November 2011 Olives, Truffles & Omlette
The olive season started early, like many other harvests this year, and by the first week in November it was in full swing with temperatures in the 20’s so we were working in T-shirts once the mist had burnt off. Unfortunately some of the privately owned mills had been caught on the hop and hadn’t anticipated the picking starting as early as it did and long queues of people formed at those few that were running. This year we had just a third of what we gathered last year as in our area the fruit was sparse due to a wet and blustery spring damaging the blossom. We had hoped that the work-away couple who had helped the year before would have been available to help out again but the family they were picking with before us asked them to stay on and house sit so they could visit family in Germany. How could they say no? As a compromise they drove over to help out for a few days with the picking and then pruning, so we were not left totally adrift, and the work was completed all bar the burning of the bonfires. Strong gusts from the South and a cold front coming from the North made it too hazardous to try to light them.
The weather in the North made headline news across the world. A town in Liguria was practically divided by a massive landslide and Genova was partially submerged by the flooding of two rivers that converge there. Sadly lives were lost, homes ruined and businesses destroyed. They were likening the devastation to 1966 when the River Arno burst its banks and flooded Florence destroying uncounted art treasures.
The second week of the month and our work away friends were able to stay for 3 nights and give us a helping hand thinning out the acacias that had begun to dominate our skyline and hide the wonderful views. The long limbs were saved for top fence poles, the trunks for up rights and the smaller branches for cross pieces. The constant tripping of deer, boar crashing and porcupines digging through them tend to take a toll on the fencing that along the tops of the terraces and we regularly have to replace broken segments, fortunately we have enough home grown timber to keep up. Actually the weather's been great, morning mists but dry so we've had to water the pot plants. I was splashing water into the base of the lemon tree pot and a bright green frog hopped out. Later Mach1, our tabby cat, was dancing and squeaking by the door so I opened it to let him out but he continued performing until I noticed the frog had come in and was descending down the wall, it was returned to the flower pot and the cat settled down for a good wash.
The weekend our Prime Minister, Silvio Burlosconi, resigned was also the 24th truffle event at Fabro. This year they held it in both the old town on top of the hill and in the newer section at the bottom near the railway, parking and mini bus transport laid on for just 3 euros a car. The majority of shops are in the lower half and they remained open during the evening as a procession wound its way to the church with flag throwing, fire breathing and accompanying drumming. There in the church square a dinner was laid on for those who’d pre-booked and later a theatrical group entertained the assembled throng. Up in the old town stalls of producers were gathered selling truffles whole, sliced, in oil, in honey, pastes, sauces, cheese and salami. Fruit jams, preserves, honey, soaps, oils, nougat, liquorice, pastas, breads, porchetta and so on. We grazed our way up and down sampling the many varied foods on offer and selecting things we would not normally have access to. In the mid afternoon they lit a huge bonfire and after two hours a crane lifted a 2m frying pan into place. Drums of olive oil were poured in and jars of sliced truffles added. Many chefs were breaking in to huge bowls 2000 eggs to be beaten up and at a signal they surrounded the pan and tipped the seasoned mixture in. Wooden oars were used to stir the omelette and as it reached setting a large lid was dropped over, screwed down and the crane turned the whole thing over to cook on the other side. When done the TV camera’s filmed the cutting and distribution of what they hoped was the worlds largest truffle omelette to the waiting masses, it took 3 hours to consume.
The weather continued to be fine with temperatures in the mid 20’s but dropping to –3 and below at night right up to the last week of the month. A confused pear tree bloomed and crocuses abound along side the coniasters smothered in berries. What for next month, a heat wave?
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Michael & Peggy Hunt moved from Pembrokeshire to Italy two years ago. They now live on the Tuscan / Umbrian border in Locanda Delle Rose among 300 olive trees, enquiring neighbours and over-familiar wildlife. "Oddly, it is not so different from Pembrokeshire at all, " they say. "We have felt at home from the very beginning. "