Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Light Italian Lunch

My nephew described the dead wild boar as the Umbrian equivalent of a Florida crocodile and he has a point. They are a protected species much of the year but when a particular animal goes rogue and wrecks crops special permission is granted for an out of hunting season cull. This one was taken away for processing by my nephew and it will eventually reappear as sausage and salami and prosciutto. They are an earthy lot my Italian relatives. 
My wife is in Italy learning Italy at language school five days a week and practicing her nascent Italian seven days a week  with my sister and nephews.  My wife reports it's all much more fun than she had anticipated and because she likes to cook my nephew's girlfriend Giulia is also sharing cooking tips:
Giulia runs the family bed and breakfast and takes care of laundry cooking breakfast and so forth, as well as giving lessons on cooking with fire apparently. Everytime I watch a movie and food is cooked over a flame I cringe. The way its done is to burn down the fuel until it is embers and then pull out the embers to radiate heat and cook the food, as in the photo above.
Even today this is a pretty rural part of Italy but when I was a child the roads weren't paved, electricity and piped water were innovations and these country skills, killing and cleaning, cooking with fire and so forth were in common usage. Nowadays there are many urban Italians to whom these skills are bizarre and unknown.
Antonio in the cap above was delivering fresh fruits when I was a kid and in those days he used a little three wheeler and when I met him in May he told me this was his third box truck worn out by continuous deliveries to these very rural communities.  His son rides with hm to continue the family business in a part of the world where Amazon, though known is not dominant. Below my wife scored this excellent photo of a food truck with a message in fashionable English that fell slightly wide of the mark:
That it is in English is testament to the fact the Umbria is a destination nowadays like it never was when I was a boy. Americans and Italians "in the know" now boast of second homes in Umbria; Tuscany is too common for them.
Meat cheese and mushrooms are what Umbrians eat in a region without a tidal coastline. Consequently I have no idea what Italian names are for fish, just as I had to learn sailing in California and have no idea about that specialized dialect in Italian. The stuff my wife deals with I am familiar though and ;ast weekend she was at a family celebration, a grandchild's birthday and she was plunged into that part of Italian life not usually lived by visitors. I took this picture in May when the family gathered in my honor, the Uncle from America.
Part of the idea for my wife to spend a month in Italy is to live and learn Italian without me there to interpret. It is natural and normal for everyone to turn to me so without me there she had to rent a car, drive, explore, talk and ask and rely on herself. Which has worked out surprisingly well. Immersion is the way to learn. She also had another chance to enjoy a protracted celebratory lunch for the birthday boy and immerse herself in the family cooking. First lasagna:
Then suppli. In Umbria (and Rome) what Americans call "arance" (oranges) are a variation on the Sicilian style of fried rice ball that has taken root in Italian-America. These rice balls have a meat and tomato sauce flavored rice inside and fried breadcrumbs on the outside. And usually no gooey cheese which is the Sicilian style.
 Fried zucchini, known confusingly to my English family as courgettes.
Sausages and prosciutto killed and cured by my brother-in-law. This is a very robust country family. I was never cut out to be a farmer and that was obvious to me. Though I caused much outrage at the time my decision to flee is generally viewed as the right thing now, 35 years later.
 Beans and salad because even determined meat eaters like Umbrians do graze rabbit food.
 Not sure what this is but I do like Italian custard especially when oozing from flakey pastry. When I was a youngster dessert was almost never served after a  meal. It was always fruit and creamy pastries were reserved for breakfast when in the city.
And for special occasions there is home made "English Soup" which is an Italian variant of the English dessert called trifle, layers of cookies custard and fruit in a huge gooey mess. It is said British sailors introduced trifle to the Italians during the Napoleonic War and I always had it during my childhood, a mixture of custard and chocolate sauce which was irresistible and fondly remembered.. 
 Dogs are part of the scenery and these live better than many in the region where chains and kennels are part of the scenery and which break my heart.
 My brther-in-laws dog got a new American bed (from Amazon via my wife's suitcase) and my wife reports Caramella likes it very much. All good dogs deserve a bed.
 Me? I got the pictures of lunch and placated my memories with a cuban coffee and cheese bread from Sandy's, at the old location on White Street. Food is so evocative.
 Me not missing the family gathering or the food or the winding mountain roads. Rusty is somewhere just outside the frame.
And when not prolowing...
 He has his own bed.
He never did take to an open bed, he likes being scrunched up when not on the couch or on my bed. Very odd