupboard and stuffing it under my arm. I grabbed a few other herbs from the side garden along the way: loads of thyme, rosemary, and oregano. In the restaurant’s kitchen there was an abundance of eggs, too many to use before expiry, and plates of miscellaneous well-grazed cheeses. Yep. Frittata.
28 January 2011
This week at Podere Conti has been a vegetarian one, although thankfully not vegan, meaning that cheese was around in abundance. A group of Tibetan Lamas has been here blessing the farm with pujas and chants, teaching mindfulness meditation and sharing rituals. Naturally, it is an all-hands-on-deck scenario, an ego-free opportunity to offer one’s self to food preparation, serving, cleaning, and dishwashing.
26 January 2010
Saturday night is either date night or family night, across the globe, and is no exception at Antica Pieve, a roadside pizzeria in Filattiera. Since I have neither a family nor a date at this juncture, I thought I would circumvent the two and have pizza with Luca, the eldest of the Conti boys at the olive farm. I have recently been insured to drive, so why not take advantage of my newfound freedom and see what town has to offer on a bitterly cold yet hoppin’ Saturday night.
19 January 2011
The BOOM of the hunters on the property never fails to send me straight up. I just can’t get used to the sound of them stalking the wild boar that roam freely through these hills. I can’t say I am dead against this way of life, as it is far more humane than raising them in crowded quarters with no land to run on. But the shock of the gun always catches me by surprise nonetheless. A gun never sounds less than a hard reality about our carnivorous ways, the lethal blast that ends one life to sustain another. The issue can inspire endless debate for another blog. But his one embraces food, glorious sustainable food. And today’s topic includes wild boar.
17 January 2011
Podere Conti, Pontremoli, Italy
Tonight I really gained insight into the birth of opera. The depth of tradition and honor in this country is something you can feel deeply in your cells, and with a little research one can integrate quite smoothly. I recommend starting in the kitchen, since it is the most sacred of spaces, second only to the centuries-old churches perched high on mountaintops and nestled into villages. The birth of an opera in this century, one might think, is highly unlikely, but I can assure you that an American in the kitchen of a traditional Italian home is a think tank for operatic composition.
15 Janurary 2011
Podere Conti/Pontremoli, Italy
Relishing at all the differences while traveling is, no doubt, a full-time job, and loads of fun. But it’s even more amusing to see the universal similarities in people. Italian children are no exception. Watching these four Conti boys has me in stitches, since I am the American guest who brought such wonderful gifts as four whoopee cushions and a bag of punch balls from across the pond. Yesterday at breakfast, I was singled out for a well-rehearsed concert, featuring “The Adams Family Started When Uncle Fester Farted…” complete with a fart-tone baseline using the new “instruments.” A lack of enthusiasm for vegetables is another universal trait, as is that of their parents’ endless mealtime negotiation.
Enter cheese, the miracle nanny.