Archive Page 2

under the umbrian sun

cappelacci con pecorino di fosso e miele

We’ve just come out the other side of a week of seriously sketchy weather. Days of driving rain or constant drizzle, punctuated by periods of clear enough skies to buoy false hopes that it would end sooner. Despite the weather, this last week ranks among our favorites, with the rain often being a catalyst for the best experiences.

On the last day of a 4 day tour of medieval hill towns, we camped in the front yard of a lovely octogenarian named Anna, who treated us to crostata, milky coffee, and long conversation, despite our formidable (but diminishing) language barrier. Just outside of Siena, morning rains cleared the normally hazy skies of The Crete, bringing the most classic of Tuscan landscapes into high resolution, hills of rolling amber offset by purple skies.

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post florence

fromaggi pecorini

First things first.

1. Minor revision to the claim that “this camping thing is crazy-good”. (We make this revision in the interest of accuracy, knowing full well that you will use this information against us for many years to come.) Start by deleting “good”. It would seem that there are drawbacks to being the first civilization to invent indoor plumbing, the most obvious of which is that most of the plumbing is as ancient as its cathedrals. Those interested in green power might explore the possibility of capturing the methane that is off-gassing from city sewer vents. Especially near camping areas. Where we are trying to sleep. And hoping we will wake up in the morning.

Really, the problem is not everywhere, and is mostly a problem if you locate yourself downwind of the source, but is common enough that at least two campgrounds have earned the title “bog of eternal stench”.

Not that we want to dissuade you from considering camping as an option for your next tour of Europe. The in-city locations are great, the price is a quarter of the cost of a cheap hotel, your fellow campers are quiet as mice, and your campground will often have a great panoramic view and a bar and cafe to enjoy it from. And your tent is guaranteed to be nicer than most hotels in the budget category.

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can’t tweet

la strada del amore

Ok, this business of 120 char tweets is driving me crazy. We’re going to try using the blog instead to allow prose and complex retrospective reality to come a hair closer together. Even if we are typing with only one finger.

We are at the end of week one. An amazing thing about bicycle touring is that so many things happen in one day, that every week feels like a month. Every day, a week.

Here are some of the important things to say:

1. Italy may be the best place in the world to ride a bike. The roads are good, but more importantly, the drivers are amazing in their attitude toward bikes. They are patient and careful and don’t pass until they can give us a wide berth.

2. This Italian camping thing is crazy-good. Can you imagine staying five minutes from the beach in Sausalito with an ocean view for only $25? That was us in Lerici night before last. (Dove stiamos in Lerici due notti fa.)

3. Bicycle touring will help you learn italian. We have to talk to people A LOT. Plus, they want to talk to us about our giro d’ italia de sei setimane. In Castelnuovo di Garfagnana a woman curious about the bikes was thrilled to discover that it was two *women* who had dragged those trailers over the apuane alps – ended our exchange by slapping me on the butt repeatedly: bella! brava! bella! brava! The same happened to Kath near Radicci pass.

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overfull with summer

polenta with mascarpone and tomato salad

No photo. That’s one big thing that stands between what happens in our kitchen and what happens on lesbo-kitchen. After all, there has been a lot of cooking and eating in these past months. But I can’t seem to get the photographing part right: because I don’t have time, or don’t want the food to get cold, or we have guests. Or I don’t like the photos I took. At least half the time it’s that we don’t eat until after dark, even in summer. And I still have a lot to learn about low-light photography, which – skills aside – doesn’t necessarily flatter food, anyway. My newest reason, and I can’t really complain about this because it is by design, is that the kitchen in our new house doesn’t have west-facing windows. All those btus of afternoon sun blasting through western windows = poor house design = huge air conditioning load = gorgeous, tasty, photogenic light. (Remember those peanut butter cookies ?) Golden afternoon light from the sun slung low: Will never fail to send me running for the camera.

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of peanut butter and procrastination

peanut butter cookies cooling on a rack

When’s the last time you had a homemade peanut butter cookie? Really? That long ago? Me too.

Which has me wondering – what happened? I grew up baking peanut butter cookies. But I didn’t know that there were only two generations before me with the same experience. I hadn’t remembered that peanuts weren’t even grown in the U.S. until just before the turn of the 20th century, when thanks to George Washington Carver they were cultivated as an alternative to boll-weevil infested cotton crops. Carver’s 1925 article, How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, includes recipes for cookies containing peanuts (and peanut doughnuts, and peanut soup, and liver with peanuts), but nothing containing peanut butter. , which wasn’t even invented until the 1920s. A recipe for peanut butter cookies first appeared in the 1930s, along with the first time ever instruction to press dough balls flat with the tines of a fork, which is how my grandmother did it, and is still done today. Except that it is hardly ever done today.

What would cause peanut butter cookies to fall so out of fashion?

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before it’s too late

rice penne in a colander

It’s almost summer, and I still have kale on the brain. We’re kicking off the covers at night and sleeping with windows open to cool air and cricket songs: sure signs that it’s time to tuck winter greens into the back of the recipe box to wait out the heat of summer, but here I am still trotting out the kale recipes. As if we haven’t had the Winter of Kale. As if we weren’t already surrounded with halos of golden virtuosity, positively humming with the health benefit of daily doses of dark, leafy greens.

The truth is, my kale obsession has nothing to do with virtue and everything to do with our CSA, and the fact that months of cruciferous goodness have created quite a backlog of tried and true recipes that I can’t bear not to share. Plus, I’ve heard about the rain in Oregon, and I’m betting that my northwesterly sisters will be able to make use of it for another couple of weeks.

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the backyard harvest

by wickenden on flickr.com

I am not a good gardener, but the backyard does produce a small spring harvest, without our attention, year after year. Long before the wisteria was even thinking about making leaves, catmint was pressing up into plump mounds. A widening patch of lawn has turned green – no thanks to the blue grama, its blond eyelashes still curved shut. Shin-deep garlic chives and oregano have jumped their borders in order to bring the idea of ‘pizza’ to the act of mowing the lawn. You can hear the rosemary buzzing from across the yard, lying prone under its load of flowers and bees.

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