Summer Supper “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” –Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin.
My camera went on the fritz and had to go to the hospital. I found I didn’t want to blog without my camera; it’s as if I’ve lost my ability to see. The camera isn’t really passive, the camera operator chooses what is shown, how it shown, what tale the photo should tell.
To share Montone life with you, I’ll have to tell my tale with words and maybe some old photos.
As always, Italian life is dominated by the weather. Last week, a fresh breeze blew in and the general consensus was that summer was over. Michele, our Aries barman extraordinare, was convinced the tide had turned. Then it got hot again, and summer returned like a snarling, angry old man eager to take one last swipe and show us his burning fury. This turned into oppressive, steamy heat that made the walls of our house feel like an incubator, a warming oven. The cat took to laying on the stone steps, his eyes squeezed shut, you could see him willing summer to leave and be gone.
The leaves on the trees have turned withered and brown. I don’t think there will be a glorious fall showing of colors; there is too much crispy brown already showing in the hills. The intense heat of the past few weeks has done its damage. Bunches of grapes are hanging on the vine with uneven ripening: withered raisins at the top, a few ripe grapes and some still budding green, all on the same bunch. There was a severe hailstorm in Friuli and word is that some of the vineyards lost 100% of their grapes.
The olive trees are eternal; they don’t seem to be as bothered by heat. When you are a couple of hundred years old, what’s one hot summer?
I did a tomato harvest this morning. The weather looks threatening and I didn’t want to lose ripe tomatoes to wind and rain. The plants have that withered look, as if they are ready to give up the ghost. They didn’t look like that a few days ago. Now there are as many brown leaves as there are green leaves.
The fennel stalks are tall and yellow and full of pollen and flavor. It’s time to bring them in and dry them. One of the mysteries of life is why this essential seasoning is so under-used in the States. Fennel and bay make seafood sing. Fennel and rosemary make a roast chicken or a guinea fowl finger-licking good. Fennel and pork were made for each other.
Looks like we’ll have another round of beets pretty soon, and I’m hoping our two adorable cantaloupes will actually grow up to be at least the size of a soft ball before we eat them.
The soil in our ancient orto is tired and we have endless debates and discussions about how to nourish it. My guess is that this discussion about our little orto has been going on since about the 12th century.
There is the tiniest whiff of cool fall air in the morning and just that little tinge of fall is making me hungry for truffles. I know they are out there…and I can’t wait.
Happy Labor Day to all our friends and family in the States! Enjoy! BBQ! And be happy!