We were only 2 days into this cooking venture, and we were already talking about feeling like we’d drunk more wine than we normally do in any given month, and eaten more than we normally eat in a week… there was that much food and wine on the constant.
Let’s face it. Those Italians know how to cook, eat, and drink in all the best ways. There’s a reason there are Italian wine rows in your local liquor store and Italian restaurants in almost every town around the world. We were here to experience the why part of that equation, and only 2 days in, we couldn’t get enough.
As one of the younger girls said, “A pot of gold looks a little different in Italy.”
There were few wines we had that weren’t quite agreeable.
On this fine humid Italian day, we began with a tour of the local farmer’s market, which was something for which I might give my left arm if I could have this locally. Truth is, I rarely use my left arm, and it’d be worth the lack of left arm to have this killer kind of fresh ingredients on hand every Tuesday.
If nothing else, for the olives alone… Look at those castelvetrano olives… I wanted to swim in the brine. This bounty is available every. frickin’. Tuesday. Every!! Tuesday!!!
Our primary purpose at this farmer’s market was the olives – God I love sole purposes, but we got to walk around and experience this true local experience – a farmer’s market in an agricultural region. And when I tell you we stuck out like a fly on a white wedding cake, this is no exaggeration. It was clear we were not locals, and we were the morning show at the market.
Everyone, including us, had that awkward smile on their face as we passed. They were as fascinated by us as we were by their farmer’s market. Our guide told us, the locals never tire of him bringing in the North Americans every Tuesday. It’s their people watching adventure for the week.
No matter. Back to the olives. I am fairly certain I’d start to sweat brine in the summer.
I love olives.
As with so many outings, we were told the locals come here as much to socialize as to get food. Again. Sign my food loving social ass up for such events.
I just might move to Italy.
Our next stop was a visit at the one of the premier water buffalo mozzarella making factories in the area – Ponte di Legno.
Not a bad farm to have to come to work at. Everywhere we went, the views were serene and impressive.
Oh, give me a home where the water buffaloes roam, and they produce glorious cheese all day…
It took me back to a conversation in a taxi when we arrived in Rome after our stop in Venice, when the taxi driver asked us where we were going. When we told him a small village in the Frozinone Province, he wrinkled his Italian nose at us, saying, “Not the prettiest area.” Boo on him. The views were lovely in the Roman countryside.
We got to sample fresh buffalo mozzarella. Seriously, there is nothing better than fresh buffalo mozzarella. Nothing.
And the Holy Grail of Mozzarella: Burrata
Happiness boils down to one thing so often for me: good food.
On our way back to Casa Gregorio, we toured the Abbey de Frossonova. Built in the 12th century and currently still an active abbey, this church was beautiful in its simplicity. We all marveled at the depth of history, the architecture, and the graceful beauty of each church. As well, all the roof area of the abbey was covered with lavender that blooms in the spring.
If I could read Italian, I would be able to explain why all the columns are different and different aspects of the abbey, because there were information panels explaining all of it, but I needed the picture book.
The courtyards of the abbey were gorgeous, but I had to send an SOS text to one of the other girls to figure my way out of the labyrinth. I ended up in Abbey’s office, and the secretary looked as astonished as I did.
I’m not ready to convert to Catholicism.
My favorite picture was this:
Nothing said Catholic guilt like putting a set of eyes over the coin box in the bathroom asking for payment to use the water and keep the bathroom clean.
The Big Guy is watching.
When I asked our guide Patricio if religion was a major part of the culture, his answer was as loaded as my question. The long and short of his answer had to do with the history of the religion being deeply ingrained in parts of the culture; yet, many people not feeling connected to the current state of the Roman Catholic church. When I asked if he, himself, was religious and that was why he knew so much about each church, he looked me deadpan in the eyes and said, “No. <insert pregnant pause while staring me in the eyes> I just like history.”
I kinda liked him so much after this conversation.
When I told him about the picture above the sink in the bathroom, he snorted and said, “That picture might sum up why so many don’t connect with church. We don’t do unjustified guilt well.”
Of course there was more food in store; we stopped at the seaside village of Terracina, and enjoyed a gorgeous lunch where the fisherman and locals eat – a place where you walk in, get a tray, your food is served on a paper plate and your sparkling wine in a plastic cup, and the food if whatever is taken from the daily docks and cooked up to delicious perfection every morning.
This trip is food, food, food…and more food. And beautiful places.
Afterwards, I was introduced to the best type of gelato – gelato all’amarena – black cherry gelato, bursting with fat, juicy, delicious black cherries. And we got it from a place called Fred’s. And there you have it. Fred makes damned good gelato in the seaside village of Terracina, Italy.
And then it was back to Casa Gregorio to cook antipasta in multiples. AKA antipasti – the plural of antipasta. Because we were going to make enough food for a small army, and there were only 13 of us, including our awesome kitchen goddesses and chef.
There was at least a 12 foot counter that was loaded to the hilt with glorious antipasti of all kinds:
- Individual fried eggplant parm rounds
- Fried stuffed squash blossoms
- Olives and dried sausage
- Fried macaroni and cheese
- Focaccia – 20 ways of Sunday
- Caprese salad
- Roasted vegetables
- Suppli – mozzarella stuffed rice balls
- And just oh so much more food!
If you want the recipes, let me know, and I can post them here 🙂
Just look at the video below. Sooooo much food.
The very cool part was learning how to roll the gnocchetti with that nifty ribbed tool. Our 1st pasta making lesson:
For my part, after tonight, I have a food baby that makes me look, ohhhh, I dunno, 6 months pregnant. My dress stretched out so much that it stayed in the form of a pregnant belly when I took it off.
As you can see, there was enough antipasti tonight for 25 people.
We all wanted to tap out at some point in the meal.
And to top it all off, Alessandra took some of the left over dough and made dessert pizzas for us.
Here’s to more food than you can shake a stick at and looking like this painting at the end of the week: