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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Eating Like Wild Boars at La Rochetta

Maybe we've landed in paradise. We are living on top of a hill in Italy.  Across a valley there stands an ancient village with a massive tower. Every day our hosts cook elaborate meals.

Oh, and it's surrounded by wild boars. One day we went to gather firewood in the forest and found many huge hoof marks in the mud, and lots of holes they dug looking for roots. A couple nights later they got kind of raucous (fighting or feasting or whatever else makes boars shriek like banshees) and we listened to them from the comfort of our warm bed. The rest of the night we hear owls - there are several species around here and Michelle says they are especially noisy because they don't have any dogs on the farm.Maybe we've landed in paradise. We are living on top of a hill in Italy. Across a valley there stands an ancient village with a massive tower. Every day our hosts cook elaborate meals. 

Here's the work we've been doing. We usually work from breakfast until about 1 and then have a break before lunch around 2:45. 

- Building a raised garden area. We laid down about 344 bricks. The first row was really hard because the area is on a slope and we had to carefully level the ground to make the bricks straight. It's still not perfectly level but with 344 bricks down it's too late to go back.

- Building fires: There's a large area to build a fire in the kitchen. This takes little work. The other stove heats the water and we call it the Orange Beast. It uses a lot of wood and getting it going is a pain in the arse.

- Weeding: We are slowly weeding all the beds and weedwhacking in various places.

- Cooking: We've been making 1 or 2 loaves of fresh bread each day.

- Cleaning: After our lavish feasts someone has to clean up.

And the rest of the "work" time we spend chatting. Michelle loves to chat. Medora loves to chat. Ryan likes to chat once in a blue moon. Ryan isn't sure what a blue moon is so suffice it to say that Ryan has yet to chat.

Ryan (who is writing this and wonders why he is referring to himself in third person) just googled "blue moon": A blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the monthly lunar pattern. I'm pretty sure that means Ryan hasn't chatted.

Here's what we've been eating:

Breakfast -

Farm eggs on toast. Homemade yogurt. Muesli. Strong Italian coffee.

Lunch -

Claudio is a master chef. I'd estimate that he spends about three hours every day in the kitchen. Every meal consists of at least five different items, in the Italian style. Ideally it is eaten in the following order: A first course, usually pasta or soup. A second course of meat or cheese. A contorno of various cooked vegetables followed by fresh salad greens lightly seasoned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (which is amazing, has a consistency like syrup, and have never tasted its like outside Italy). Finally, dessert. Michelle specializes in making fruit pies. She slices up apples and pears, then lays them in a crust. Then she roles the crust over the fruit to make it a pie, and pours a generous amount of homemade jam over the top (blackberry and marmalade are a couple examples).

Here are some things Claudio has cooked:

Chicken which he cooks for about an hour in the oven. The chicken comes from a local woman who grows them at her house. She brought a fresh batch over on our second day here, and showed us how to chop off the heads and break the rib cages. Claudio throws the chicken pieces in the oven, skin on, bone-in, olive oil, pepper, salt, fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and whole cloves of garlic.

Coq au vin: Various pieces of chicken slowly simmered in red wine, garlic, and herbs. We had this for lunch today.

Calamaro. Yes, that sounds like calamari - squid. In fact it means one squid as opposed to multiple ones, and this was the biggest squid I have ever seen, and it was delicious.

Octopus: Claudio first boils the Octopus for up to two hours, then lets it sit while the water cools to room temperature. This is is the trick to making Octopus tender. He then slices it up and mixes it with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.

Veal Piccata: First Claudio breads the veal and then simmers it in the rich, lemony Piccata sauce.

Polenta: Claudio often cooks a lot of polenta with homemade chicken broth, spreads it on a huge platter and then places grilled chicken and pork pieces over the top.

Gorgonzola Barley Risotto, Saffron Risotto, various pureed soups, Baked Rainbow Trout, and on and on. The only thing Claudio regularly makes are potatoes. First he boils them, skins them, cuts them into thin slices and arranges them in a pan. He adds olive oil and herbs and cooks them in the oven until they are crispy.

Also, Michelle has a recipe for mousse au chocolat which she perfected over the course of months. I assure you it is now perfect indeed, but her husband and son dread the mere mention of it due to having been her experimental taste-testers for the duration of the experiment.

I found a bread recipe online that is very easy, and we've been playing around with it every day. We've made olive bread, walnut bread, multi-grain bread, whole-wheat bread, corn bread, and goo. I'll post recipes later.

Kyle [Nov 22, 2010]:

Excellent (Excellent)

Yeah! We stayed here for 3 weeks!

We started with the olives which was a big job! But it was fun working with Claudio up on the land. Lunch amongst the olive trees, barbecue for Guyane's birthday, playing with Gea (puppy love at first sight).

When we were'nt picking olives, the work was adapted to our skills.
Working the land, fixing some furniture, sewing a tablecloth, making a screen for the window...

Fun creative jobs.

Michelle is a very motivated person, like a burst of wind! Always happy to give us a ride to the store or to the train. We are grateful she insisted we organize our schedule to be able to visit Orvieto and Roma :) Very well worth the trips!

We met so many interesting people while we were there, friends of the family, and we even had the chance to meet Dany before he left for the year!!!

We had the most beautiful room with plenty of privacy, and having the chance to share Claudio's cooking with the family was fantastic!

Although the house is far from town and we needed a lift to go, we found that we didn't need to go that often.. Walking around in the mountains, and the haunted house, and the etruscians, and the tower... all that kept us quite busy when we weren't working.

A wonderful place to visit

Thanks guys!!!!

john [Jul 08, 2010]:

Very good (Very good)