because food from one season overlaps with the other.
We still have really good melon and figs but…
kale has started too. We have also had some great asparagus and strawberries both of which were NOT FLOWN in from South America or Africa but were from northern Italy.
So I’ll take this chance to scribble something about the weather. Summer was not that hot. Maybe a total of 20 days when the temperature reached 90 degrees. It rained about every 10 to 15 days. That is a good bit of rain for summer time here. Normally there is a stretch of 30 to 45 days of no rain at all. And the rain continues to fall. Just this past week (Oct. 9) Genoa and maybe the Cinque Terra were hit by heavy, fast rain that caused flash flooding. People died and a number have lost their houses.
Otherwise I have been wearing a sweatshirt when I walk the dog in the morning since the first of September. We are sleeping with only one window partially open. There is a lot of pollen that is bothering both Ben and I but the rains wash it out and that helps. And that’s about it for the weather report.
A sunset sky.
In early September we were at the good steak festa in Foiano.
We decided to go to Sunday lunch. Much less crowded.
Steaks were really good.
Here is the wait staff enjoying their meal.
Thanks big white cow. It was a nice steak.
Guest Post: By Ima Birch
and suddenly I became a pencil post, riding around in someone’s car.
Then drilled and cut and screwed together.
Some nice man named Richard came to help put me together.
And the cute man at the plumbing supply place who likes to practice his English cut some pipe into rods.
And a closet was born. I think I liked being a tree better but I could have ended up being a fence post or outside in the weather so I guess being part of a closet is okay. And these folks got a closet for 100 Euros.
Martha writing now:
I had been haunting second hand stores and drawing plans for months for something to act as a closet.
There was this piece. Absolutely gorgeous but HUGE. It would have taken up an entire wall in either my office or Ben’s. Too big for our bedroom.
There were pieces like this, less expensive, more utilitarian but still 400, 500 Euros. I really don’t want to spend a lot of money buying furniture for our ‘furnished’ apartment so I kept drawing plans.
They looked like this and when I started pricing conventional lumber to make it, well each piece would have been 15 to 20 Euros a piece. It could have cost 180 to 240 Euros for just the lumber. I looked around for optional sources. In the US I had made our headboard out of bamboo. Why couldn’t I find something like that here? Nosing around enough garden centers I found the pencil posts for only 2.50 Euros each. 15 pencil posts were only 37.50, the screws, rods and fabric brought the cost up to 100 Euros. A pretty good solution. And the fabric is much prettier than it photographs.
And we’re back after a long absence from posting. Can’t really explain why…just got busy and never seemed to have enough time to sit down and write. I like to have a block of an hour or two of time to write. Our September days just didn’t allow that.
But, this is about feeling like a local.
I have written before about the water ‘huts’ that have opened around Monte San Savino. Selling filtered water from the town. It is better quality than what comes out of our tap and it is chilled and it is fizzy. Flat/still water is available too. I am too tight to buy the liter size bottles with attached caps, instead I recycled wine bottles.
But I did buy one of the plastic bottle carriers. We usually go to the water hut that is by the trash cans in the center of Montagnano. (that booming village that we live near) Sometimes there is a line of one or two folks and I have a little chit chat with them. And then later I might see them and when they acknowledge me I get a little thrill. And Ben will say, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘Oh, just my water hut bud’.
If I was really a local instead of driving to the water hut I would ride my bike. Yeah, right! Not on the road in front of the property and not up the hill if I came in the back of the property. And I don’t have a bike.
But I digress. I was in the local post office the other day. The post office also serves as a bank. Some of them have two counters, one for postal things and one for banking. The ladies who work in the post office switch around. Sometimes banking. Sometimes postal. Sometimes in Monte, sometimes in Marciano, sometimes in Alberoro. So you never know who you will see where. But most of the women know me. While I was waiting, at the counter, there was a man, Italian, about 40 ish acting like a 3 year old having a temper tantrum. He was really being rude to the woman behind the counter. She was getting more and more upset. She finally walked away. I considered leaving because it was so unpleasant but I really needed to get the piece of mail off since it was our request for absentee voting ballots. I was next in line and I was sitting down. Of course Mr. Important, (I’m a lawyer, you know and I need to be in Perugia in 30 minutes) (Well, honey you should already be on the road to Perugia not hanging around a piddly little post office in Alberoro trying to send complicated pieces of mail and oh by the way can you stay OFF your cell phone for a minute!) continued on his rant. Her co-worker stepped in to fix the situation. The co-worker got ugly man back on track. The original employee came back and tried again to finish his transaction. The co-worker finished with the person at her counter. My turn. I stepped up. Giving up my seat. The co-worker looked at my letter and indicated that the other employee will have to handle it. But, since a good 2 minutes had passed between ugly man and the other employee, he had to cause more problems. So co-worker stopped talking to me and went to help him. I waited patiently. Finally, the two of them got ugly man fixed. Much to the relief of everyone waiting and he was off on his way to Perugia. (one of the many folks who absolutely fly down the two lane road like they are on the autostrada. Wish I could say that I saw him later stopped at one the speed traps but nooo. However, the odds are great that he got stuck behind at least one farm vehicle) So co-worker looks at my letter again, the crowd that has now built up and since the woman who was verbally abused has once again walked off she figures that since the letter is going to the US, 2 Euros should cover it. I hand over money and escape too.
The next day I am back in the post office, this time to pay a bill. The lady who took my letter asks ‘Do you remember yesterday? The man who was here? And your letter?’ So we discuss the man, because I know the adjectives to use to describe him. And she is so proud that I come out with the correct things to say and the correct gender endings for the words. Well, anyway, my letter was heavier than she thought and she had to put more postage on it but she sent it anyway. She knew I would be back, do I mind giving her the money for it?
A few weeks back, Ben and I were in our doctor’s office talking with him about getting invalid status for Ben. (this topic deserves a whole post by itself. Look for it later) The doctor referred to an office in Arezzo. I asked where is that? The doctor said ‘You know. By the old children’s hospital’. I can’t imagine what my face looked like. And I realized I wasn’t going to get anymore info from him; I would just ask someone else. Later I realized that he was treating us like we had lived here for years and years. What he said to me was the equivalent of me saying to someone in Raleigh, ‘you know, you turn by the NCNB in Cameron Village.’ Well there hasn’t been an NCNB in Cameron Village in 15 or 20 years.
After thinking about all these things, I realize maybe we should feel like locals. We are starting our 8th year of living here. And while I still feel like a fraud because my language skills are still so bad. And still we don’t have any real truly Italian friends. (I rationalize this by acknowledging that we still live out from any village or town and that we are not really part of daily life with anyone every day like folks who live in a village are.) But, I’m sure the employees at the Esselunga have talked about us ‘You know, the crazy old Americans that come in…he sits at the bar and listens to something with earphones and she shops and then comes to collect him. Sometimes I’m afraid she might drive off and forget that he was there. He doesn’t always come. That’s why I ask her where he is if I don’t see him. Make sure she remembers…’
So locals we are. A few weeks back, Ben and I toasted another fun year completed here and to many more in the future. And if you haven’t planned to visit maybe you should.
I used to post a lot of sunset pictures. Where we lived before I saw a dramatic sunset most everyday. Now trees block my view so I don’t really see a great sunset, but every now and then catch a glimpse of what I know is superb, but by the time I could get to someplace to see it, it would be over. So here are my glimpses.
No matter how you say it, I love them. I wasn’t aware of how much I did love tomatoes until a few months after I married my first husband and he said “ Do we have to have tomatoes or tomato sauce tonight for dinner?” I’m sure I looked shocked! What???? It’s summer, we are supposed to eat tomatoes. Then he went on to say that he could always tell what time of the month it was because all of a sudden, every meal would contain tomatoes in some form (fresh, sauce…) and a starch (potatoes, pasta, bread…). I didn’t realize that either. Well, those hormones that controlled my dietary needs have long since flown the coop but every now and then I still have this very strong urge for tomatoes and a starch. So the other night it was home made potato chips to go along with sliced tomatoes.
A few nights later it was
pizza from the pizza sagra, with fresh chopped tomatoes on top of it.
Why am I so focused on tomatoes? Well they are growing all around us here.
Look at this one that weighted over 2 pounds. I saw this at the Indian man’s fruit and veg stand. And the other day I saw 2 large semis going past, filled to the top with freshly harvested tomatoes, on the way to becoming sauce. Just like these.
The other fruit and veg vendor that I shop at is full of containers and containers of them. These are roughly 35 cents a pound. I bought some and made the tomato jam recipe that was in issue #130, Aug/Sept of Fine Cooking magazine.
The ‘jam’ turned out okay. I probably will like it better in the middle of winter when I don’t have fresh tomatoes coming from my garden.
I have 3 plants, 2 of which are doing very well. One beefsteak and one cherry.
They have an honored place to rest, by the TV.
And slice up beautifully.
The cherry variety are served in their own little bowl.
And I have a tomato dish towel… so maybe I do go a little tomato crazy.
Ohhh, I admit it. I am a closet fabric hoarder. I gave away a huge amount before we moved here. And if fabric stores were easier to find or if the giant one that I know of outside of Florence would sell retail as well as wholesale I would have a lot more fabric here. Fortunately those ‘ifs’ probably won’t change. So I restrict my visits to the one fabric store in Arezzo and try to just buy fabric when I have a project in mind.
So I went in looking for a piece to use in the kitchen and got the one on the far left. But then the one in the middle with the circles was nice and heavy and was screaming at me that it would be good for making window ‘quilts’ for winter. And of course how could I turn down the blue remnants. I could make summer tops out of those. The paisley, well it was just so pretty.
Hmmm, blue and white cotton. Who could refuse? My fabric haul was 35 Euros. Of course I did not use the piece that I went into the store for, finding an alternate choice that I hauled back from the US in my small stash here. I am still pondering how I am going to construct and hang the window quilts. I did make 2 blue and white tops and have one left to make. But that paisley is still just sitting around looking pretty. Don’t know what I’ll do with it…
Who remembers here?
Well if you do, come inside and I’ll show you how things have changed.
There’s a full kitchen in here now.
The table is smaller and things are rearranged a bit. What a transformation huh?
I don’t know why I keep thinking and saying ‘mesh of squash’. But I have managed to get a few from the plants that I am growing.
Along with a lot of tomatoes. But as proud as I was of mine they were nothing compared to what Tania and Keith shared with me.
They had missed picking a few. All together this was more than 5 pounds of yellow squash. The smaller ones, along with a few from my garden became
this big pan full of sautéed squash and onions that we ate for lunch 2 days along with some fried chicken. (There were sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers and sweet tea too. I can pull out the ‘Southern’ gene when I need to) There was enough sautéed squash leftover to freeze, so that in some awful month, like January, we can enjoy it again.
On another day, using the three big squash, I grated the necks and made 1 batch of squash fritters (it’s that Southern thing again) and then froze the rest. Glad I have a cast iron skillet.
I added some squash blossoms in the batter to further ‘squash’ it up.
Some of the remaining big bodies were cut up, blanched and frozen for winter soups. Four of the bodies were made in to ‘boats’ and stuffed with meatloaf, then frozen. So from Tania and Keith’s generous gift we got a lot of meals. Hmmmm, nothin’ like a mess of yellaw squash!
It is a play on the name of the Italian holiday in August, Ferragosto, (a religious holiday that has to do with the Assumption. Look it up online if you want to know what it is), America and hamburger. Billing itself as a unique hamburger festival in the American style, we decided to get a big group together and go over to Castiglion Fiorentino and see what it was all about.
And it really was just hamburgers. This plate was 15 Euros for a hamburger, good French Fries, a glass of beer and a chocolate muffin. There were variations on hamburgers and a vegetarian ‘burger’ option. That was it. Limited menu, everything as a meal, nothing a la carte except beverages and other deserts.
We were a big group. Filling a large square table in a wonderful park just outside the walls of the city.
Ben was there next to me.
Gian Carlo, Grace and George.
Grace, Jules, George, Margaret and Howard. Notice the squash. That yellow squash really gets around huh?
Margaret, Howard and Richard with Tania and Keith’s guests beside Richard.
John, Keith and Tania. John and Richard were kind enough to drive so that I could enjoy more than one beer. It was a fun evening.
And I was finally able to get the picture that I have been trying to get for years… the setting sun turns the stones of this bell tower a beautiful rosy color. Yes, that is what we are doing here in Tuscany.