Making Mozzarella

Making Mozzarella

Making ricotta in our cooking classes takes but a few minutes of labor. As for mozzarella, although not difficult to make, is much more time consuming. Because I can buy freshly made with raw local milk mozzarella directly from the producer minutes from the farm, it is more practical to do so, especially needing large quantities. I regret due to recent restrictions from the European Community concerning visitors at the production plant, it is no longer as convenient as in the past, but I have managed to work my way in with our class attendees on many occasions.

Only by experiencing the freshly made with raw milk mozzarella can one understand why most Italians do not consider commercially available mozzarella in the American supermarkets to be called mozzarella. The product has no similarities to the freshly made, soft, velvety, sweet, savory, chewable but not rubbery, made without preservatives, preferably to be consumed in 24 hours, true mozzarella.

Picture.6jpg

Watching the production in our neighborhood has been a highlight of our cooking weeks, when able to do so. All are amazed seeing the skillful cheese maker turn the morning milking of raw milk into small delicate balls of mozzarella. Knowing the proper temperature for heating the milk, the timing as to when to add the rennet that separates the curd from the whey, the amount of time necessary for the curdling, when to separate curd from the whey, all depends on the skills of the artisan cheese maker. With hands burning from the hot water needed before stretching the mass of gum like curd, he then shapes the cheese in the desired shapes. Our class experienced making individual golf ball size pieces, to tennis ball sizes as well as experiencing braiding the mozzarella as seen in the picture.

Picture2

After experiencing what we call real mozzarella, class attendees always comment as do the Italians when saying there just is no comparison to that rubbery dry industrial made mozzarella with many unknown additives for shelf life.

Picture4

Picture3

A double treat is when the artisan cheese maker gave all our attendees a small spoon to get to taste the warm whey (that was separated from the curd) shortly after being converted into fresh ricotta. Again a new experience to those that have never tasted real ricotta. I do believe as do most Italians that the commercially industrial produced in the market products should be labeled as “an imitation”.

Picture7

Picture5

Advertisements

I Love Lucy

I love Lucy

 

Looking at my watch, I realized he would never make it on time. Why of all days did he schedule a face lift the same day that he had to perform the wedding ceremony? Walking over to the ceremony grounds to translate for the American bride, I was asked by the Italian photographer to inform the bride that the sun would be too bright at 5 and maybe the ceremony should be moved to 6. The bride agreed. The photographer then added that it would not make much of a difference so she could keep the ceremony at 5. I didn’t translate his last comment and informed the bride, great idea, shall move it to 6:00.

 

Back to the house I made a quick call to his cell when being informed he was but minutes away, suggested he not rush driving since the ceremony had been moved to 6. Shortly there after the guests watched as my husband dressed in his surgical garb, dash through the front door, ran up the stairs to change. Questioning followed, as to what’s with the surgeon? I quickly followed him up the stairs to avoid further discussion, with a quick response stated “ he is the priest”. There were a few laughs along with a gentlemen’s comment, “is this halloween?”

 

A short time later the surgeon, minister, my husband, appeared before some 100 guests, dressed in his dark formal suit, tie, and minister’s sash on the grounds of Villa Lucia in Montevettolini, Italy, to give his usual monologue. “Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to welcome all of you here on this lovely day under the Tuscan sun, traveling distances to join” Ms — and Mr — “ on this special occasion of the celebration of their marriage .”. .After so many occasions, the monologue memorized by my husband needed no rehearsing, other than to insert a change in the names of the couple to be married.

 

Many of our guests often asked during the last 25 years, how I managed to get Orange County California’s popular plastic surgeon in the 80’s with a 6 month waiting list for an office appointment to come to Italy. Seeing him pick olives, chuck peas, clean fava beans, can tomatoes, stamp grapes, make jam, serve cappuccinos, cook, serve, and clean up after each dinner party and help serve breakfast in the morning, leaves our guest perplexed.. Then having passed his Italian medical boards, written and oral, he takes care of his American patients that fly to Italy for a little tuck.. He came close to not taking the test when he was told he would have to read the 1200 page book on Italian law, needless to say, in Italian. But, I voiced my disappointment.. I lived with him for 45 years to be sure he would be there when my twinkle lines deepen to folds of wrinkles. When asked the frequent question, “ doc, what are you doing here?” he would always answer what so many of our guest have heard him say, “ I love Lucy”.

 

The pragmatist and the romanticist.

 

Italy may not be an ideal country for all. For me, an Italian American who loves everything about the country, left California social life to become a farmer. Our boat was replaced by a 75 horse powered tractor. My walk-in closet is now an armoire to serve two. The deck on our water front home that I could hose down in minutes is a 15 acre olive grove needing daily attention. Cocktail parties with socialites are now barbecues with the farmers. Stored cocktail dresses finding no use, are packed in the back of the armoire hidden by my daily attire of jeans, tee-shirts, and sweatshirts. My farm boots are all in easy reach, leaving to collect dust are those Saturday night high heal shoes of yesterday.

 

To determine when my love for Italy began, my thoughts bring me back to visiting my maternal grandparents as an 8 year old with my parents. My older sisters attending high school in Connecticut, could not miss school. It was shortly after the war. Poverty was evident along with the ruins from bombings recorded in all our photos, but for an 8 year old, my only memories are of an abundance of joy, laughter, happiness with an extended family spoiling me with love and attention. Every day seemed like a holiday. Everyone in town seemed to be related . Most were related considering my mother was one of 14 and dad one of 9. Their siblings continued the prolific pattern of extending their family for additional farmhands. I cried when it came time to leave, and promised my cousins that I would return.

 

For Jorge, my Argentinian husband of Spanish and Czechoslovakian descent, life in Italy was far from perfect and not his choice compared to his life in Southern California. As an 8-year-old in Argentina, he was a proficient reader and favored books describing that wonderful land to the North, everyone’s dream, the great USA. At age 27, as a young Argentinian doctor, he came to the new world to fulfill his dream. Shortly after, and happily settled in the USA, he completed 8 additional years of medical residency, passed all his written and oral surgical boards, the speciality boards and believed his dream fulfilled. But shortly after we met he ascertained that his American wife wanted to return to her roots and live La Dolce Vita in Italy.

 

As an American, raised by Italian immigrant parents with European traditional values, I worked hard with little resources to climb my ladder to success, but always felt a void in my life, something that I never experienced when in Italy. The USA gave me everything I have and love: my family, husband, friends, education, values, principles, work ethics, and organizational skills. But my heart, soul, emotions,and spirit, I guess one might say, my DNA is Italian. I experienced this again when on a university scholarship program in 1961, studying the Catholic Communist Crisis in Italy when it had the largest communist party outside of the Iron Curtain. Following my completion of my studies I wished to remain but my parents adamantly opposed. They compromised with me by suggesting a possibility after graduating from college.

 

With the approval of my parents following graduation I found employment in Rome at the USIA offices. Nobody would change these plans, so I thought. Shortly before my planned departure I met my prince and future husband. Again my plans were delayed. He had no objection and agreed I should go, but “not now”. Never would I imagine that “not now” would be 25 years later. We were fortunate to have been able to visit Italy on a number of occasions but that was not what I wanted. He understood holidays. I wanted to live there. We both agreed it was best to wait for our children to finish their studies. I finally fulfilled my dream, but this time unplanned due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

When an unexpected detour in my life closed a door, I was forced to search and managed to find a window open. It could only be the decision of the Divine. As I was sadly packing some of our 500 books in our library, having to depart from our water front home of 29 years, Richard Bach’s novel, Jonathan Seagull fell to the floor, leading me to read it for the second time while taking a pause in my cleaning and packing. By leaving his flock, I read how Jonathan was able to distance himself away from his ordinary life, and by doing so gain a better understanding of what might be missing in his life. Being a workaholic living on two speeds, faster and faster, I was seduced by my work. It was nobody’s fault but my own. Living in a consuming culture, it is easy to lose sight of what is important in life. I thought of my Italian dad’s words which I have often heard from others in Tuscany, “ never allow your occupation to become work” if you want to enjoy life. It may be hard to do, but it depends on how much one may want to make a change in life. With little financial resources, having signed a personal guarantee that caused us to lose our home, I worked alone to empty our home. Criticized by many of my peers and family, like Jonathan, decided to embark on my new life.

 

Jorge, as a surgeon, perfectionist, pragmatist, practicing efficiency every minute of the day, views the world in black and white without a tinge of grey. He found in America all that he ever wanted and could never find in Argentina or Italy. He loved his life in California, with the many flavors offered even if never having time to taste them, but they were there. Bringing him to Italy was like bringing him back to Argentina, a step backwards in his judgment. His pragmatism made adjusting to Italy very difficult. I had experienced years before similar situations when trying to bring American culture to Italy but soon learned to adjust to the Italian culture and leave the American culture for Americans. It is only then that one can begin to appreciate that which is Italian. It took him years but in doing so it gave me many stories to tell of the difficulty of a very pragmatic man to enjoy the romanticism of Italy.

 

I give credit to my husband who finding himself out of his element, cutting onions instead of people, he has become my robocoop. Being Lucy’s husband instead of the respected Dr Luhan, he hands me kitchen tools as his surgical nurse in the past handed him instruments. Because he stuck it out with me in Italy, I have many stories to tell. Our 500 year old abandoned house needing a roof, became our home, enriching us with a treasure chest of wonderful memories, meeting friends from around the world, and able to share with others life under the Tuscan B&B.

Convivio 1920-1930

1920-1930

A NEW CUISINE OF TIME SAVING DEVICES

The beginning of the decline of genuine foods
“ we may find in the long run that the food in the tin is a deadlier weapon than a machine gun

(George Orwell)

Back in the early 1900’s people may have worked hard, but there seemed to be time in spite of work, for leisure, and a family meal. That was when luxury was status, status was leisure and leisure was time for family. But in our time pressured lives, competition and productivity have taken up leisure.Status today means a diary full of schedules so that one can publicize their lack of time, and overextended workday.

I recall when meeting my husband in 1962, who had recently arrived in the United States from Argentina, that he questioned me as to why when you ask an American how they are, the response is always, “ I am so busy”. Initially I disagreed with him until
he suggested I ask around and see what the response would be.
Sure enough in those days, the answer by the majority of those I asked was, “I am so busy”.
In Argentina as in Italy at the time, possibly less today,status meant a break in the day for a family meal, maybe a nap, or time to just relax.

Mid-afternoon the world in Argentina would stop for mate, tea time, a custom they adopted from the English who settled there.Argentinians like my in-laws would follow this ritual religiously.
In the afternoon in Italy there was always la merenda, a drink and or snack with a friend away from work, to enjoy usually while seated at a table, to refuel for the rest of the day.In Italy when I arrived in the 80’s, my family, neighbours and friends all seemed to enjoy the luxury of leisure as the equivalent of the good life. Regardless how hard one worked, there was always time to nourish body and soul. It was a priority.

There was time to spend contemplating beauty, landscapes,dreams, family and friends. Most italians, regardless of their socio-economical status, were not willing to give up the ritual of the family meal, or the pleasure of a lengthy vacation.Regardless how hard the Italians may work they always seem to be able to have time for leisure if none other than the family meal.

One evening around the dinner table with my italian friends, the discussion led to the American table and how we fail to enjoy leisure and the simple pleasure that life gives us.I disagreed believing everyone enjoys pleasure and desires leisure time.I was corrected by my friends who define pleasure not by one’s purchasing power and the number of gadgets one may possess but to enjoy simple pleasures every day life can provide.

Leisure for them differed as well. For my italian dinner guests leisure does not impel them to fill idle hours with tasks calculated to justify idleness and accomplishments. Leisure might mean to enjoy a stroll after dinner, sit under a pergola with friends, watching a sun set on one’s patio, or stopping midday for tea with friends. .Listening to what I thought was their stereotype of Americans, made me wonder of the origin of their thoughts which led to the common denominator being our obsession with saving time.
Could we be influenced by our forefathers and the ancient puritanical adage, “An idle mind is the devil’s work?” Could that be the reason that citizens of the most industrial country in the world, America, have more time saving possessions than any other country, yet experience little time to enjoy life?.

Could that be the reason the once enjoyed simple pleasures of the family dinner hour has lost its importance? Could that be what eventually lead to a general lack of interest and appreciation for quality foods.? What happened to the pioneering woman who in spite of working hard and with little means, never failed to have as a priority her family’s well being.

The pioneering woman in America worked hard just as she did in her native country. She may have made her own bread, grew her own vegetables, baked like her mother, and may have even napped like her grandmother. She cooked as she did in the old country and had a reputation for her culinary skills, and being creative with what was available. Something happened that made American food get such a terrible reputation and the American homemaker stereotyped often as worthless in the kitchen. I recall when my husband announced to his Argentinian family that he was marrying an American girl, my mother- in-law was mortified at the thought.Her son would never be fed a decent meal because I would surely be feeding him out of a can. She was reassured it would not be the case when he informed her I was an Italian-American.How did America get the reputation for being the country whose citizens have the least amount of interest in quality foods? Yet, their ancestors cooked, ate and fed their family well even when having meager resources.

I believe it all came about around the 1920’s when the manufacturers of household gadgets decided to take the American woman out of what they called, the “drudgery” of the kitchen, and give her leisure time. Being a young nation and unfortunately the first to adopt the new cuisine, America gained an unfortunate reputation. Manufacturers and marketers advertised how time saving devises would allow the homemaker to set the table as the food was warmed up, creating a new cuisine developed with time saving possibilities. One particular item that became the stereotype of the American woman was the can opener. Woman’s magazines praised the new electric appliance alongwith the numerous new canned and pre-packaged foods that could liberate the homemaker from unnecessary physical exertions and old fashion kitchen slavery. Woman thought of this new streamlined cooking as an important step forward. But was it? Mothers who were once praised for their culinary skills, were now considered lazy.Husbands accustom to being welcomed home from work with the aromas of a hot meal in the kitchen considered the new culinary cuisine, barbaric. Children home from school, no longer were greeted by a mother preparing a meal, or the warm inviting comfort of kitchen aromas. Lost was the mother or grandmother as a role model in the kitchen, teaching one to cook, handle kitchen utensils, and share recipes through generations. Worst of all was how the new cuisine lowered the once honoured role of homemaker to that of “drudgery”,unfilling,and worthless..

Woman now felt liberated and excited to enjoy new leisure, with new electrical gadgets and the popularity of the industry’s line of pre-packaged food. .Unfortunately they soon discovered that labour saving devices may save drudgery but not labour. Her chores augmented instead of decreasing.Now she had all the new machinery to take care of, clean,repair, and often discard for another.
Her time became more valuable.Her new toys did not foster satisfaction but often just more work. There was no time for the little nap grandma took after lunch in the old country after preparing her family’s meal.As reported in the US Bureau of Home Economic, in the 1920’s, women were now called upon to spend more time doing other chores. She became busy shopping for convenience foods, and standards of cleanliness were higher since she now had electrical appliances requiring her to vacuum, clean and scrub carpets and floors, walls and windows. To take advantage of canned products and electrical appliances, she now was supposes to give her youngsters more maternal supervision than previous decades. The new streamline cooking gave her,so she thought, an opportunity to use her new leisure functionally by seeking possibly clerical work outside of the home.Venturing into business saw some financial gains to benefit her family and enhance life, but this sense of fulfilment often cost her personal relationships with family. Many found that the financial rewards without loved ones to share can be empty, and create unfilled victories..

Her need for hurry up dinners, gave her the status of “Super Woman” juggling her life with an overwhelming slate of commitments while concealing her exhaustion. Regardless that she worked harder than ever, the can opener still became her logo and that the little leisure time she may have had before, no longer was available.Initially when woman adopted the new cuisine she was considered the cause of family conflict and marital strive. Men, even if agreeing to the new cuisine still were nostalgic for his mother’s cooking. Children who cherished the loving care and kindness that their mothers put into their cuisine, now longed for her homemade bread, the emblem of a stay at home mom. Her husband longed for the apple pie, a symbol of the docile devoted wife. In the 1920’s the American wife was hurled into the future more than in any other culture. In Italy and elsewhere she became known, according to our dinner guests, as having a reputation as a lazy selfish being, hating to cook and living out of a can. Most were not aware of the fact that the new appliances made the American housewife’s life counter-productive.

Without the daily complements of her achievements in the kitchen, she lost her self-esteem. Not being the loving homemaker at the stove pleasing husband and children, she lost her status. At the time, the italian woman maintained both self-esteem and status.
With the new cuisine of time saving devices,
the American woman lost the collateral that an italian woman can bring to a marriage and essential for a happy home.Being busy as a super woman she lost the luxury of leisure and her envied position as the pillar holding the family together, which the italian woman has maintained, at least until recently. In spite of their differences in cuisine, there was still a characteristic the American woman had in common with the Italian woman of the 20’s an 30’s.The American woman in general managed to provide a dinner hour for the family to be enjoyed at the family table. The 1920’s is when I see in America the beginning of the decline of genuine foods which hascontinued to deteriorate through the years, particularly augmented during the post war years. Farmers following the war were able to obtain cheap fossil fuel which became the base for new chemical fertilizers and pesticides that would provide greater quantities of foods at the expense of quality. Inexpensive corn and soy along with inexpensive fertilizers and pesticides introduced the new cuisine from the can to a prepared and processed food item.

Mother’s nutritional wisdom on feeding a family based on tradition and culture was replaced by the wisdom of marketeers, and food conglomerates. Public health officials, led the unaware consumer to accept poor quality foods regardless of detrimental consequences for the environment, culture, health, and general well being.Simultaneously, the gaining in popularity of canned item was joined by a cornicopia of prepared and processed foods made available. This new cuisine of time saving devices proved to be cheaper for the consumer, a time saver for the homemaker, and a most profitable endeavour for the food industry. Unknown to the consumer was how the government and industry that introduced the new cuisine, brought with it a bug, a contagious virus from America that would soon effect the world.This virus I shall call, “ no time” which has penetrated the quality of foods around the world, creating a casualty of healthy living. Italy is not an exception. Countries without a food culture based on tradition and culture, experiencing more a uniform in taste, and a general decrease in quality, are those most susceptible to the virus. Countries with food culture, like Italy, that has maintained more than any other country, loyalty to the distinctive foods and wines of each region, creating the most popular and one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, are least effected. Therefore, it warrants looking into the food culture of Italy, for it holds some secrets to fight the epidemic before it too becomes infected. I have observed that “no time” has invaded areas of Italy where food culture shows a decline, confirming its importance in fighting this epidemic. Italy’s strong family, tradition, and food culture has worked until recently as the flu shot preventing its contagiousness.

Unfortunately, the marketeers, food conglomerates, selling convenience, hidden in the nucleus of the bug, continue to win battles against anti-bodies, to weak to be effective.Today the Italian woman like the American woman of the 20’s and 30’s has found work out of the home and finds herself in a cross road, with a juggling act of being the traditional wife and motheras well as working. La dolce vita for her is certainly less dolce as she experiences changes in her life as in America, trying to integrate professional and personal life. Although she may adopt some of the short cuts in cuisine, purchasing from la tavola calda, hot meals prepared to go, and hurrying about to fulfill chores on an overbooked calendar of activities, she continues as taught by her ancestors to seek out quality food and be less influenced by the “no time” virus. Changes she has had to make yet tends to eliminate other activities before convivio. Having experienced this when visiting and dining with working mothers in Italy in the last 30 years, I wish to share their differences before they too join the rest of the world, adopting the modern lifestyle,lead by America,distancing the world from the pleasures of the dinner table.

C O N V I V IO ( defined)

Convivio, a book dedicated to my mother, 100 years old, is written as a legacy for my family and for future generations of our family to understand a food culture that we have experienced . Unfortunately it may be a culture soon be buried into history books of tradition. It will be hard for future generations to understand how one could possibly spend an hour or two at a dinner table. I do not expect many to be interested in the eating habits of an italian-american family but for those that might have an interest I decided to give weekly exerts of each chapter to see the response before my attempt to self-publish. It is my personal experience from Italy to America and back to Italy, where my experience with food culture had its start and I regret to say may have its end.

C O N V I V IO ( defined)

A Degree of Civilization is often measured by its cuisine
.
“ In Italy the pleasure of eating is central to the pleasure of living.
.
When you sit down to dinner with Italians, when you share their food, you share their lives”.
Fred Plotkin, Italy for the Gourmet
Living and working in America and in Italy has convinced me of the importance of what the Italians refer to as convivio. The pleasures of dining with good food, wine, family, and friends lead me to the conclusion that if a degree of civilization, as defined by Escoffier, is measured by acountry’s cuisine, then the Italian cuisine, most popular in the world, can also be measured by convivio, life at the table. It is a word that has no English translation and in Italian translates to living together. But through Italian usage, convivio has come to refer to the hospitality of a pleasurable experience at the table. Eating in Italy means eating together, and as Plotkin noted,central to the pleasure of living and the sharing of life.

For Italians the meal is an art, the highlight of everyday life, a time of togetherness. In our family other than for illness, there was no excuse to be absent from the family table. Following the traditions of the old world, our family meal in my youth was a daily event, providing an opportunity for family and friends to nourish not only the body but also the soul. The family meal,a daily necessity, is made pleasurable by providing comfort, companionship, and a time to share the day’s events. Other cultures may also enjoy the tradition of dinner with family and friends at the table, but I shall leave that for others to discuss. My experience is in America and in Italy.The influence of my parents and later in life my husband, who was born in Argentina, reinforced in me the importance of time at the table as being just as important as genuine foods. The Italian dining experience I believe is worth noting, studying and adopting, for in many ways, it has the potential to alleviate or diminish many of the ills of modern society. It is this daily ritual whose significance is often overlooked, that plays a most noteworthy role in the civilization of acountry, its values, family life, mores, mannerism and social standing. The positive virtues of eating together at a table was practiced for centuries from Etruscans and Romans to the 21st century.

Today’s accelerated life style unfortunately has begun to create culinary blackouts even in Italy, butat a much slower pace then any other country in the industrial world. On a food culture scale Italy and America are at opposite ends. In Italy 90% of the families practice convivio, eating at least one meal at the family dinner table.
At the other end of the world scale is America which is quickly losing the sight of the table and where about 30% of its inhabitants eat at least one meal a day in a vehicle, often designed for eating.

Studies have demonstrated that an individual’s emotional, physical, and psychological status often can be correlated to their time at the dinner table. Delinquency, criminal acts, poor scholastic achievements, and even obesity show a significant universal orrelation to those that fail to eat at the family table. I often wonder when hearing of a crime, particularly of a lone soul shooting aimlessly into a crowd, if it would have occurred if that individual had a meal a day with family and or friends to share stories, life, and maybe even problems. I worry about the child who wants to discuss the happenings of the day, but finds no parent to talk to at the dinner table. Besides life at the computer or television, poor school meals, fast food establishments, lack of exercise, can one of the causes of the increase in obesity be related also to the decline of life at the family dinner table?
Do soccer games and piano lessons have to take place during the dinner hour? As studies are beingmade to determine why the world is suffering from a major increased in depression, maybe it would warrant a study of the societies were it occurs at a slower pace. Could individual problems be lessened, corrected, or eliminated, if one could enjoy table time on a daily basis with family or friends?

The positive virtues of the Italian dining experience as well as the negative results observed as they unfortunately gradually move away from the table, leads me to believe that it is time to get back to the table. Needless to say it is difficult with the demands of family, business, social obligations, pressures of society, and time factors. But for those that say, the family dinner is impossible, one should consider problems that may occur in the future which could be more time consuming then an hour daily at the table.It is not my intention to replace other activities one may do as a family, but the daily time at the table without tension or distractions can prove to be most rewarding.

Never would I imagine that the 500 year old abandoned farm house I saw while visiting Tuscany, Italy in 1985 would become a home, a cooking school, and a B&B, enriching my life with convivio. Unknowingly until recently, convivio in our family was a precursor for me to seek a life around the table with family and friends. The experience of sharing life adventures,companionship, along with social interactions and genuine foods leads many of our guests to express their desire to reinforce bonding with family and friends around the table when returning back to their country. Stories would never have been know if I gave our guests a key to their room along with coffee and croissants for breakfast instead of inviting them to our Italian table.

I feel fortunate to have been born, raised, educated and given the opportunity to experience freedoms of the most unique country in the world, America. I am proud to be an American and all that my native country has given me. But, when comparing cuisines and dining experiences, I feel fortunate to have had parents, immigrants from Italy, who allowed me to experience the two principle ingredients of their culinary traditions, food culture and convivio, ( table life) enriching me with the best of two worlds. My parents, and later in life, my husband, emphasized besides the need of genuine ingredients, an ingredient of the mediterranea diet often neglected in many societies, convivio, the pleasure of the dining table, so important in Italian culture.

It was this most important ingredient, often neglected today when defining the mediteranean diet that led me to share my personal experiences around the table and the difference between two cultures, with the emphasis on the joy of eating Italian style. As food cultures even in Italy and France are changing so are their problems augmenting which proves to me the importance of getting back to the table.Time to tell the soccer coach,”sorry it is dinner time”.

Our Tuscan Dogs

I was fixing breakfast one morning when little Joey, a house guests, came crying to me that our dog did not like him. It was hard to believe. I told him I would go out and see once I finished beating eggs for a morning frittata. Before I finished Joey went out and began to yell Va Via, Va Via. When I went out he pointed to Toto that was running away. “ See he doesn’t like me”. I then realized that Joey heard my husband yelling at Toto to go away in Italian. Joey thought it was his name. After wiping his tears and explaining that it was a command to go away and not his name a happy smile appeared on Joey’s face. Looking up at me he said, “ But Miss Lucy, how long did it take for Toto to learn Italian?”I just love kids.dog 1

Toto who understands limited english, spanish and italian

Enzo, our dashhound was unusual since he had a brown and black spotted coat. He came to live with me when I was alone in Tuscany .He played soccer, shooting the ball back to me with his nose as I would shoot one to him. But most amazing was how he would howl along with me as I would sing while working. Our guests were always amazed. It was great except when at my daughter’s wedding, Carlo Bini, our opera singer neighbor who we were honored to have sing at my daughter’s reception had to cut short his aria of Aida. Enzo began his howls that he learned to do whenever I sang. Mr Bini looked out at the guests and explained that he had experienced lots of competition in his singing career but never with a dog and reluctantly returned to his dinner table. At that time, Enzo retired to the greenbelt quietly but shortly after faced a terrible death. He was irreplaceable but we did get two other lovely dashhounds, Tara and Tito to give our black dashhound company,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sara and Kelly, two of our wonderful summer interns with Toto, Tara and Tito.

For a week we could not find Tara in the evening. She would return every night only after our desperate calls for her as we would close the doors of the main house. We finally learned where Tara spent her time when a family shared with us this lovely picture of their beautiful little girl who wanted to sleep with Tara . Her parents allowed this until hearing our desperate calls at 11:00 when they would let Tara out of their apartment. Such a precious picture of love between a dog and a child I felt was worth sharing.

dog 3
Our dogs love pilate sessions, with our guests. See Tara with her short legs high in the air stretching to the sky in the last row and Toto trying to help in the first row

dog 4
This is a dog that I wish was ours. Trained to sniff the ground in search for the most precious, expensive and culinary delicacy, the white truffle, allows truffle hunters to command a high price for their trained dogs. Out on our truffle hung he rarely fails us in our search of this high priced delicacy often referred to as the “food of the gods”.
dog 5

Our class in search for truffles

dog 6

An evening of culture

Although we have lots of fun in the kitchen, we also love going to cultural events with our guests. A yearly favorite is going to Andrea Bocelli’s concerts at Teatro del Silenzio in Lajatico near his home in Tuscany. Our wonderful Tuscan neighbors, opera singer Carlo Bini and his english wife Bonnie, who have had Bocelli at their home, manage to get us tickets to hear the practice performance the night before his scheduled performance.(Here we are with some of our guests and Francesco, about to leave Villa Lucia for the short drive to Teatro del Silenzio.)
bocelli 1 The singing is always magnificent, the practice program identical, and the outdoor performance under the stars of a beautiful Tuscan summer night, always fantastic. The only difference is the cost is considerably less and the performers are not in their concert attire. None of us missed that at all.bocelli 2
We sang all the way home “Con Té Partirò”.summer 2009 678