The final post . . .
Last week we visited family in Vida, Oregon. My parents grow hazelnuts in the McKenzie Valley. Together with my aunts and uncles’ orchards next door, they cultivate over 100 acres of trees. We figured that a short stay on the farm could serve as a reunion with what we love about Italy: local, fresh food, family crowded in every direction and, of course, il dolce far niente (the Italians’ poetic motto meaning “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness,” literally “the sweetness of doing nothing”).
It was a week of inspiration and creation. It was a tribute to the food and lifestyle and culture of the Italians. It was a canvas for remembering our favorite parts of the year abroad.
When we arrived, we took a sunny passeggiata around my parents’ place. Then next door, my Aunt Heidi and Uncle Tom brought us to their Italian inspired terrace which they named, the Piazza. Later, we toured the gardens before settling into the kitchen where we made many of our favorite Umbrian (and Oregon) recipes including six different gelatos, daily pasta dishes and a tribute to roasted Umbrian wild boar.
The new Piazza with a hundred Italian details.
Our favorite corner of the Piazza is the copper griffin which my uncle made by hand in honor of his experience in Perugia with us last winter.
Out in the garden: A crop of fagioline, the prized legume from Lake Trasimeno. (Tom and Heidi snuck home a handful to plant in their garden. I was amazed with the result!)
Close to wild boar! Tom cooked these pork shoulders all day.
Similar to our Sunday excursions in Italy, this trip to my parents’ provided opportunities to practice the concept of farm-to-table:
The McKenzie River flows through their backyard. Aunt Paula took Ray fishing, and he caught a trout for dinner.
Tom added foraged chanterelle mushrooms, home grown tomatoes and garden artichokes to his pot of Italian sauce.
Fruit trees line the driveway. After gathering apples, we pressed and canned 42 quarts of cider and left one large jug to ferment for a breakfast buzz.
Heidi fills the jars while the guys press a wheelbarrow full of fruit.
My mom picked blackberries and made many pies with the boys.
Although the salmon aren’t swimming through Vida, my dad brought some to the farm and taught us how to cure and smoke them for our pasta dinner.
When the temperature drove us out of the kitchen, my dad took the boys to his orchard for golf lessons, archery and paint ball. Later, Tom and Heidi led rafting trips down the river.
We concluded the week with another late dinner on the Piazza. Additional family members joined us. In remembrance of Luke, we illuminated the table with candles which we brought from some of our favorite churches throughout Italy.
The “Year in Perugia” was really over in June. These lingering articles are just my arms reaching back for a little more. But honestly, it’s time to sign off. And with gratitude to the gods of Neat Round Numbers, this is the 100th post, a good place to conclude.
Thanks for following. Thanks for checking in. And thanks for being a part of it. It was exhilarating to have so many readers. I loved the comments and emails and all the appreciation. I savored each compliment and treasured each word of encouragement. Without feedback, it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
With a bittersweet sigh and a thousand memories of la dolce vita . . .
Postscript: Last February, a reader got in touch with me. He is a professor of classical studies at DePauw University. He told me he was interested in taking his family to Italy for a year and wanted to visit and ask some questions. We invited him over for lunch and quickly become friends. He is now living with his wife and three sons in Perugia, just blocks away from our old apartment. They are documenting their year on a blog titled Shades of Umbria. Tune in.
A winter lunch with Pedar in our Perugian apartment.