We have just two days left before my aunt and uncle return to the States. I really wish that all our guests could stay for so long. They’ve been here nearly a month. We’ve had so much fun without ever feeling rushed. We’ve had time to show them all of Perugia, several Umbrian towns, and then two extraordinary spots in northern Italy.
By now, Tom and Heidi have been here long enough to meet Italians and experience true Italian livin’. They have made friends with our friends. In fact, everyone who meets them wants to hang out. This week Signora Paola, the boys’ tutor, invited us over for dinner. And no experience is more authentic than eating a meal in an Italian’s house.
We showed up at 8pm, which is customary since Italians like to eat late. Paola and her husband live outside Perugia on a small farm. They have olive trees and a big garden. As we arrived, Paola’s entire family was waiting for us. We met everyone including her husband, two sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The table was full of drinks and appetizers, so we sat down immediately. Paola’s husband, Willy, poured his homemade hot pepper apertif, which was made from infusing garden-grown peppers in alcohol for several weeks. (We liked it so much that they later sent us home with a bottle.) Then platters were passed and we filled our plates with chicken liver crostini, pieces of pork head, fennel and grapefruit salad, anchovy and egg crostini, pecorino cheese with an assortment of homemade spreads, and potato chips. We were all full before the official first course.
Then Paola served plates of mushroom pasta while explaining that her mother-in-law foraged the mushrooms out in the woods herself. New bottles of wine were opened. Knowing the boys weren’t mushroom fans, Paola offered a meat and tomato pasta for them. The next course was wild boar with a side of broccoli rabe. We were stuffed before the first bite; however, each dish was so good, we continued to eat and eat and eat. Next came a plate of oranges drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. One bite and I was convinced that this is the best way to enjoy a slice of orange.
For dessert Paola and Willy offered five different kinds of cookies and three home made after-dinner-drinks.
While I would never have enough courage to cook an Italian meal for Paola, I asked if she would consider visiting us in the United States. She agreed, so maybe someday we can return the favor.