May 20, 2012

Moments of Tuscan Spring

You never know what May will bring in Tuscany. We’ve been here two weeks and have had four glorious, sunny days and the rest wind, chill, and rain. I’m telling myself that’s good–I can start to focus on a new project and get my concentration back, after a dizzy March and April, when I was on the road constantly. But the flowers we planted on the warm days are battered and bent and I’m wondering if I’m going to be starting over. That’s May, an undecided month, always. The rain gives us dreamy green smeary vistas, and the poppies are going viral over the fields and olive groves. The white wisteria on our pergola looks lacy and poetic.


I would like to be setting that table with a big bowl of roses, and plates for ten friends. Instead, we’re inside, by the fire every night.


Not so bad!  We love the artichoke season and the last we’ll see of asparagus until next spring. We’ve made our little veal meatballs with tomatoes and artichokes, a rolled turkey breast with artichokes, and raw salads from the small, purple violetta artichokes. Every day we roast asparagus in the oven–the very best fate for any stalk of asparagus!  Our neighbor, Fiorella, served us a pasta last week that has inspired us to use fresh herbs more abundantly. She coarsely chopped tomatoes from one of her 200 big jars from last summer–you could use canned–sauteed some garlic, and to that added MORE THAN A CUP of minced sage and rosemary.  Some parmigiano. Basta, that’s it.  She used small penne; we used bucatini. We’ve made it twice and find the copious use of herbs just so fresh. We feel as though we are eating Tuscany!  I added some oregano and basil.  Then we tried the big herb mixture with our stand-by lemon chicken that’s in The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.  Again, we loved the intense, green, pungent taste. Cooking is always new here.

We’re entering the season of the sagra. If you’re driving in Tuscany look for signs of a sagra–it’s a feast celebrating a particular ingredient–cherries, polenta, fava beans, goose, rabbit, artichoke–whatever is in season or is traditional in the area. Here, below, the sagra for the wild boar.


Even in the rain, everyone gathered along the Giro d’Italia route.  What struck me is how dangerous that race is. All the support cars are intermingled with the riders. I don’t see how you could pass them, two abreast, if you wanted to move up in the race. Still–very exciting! What an elegant sport–the cool jerseys, the essentially pared-down bikes, the super-lean bodies. It was over in a heartbeat. That cool pink outfit that you see in the lead belongs to Joaquim Rodruigez. Forza!


Were there any women racing? I didn’t spot any.

So far, May is a time to read, cook, think, and rest for the summer, which is full of guests, big changes, and travel. I walk into town early, before most people are out and about. A quick breakfast, a contemplation of the local death notices posted near Nessun Dorma. We’re not going to be seeing names like Assunta, Lazzaro, and Primo much longer.



Soon all the roses will bloom on our side of the hill.  Lower down and on the other side, my friend CoCo’s already are in bloom. She brought me these almost-apricot, delicately scented beauties:


In my garden, I’m content right now with peonies the size of dinner plates. Here’s the heart of one: