October 21, 2010

Missing Tuscany

Late fall is full of spectacular color, the pleasures of the olive harvest and many occasions to feast. I am at home in North Carolina, while Ed remains in Cortona.  He took his three sisters to Gdansk, Poland and the Kashubia area where their ancestors came from several generations back.  These four descendents know only four words from their grandparents and were surprised to learn that Poles didn’t recognize the words at all.   In Kashubia, however, their friend and guide  recognized the words as Kashubian dialect.  They all loved Poland, as Ed and I did last year when we went for a couple of weeks to Krakow, Torun, and the Gdansk area.  All three cities are magnificent and profound.

Now they’re all back in Cortona and in the middle of the olive harvest.  Ed reports that they have picked two tons in three days.  That’s a LOT of olives! For the first time ever, Pierino and Armando are not on the team.  They’re both in their mid-eighties now and Pierino’s family protested.  No more ladders in the wind.  So Armando stayed away too.  Ed wants them to come out to the grove for lunch and a little grappa, like old times.  Here are Piero and Armando last year.  Let us now praise famous men!!!

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Ed has the help of  young and handsome Roberto, our very dear Albano, Fabio who helps us with the garden at Bramasole, and his friend Gigi.  And the three sisters, who love the harvest and so enjoy the fresh oil they take home. Several friends of theirs have dropped in for the fun. For more harvest photos and olive oil info, look at www.thetuscansun.com The olive grove is magical at all seasons.  Here’s our grove below Bramasole, which we named Willie’s Grove when our grandson was born.  It’s for him and I hope it’s a sustaining joy all his life.  This is spring:

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I miss all the excitement of loading the crates and taking them to the mill, standing around for that first taste on a piece of grilled bread. I miss lunch there.  Usually the men bring sandwiches the size of a foot, stuffed with all kinds of salami. The olives trees have such presence, attitude, and character–being among them is almost like being with people.

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You spread the net, then pick by hand or with a little plastic rake and let the olives fall onto the net.

Just as much as the harvest, I miss chestnut season.  Ed sent me this photo, taken last night at our neighbor’s fireplace.

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Besides the roasting chestnuts–I almost can smell them–there are a couple of interesting things about this photo.  See the tall black box on the right, with the brass handle.  That’s a wind-up spit.  The iron skewer is threaded with meat, pigeons, and guinea hen, and the other end of the skewer rests on that black iron notched piece opposite on the left.  (I think the skewer is leaning against the fireplace tools on the right.) The rack where the fire is was designed by Placido, our neighbor.  He builds a fire in it, then rakes down the coals under the grill.  That way he can keep the fire going and use the coals as he needs them.  He can maintain the kind of temperature he wants for a long time.

We have dozens of old chestnuts at our mountain house.  Some are the prized kind that give us marrons, the big meaty chestnuts used to make marron glacé, or simply to roast and feel that, yes, fall is here.

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