Friday, December 15, 2006

CATCHING UP


In the few weeks since Thanksgiving we haven’t been doing much….making the decision about the house and then getting everything together for the blog has taken a lot of time and energy. Although it’s still somewhat stressful to think about moving (ugh!), I’m trying to relax and just see what happens.

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We had lunch with Giacomo and Belinda the other day. The plans for their bed and breakfast continue to evolve, and it’s so much fun to be a part of the process! Since both of them are fabulous cooks I’m not sure who to complement for this meal, but it was as delicious as it was beautiful. The first course was linguini ala Norma (with eggplant and tomatoes) topped with ricotta salata.   Following a HUGE plate of pasta we had a beautiful pork roast, stewed pears, roasted potatoes and artichokes cooked with peas.  Although I don’t like peas, I loved the artichokes! What a surprise! The bone-in pork roast had a wonderful crispy skin, and Belinda told us the secret to the crispness is to coat the skin first with olive oil, then score it and sprinkle it with lemon juice before baking. After a lunch like this no dinner is required!

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Writing about food made me remember the fantastic omelets Art fixed the other day. We still have some cheddar from England, and Larry and Shelly brought us some in November, so Art asked me to thaw some out so he could make omelets. We had cubed pancetta, some green onions, red peppers and plenty of eggs, so I baked some biscuits and Art was in charge of the omelets.

While we were in the states I found some packets of sausage gravy mix, so I figured now was the time to go all out. No sense being just a little decadent! Now we could have not only omelets but also biscuits and gravy, one of my favorite breakfast treats.  I’m sure our cholesterol spiked, but I’d have to say it was worth it!

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About two weeks ago Armando asked Art if we danced. Art told him we danced a little, but wasn’t really sure where the conversation was going. It wasn’t long before he found out…..Armando wanted to make sure we knew about the town dance scheduled for Thursday evening. Art eventually remember to tell me about the conversation several days later, and I was glad to have a heads up because the next time I saw Armando he asked me if we were going to the dance.

I told him yes, we’d be going, but I asked him if I should bring a dish of food. He wasn’t sure but said he’s get back to me. My concern was that I’d arrive empty handed, just as I had at the sister cities celebration back in September. (or was it October?) Of course he hadn’t known about the sister cities gathering until about an hour before it began, and was embarrassed that everyone else brought a dish. I apologized to the mayor, who of course was gracious and assured me it wasn’t a problem…and of course she was right, there was more than enough food, but still…..

On Wednesday Armando stopped me to say that no, I didn’t need to bring a dish. I asked him if he was sure and he said, yes. He said no one was bringing anything, that it was all being supplied. I asked him what time the dinner would begin and he told me seven or seven thirty, so of course I knew there wouldn’t be any point in getter there before eight o’clock.

Neither of us had any idea what to expect. We knew that the Erika Mastrini Band would be playing. This is the band of the daughters of Gilberto, the guy who did most of the work on our house when we renovated. We’ve heard the band before and we looking forward to hearing them again.

Just before seven thirty the doorbell rang and it was Giacomo’s friend, the other Giacomo, bringing us a CD with pictures and house information for us to forward to friends who’re searching for a house to restore. We were able to view the properties on the CD he’d brought. He’d put the information into PDF format because the previous discs he’d made for us hadn’t opened.

After Giacomo left we walked down to the church. The dinner dance was being held at the hall next to the church, and as we rounded the corner we saw a fire blazing and smelled the sausages being grilled.

As we would later discover the dinner wasn’t advertised to begin until eight, so of course there weren’t many people there yet. Inside the table was loaded with sausage sandwiches wrapped in napkins. Armando’s wife Guilda, along with several other women, were serving the sandwiches.  Another table on the other side of the room had drinks….a great red wine, soft drinks and water. Several large crates with clementines were ready for dessert.

We ate our sandwiches and watched the crowd grow. At first we couldn’t figure out why the men outnumbered the women, but it’s my theory that most of these people still ate dinner at home and that the wives were still at home, doing the dishes. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

Eventually the room filled up. There were very few chairs, but of course everyone was visiting and gossiping, moving around the room. We saw quite a few familiar faces….Adamo, Paula and her son Matteo, Silvano and Josepina from Rotecastello, Art’s barber, and also the man who befriended us while we were out walking when we’d first arrived in San Venanzo.

We saw Sonia’s husband who works at the bar, then a little while later saw someone who looked almost exactly like him…but was dressed differently. When he sat down beside me I had to ask if he had a brother. “Yes, a twin!” he told me. “I thought so” I told him, “it’s easy to see!”

Later the little old lady who’d been in charge of all the food preparations for the sister cities festa came over to chat. She told me that there was going to be a function on Saturday and she wanted us to come. She said they’d be playing a game, but I told here I didn’t know the game, didn’t know the word she was using. She called Adamo over to help, and once she told him “tombola”, Adamo turned to me and say “Bingo!”

So we’ve been invited to that most Catholic tradition, bingo. I probably haven’t played bingo since I was a kid, so this should be an interesting experience…I’ll have to listen very closely to make sure I’m hearing the numbers correctly.

I asked if I should bring something and was told, no, I didn’t have to, but if I’d like to bring something it would be most welcome. I told them I definitely bring something, probably an American sweet. Both their faces lit up, and they told me they’d see us on Saturday night.

So many people have told us that their Italian friends and relatives are reluctant to try American foods, but I’ve experienced just the opposite. When I baked chocolate chip cookies for the grand opening of the park they were gone in a flash and so many people took the time to tell me how much they liked them. I was really surprised and flattered. At the dinner dance several people said “Oh! You’re the one who made those cookies at the park!”

Because I don’t drink coffee I rarely go to the bars, especially no in winter when they don’t have gelato. Art stops in for a coffee on his way to for from the post office or when he gets his hair cut, but neither one of us had seen the signs advertising the dinner dance.

While we were talking with Silvano he told us that this was the first time this function had been held, and told us that it was paid for by the businesses in town. What a nice thing to do for the community, don’t you think?

Because I was sitting down I asked Silvano if anyone was dancing yet, but he told me no, for some reason the people of San Venanzo just don’t dance, and based on what we’ve seen at other festa I think he’s right. Of course all the kids were dancing and having a ball, even the little ones.

3 Comments :

At 12/16/2006 01:12:00 AM , Anonymous cristina said...

This is the cachi tree (persimmons) and the fruit needs to stay on the branches until they are really ripe so that is why they look like they have been forgotten. They should be ripe soon though so if this is a friendly neighbor they may be giving you some jam.

 
At 12/16/2006 04:04:00 AM , Anonymous Judith in Umbria said...

Cristina beat me to it.
You can also make soufflè, gelato, sorbetto etc. from them. My first Christmas here it looked like everybody had decorated the same, with golden balls hanging from naked trees. They are even in the parking lot, and you can get cachi from anybody and everybody.

 
At 12/17/2006 02:46:00 PM , Anonymous Annie M said...

My next door neighbor (in Queens, NYC) has a cachi tree. I think those bare branches covered in orange orbs are beautiful.

I didn't know what they were at first either. I was very puzzled, thinking: "we're not in the right climate for oranges and it's past time for apricots."

 

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