We had another marathon market day in Cuneo yesterday. It was made longer by the fact that the 1:30 bus inexplicably never came, which left us stranded till the 2:45 bus. The bus schedule is exceedingly complex. Some busses come only on weekdays, others only on weekends, others only on school days during the school year. There are a few other nuances we have yet to understand completely.
However, in the intervening time we found a local beekeeper selling honey and pollen. The pollen comes in a jar, and it looks just like those little yellow balls of pollen one sometimes sees on the back legs of bees. Because you see, it is! Supposedly, the enzymes in bee pollen (along with the trace minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids) are what cause many beekeepers in Georgia (that’s the country, not the state) to live well past 100 years. It’s worth a try. And the kids love it.
When we arrived home from the market (completely overloaded, as usual), we found Mother Goose, Adler’s How to Read a Book, and the whole six-volume set of Charlotte Mason waiting on our doorstep. Miss Mason suggested that children under six should spend 4-6 hours every day outside. I’d like to spend more time outside too.
So we decided to get bicycles (outfitted with child seats and baskets, just like the Italians’) so we can ride up into the Alpine meadows in the afternoons. We’re going to pick them up tomorrow, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Who needs a car?
August 6, 2008 No Comments
We found raw honey two nights ago. It was easy to find, just like everything else here (well, no, not everything. Not coconut oil or books in English). We just popped in at a house down the street with a sign that says “Miele.” They had three kinds on hand: castagno (chestnut. a very strong flavor, and one that we’ve been enduring since I bought a kilo of chestnut honey in Saluzzo months ago), dandelion, and melata.
Coincidentally, I was just reading about melata honey the other day when I was researching apitherapy (healing with honey and other bee products). We’ve done a few rounds of royal jelly, but I wanted some unprocessed stuff straight from the farm. That’s the way I like everything. Straight from the farm. Melata is acquired by the bees from secretions of some other type of insect, and not as nectar from flowers. It has a sweet, wild, mysterious flavor, like flowers opening secretly in the dark. I love it, although I feel a little ambivalent about something that’s been through two sets of insects. Best not to think too much about it.
Manuela, the beekeeper, speaks perfect English. Tony was very impressed when she correctly used the word “centrifugate” in a sentence. The honey is raw and unprocessed. They do run it through a centrifuge to get rid of all the sediment, but it’s unpasteurized. That’s important because pasteurization destroys all the good stuff, just like in milk. The bits of pollen in it are great for allergies. After honey is pasteurized, it’s basically just sugar.
In a few weeks, Manuela said they would have millefiori (wildflower, or literally, “a thousand flowers”) honey, which is very good for people with allergies. We are looking forward to that. She was very sweet when she was talking about the bees. She said all the beekeepers were having problems because the farmers spray the corn, and it kills the bees. Some of the beekeepers have lost many “families” of bees. She looked very sad as she described how the pesticides were bad for the “little ones.” It was a tender image until you pictured who those little ones actually were. (I confess I still battle a childhood insect phobia)
Meanwhile, we went into town and asked what types of cheese go well with honey. We came home with caprino (goat cheese), castelmagro, toma piemontese, and a soft, crumbly, tart tomino. They were all delicious. We ate them with dandelion honey. When we go back to the apiary for wildflower honey, we’ll ask the beekeepers which honeys go best with which cheeses.
I am also using melata honey in conjunction with the butter I made this morning and a gift of fresh figs from Beatrice to make cookies. We’re taking them to her tomorrow because she is so kind to us. Every day when we go to pick up our milk she has something extra to give us. The other day when I went in the middle of an argument with Tony (we had a lot of extra feelings floating around after being apart for so long) she said, with uncanny perception of my unspoken feelings, “I will give you a thornless rose. I call these the my husband’s roses, because I planted them after he died. They last 15 days after cutting.”
She has a new little calf that Axa has been dying to see. Now that she’s over her chicken pox, we’ll all go tomorrow, take some pictures with the calf (and Beatrice), and give her the cookies. La vita e bella!
Oh, P.S., that wasn’t the Tour de France. The real thing came by the next day, with two hours of fanfare, consisting in dozens of cars outfitted like permanent floats in a parade. It’s the advertising opportunity of the year in Europe, evidently. Tony got more pictures than even he wanted. We sat up in our window and watched the parade go by. The only catch was that we were too high up to catch the candy thrown from the cars.
July 25, 2008 No Comments
Carla is in Rome for the week with Rebecca, so we invited Giorgio over for dinner on Wednesday. I made him peach crisp for dessert, since he couldn’t make it on the 4th of July when we had Carla and the missionaries. Just before dinner, Tony went out on bicycle to buy gelato to go with the crisp. As he left the house, he noticed that Giorgio was just behind him on motorcycle. In fact, he seemed to be trailing him. They drove all the way through town, with Giorgio just behind. As Tony reached the gelateria, Giorgio veered off in the other direction.
The mystery was solved when after dinner, Giorgio brought out a tray of those lovely (and delicious) little Italian pastries: cannoli, bacchie di dama, tiny cream puffs, and some others whose names I don’t know. He had actually been on his way to get gelato, but guessed Tony’s design and executed his own Plan B.
We had pasta with tomato-buttermilk sauce. I’m sure that’s very strange to serve, but I made it with my own buttermilk (my cream cultured up quite beautifully all by itself as it was waiting in the refrigerator to collect enough for butter). I am mortified to serve pasta to Italians, since I am sure I don’t cook it for the exact time to make it perfect, and I know my pasta sauces aren’t exactly right, and I imagine there are a lot of other things I haven’t even dreamed of. The fewer the ingredients, the more important the technique.
But Giorgio was very cordial, and complimented the pasta, as well as the tomatoes, which we had gotten that very morning from Beatrice across the street. She also threw in some free basil, so of course I had to make caprese salad. I think the salad was good. I feel pretty comfortable with salads. She also gave us rosemary, which I put in a cream sauce yesterday to go over quinoa. I just put green onions and rosemary in at the end, and then some sliced boiled eggs. The colors were quite lovely.
I think I should try making some cream soups. We have plenty of delicious raw milk these days. We get two liters a day (except on Sundays), which is enough for muesli every morning, Tony’s yoghurt experimentation, my forays into butter, and all the crepes and creamy sauces we want (I use milk, actually, since the cream is for my butter). I’ve not felt the need to buy any meat at all for weeks. It is summer, after all.
Gloriously summer, although a bit hot. Axa is also getting periodic asthma from something in the air. I need to do some research on natural remedies for asthma. I’m looking for a local source of organic bee products (honey, royal jelly, propolis, etc.), since I’ve read that helps with allergies, and I’m fairly sure the asthma is allergy related.
July 11, 2008 No Comments