My wife said I should call my sisters after the recent earthquake struck Amatrice and surrounding villages in Central Italy. I sighed. People always call when a hurricane hits Florida and I guess I shouldn't be impatient with the geographically challenged but Tampa isn't Key West and Amatrice isn't where my sisters live. So I compromised and called my childhood buddy and riding companion Giovanni instead. For the first time, he said, I was scared by the strength of the earthquake. It was a strong enough shake that he wondered if everything was going to collapse and Terni where he lives is an hour from the nearest damage in neighboring Norcia. Hum, I thought. Perhaps I'd better call my sisters.
The damage is truly spectacular and four years ago when Giovanni took my wife and I riding through the mountains in that area the earthquake damage from years before in L'Aquila wasn't anywhere close to being repaired. These poor bastards hope to get their homes back in two years but I think they are hopelessly optimistic. It's a horrid mess, but I knew my family was fine as my sister's kids, much more computer savvy, had said as much...on Facebook. So I called anyway and using a calling card it only costs me four cents a minute.
My conversation with my sister almost never got round to the earthquake as it happens. My sister was much more taken with village news, who died and how the kids are doing and all that. She extracted a promise that I would be visiting next July so by the time she mentioned the earthquake in passing it was apparent she had felt nothing. There we are then.
However it turns out their bed and breakfast is doing well all summer long. She and her husband of fifty years (below) have moved into a smaller apartment they built on their land and they rent out the farmhouse. Cerqueti Link The idea is that their sons are less keen on raising animals like their father and they are branching out into hospitality along with raising crops and making olive and all that more traditional stuff.
You can see why, as cows take daily maintenance morning and evening. When I'm on vacation I enjoy riding the tractor down to the stable and enjoying the company of cows for a while but as a twice daily chore...I emigrated to California when I faced that choice.
Life is pretty traditional in the countryside there as it is everywhere and like most places in the world younger people are moving away to the cities to make money and all the usual stuff. My memories of life in the country do not reflect modern life there at all now that the villages are depopulated and no one wants to stay down on the farm.
So when I asked my sister how the farming was going she said the boys have tried something new, they are growing coriander. Good lord I said do you even know what that is? Well no she said but its a very delicate crop. They have to harvest it very carefully because if any of it gets crushed it ruins he crop. What on earth possessed them to grow the main spice in Indian food I asked astonished. The whole bed and breakfast thing shocked me a couple of years ago and now the farming is branching out from traditional wheat and olives and beef.
Well my sister said wheat you can hardly give away and someone said coriander is very expensive but it turns out its really complicated to grow. Have you ever eaten it? I asked her. Not really she said. Italian food is delicious of course but my father only ate English meat and two veg and Italians when I was a kid ate delicious home made food so I never got to eat "ethnic" foods regularly until I got to California. Indian, Mexican, Chinese were all utterly unknown in my part of Italy. That was me fifty years ago helping to herd pigs:
So to hear my sister is growing coriander is rather similar to hearing the pope had a religious conversion. Change doesn't come easily in the Umbrian mountains, or perhaps I should say it never came fast enough when I was a kid. But as they also say "The past is another country, they do things differently there." Sure as hell do, so now I'm hoping maybe there will be Indian food on the menu next July. Fat chance and home cured pork will just have to do.