Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.
In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.
So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.
This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!
Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.
A couple posts ago, I talked about buying one of the alien looking broccoli romanesci. It is a very delicious vegetable. And amazing to look at too! Romanesco broccoli is a stunning example of a naturally forming fractal, recurrent throughout the natural world. It is a mystery why…but I just wanted to eat it! 😁
I decided to try an Italian recipe. I used a head of the broccoli. I separated it into florets. Then I boiled it for ten minutes and drained it.
Then I placed it in a pan lined with carta forno, or parchment paper. I preheated the oven to 200C (400F). I sprinkled it with bread crumbs, grated pecorino or parmesan and chopped almonds. Then I drizzled our amazing olive oil over it.
I roasted it for 25 minutes. It was perfect just like that but the recipe said an option was to put cubes of cheese on it and put it back into the oven to melt for 5 minutes. I thought that sounded nice, and I had scored some white cheddar this week so I grated some on top, instead of the cubes. Then I put it under the broiler. It was terrific. It could be a main for vegetarians. It easily could be for me too. But we had it as a side dish.
I was offered the chance to buy turkey from our favorite restaurant Calagrana. Thanks to Ely and Alberto we had a lovely Christmas lunch here at home. It was nearly 60 degrees today not terribly christmassy. Enjoy your day everyone!
However we all celebrate the season, it matters not. It is time to pause, and assess, and give thanks. Time to be with family and friends, if not in person, then in your heart. And to remember those less fortunate than we are. I am not religious, but I celebrate the spirit of Christmas. So, may I say, Merry Christmas to us all and bless us all…every one!
Here, in our part of Umbria, we are required to obtain our social security statements from the US Embassy in Rome to obtain our enrollment in the National Health system. This statement must be stamped and signed by the American Embassy in Rome. This is ONLY a requirement in this part of Umbria. How and why this came about I do not know. When we first moved here, we self declared our income. After a couple years they decided we needed this statement. It really threw a monkey wrench into the works that year for all of us! We eventually got used to it and just go with the flow, requesting the statement from the Embassy.
I always send off two emails, one for me, and one for Luther to the Social Security office in Rome asking for this statement to be sent. Usually I do this in mid-December so I can get them by January 1. I complain, and everyone does, about Italian bureaucrats. Now, in this case they work at the American Embassy which is almost entirely staffed by Italians. I got a nice reply from a woman to me that she was sending out my statement right away. But I also got a reply from a man to Luther that he would have to ask again after the first of the year. 😡 Annoyed I shot back an email that said essentially “my wife can get hers now why not me?” He replied that he “normally” waits until the year is done to send it, but would send it now. Think about it, this is our Social Security benefit for the year 2022. It is not like this will change in the next two weeks! Geesh. Dealing with bureaucrats can be exhausting.
When we receive the statements from the Embassy we will go to the USL which is the agency of health and re-up for our annual payment and enrollment for 2023. It is 7.5% of our social security benefits. It is paid annually in January. We are usually out of the system for a week or two while completing the payment and application. Once we sign up, most things are free. Co-pays are small and linked to your income on a sliding scale. For Italian citizens and workers they are automatically enrolled. I am happy with our care here. It is a good system.
Today was a nice day. We got together with friends for a holiday lunch. Three friends, all of whom moved here since the beginning of the year. All near Spello. Roselyne and Steve live in Spello Centro Storico. An excellent apartment with great terraces which have country and mountain views and a front balcony above the main street going up the hill. Right in the action. Doug lives in a sweet house situated on Monte Subasio. I don’t know his elevation but it has views across the valley to die for. He is in the very beginning of renovations.
We chose to meet in Assisi. There is a nice restaurant there called Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erbe. It is just off of the main piazza which has the Assisi Comune. It also has the temple of Minerva and lots of cafes and shops. Today, it was empty. I don’t think I have seen Assisi as empty and quiet as today. The restaurant welcomed us. It wasn’t very busy. We have been going to this restaurant since a 2011 trip with my sister and her husband and another couple. It is still good. It is nice in summer as it has probably the only trees in Assisi. They have two menus, one Traditional and one Fusion. I love the fusion choices. Here are a few pictures. The first one is fried artichoke/carciofi in a cheesy sauce. Very delicious. It does look a bit phallic. Three of us got this.
It was a really nice get together. We won’t be doing much this Christmas. Nothing in fact. Which is kind of sad. But it is what it is. Happy Winter Solstice, here’s to longer days…if not warmer ones!
It hasn’t been as cold but, boy! has it been rainy! The Tiber got very high and jumped its banks, but it has subsided. It is still running fast and muddy but staying behaved in it’s banks now. This morning I woke to sunshine. Nice for a change.
Out and about for a nice walk and visit to our local market. First I bought the vegetables I thought I would need. I got one of those beautiful romanesco broccolis. So pretty and so alien looking!
And I got beatole, the big meaty and leafy green I use in soups a lot. Along with a couple nice leeks. Now I have to decide how to use them.
I dropped off the veggies inside our door and went for a walk. I always like to have an aim for a walk and this time I wanted to replenish my depleted bay leaves. When I first came here I tried to buy bay leaves in the store. There were none. I was baffled. Eventually I learned that bay laurel trees are everywhere and you just pick off a leaf or a branch when needed. I went looking and sure enough, I found the town bay tree. You can see that the whole bottom of the tree has been sculpted as people pull off a branch or two.
Just next to the tree are a series of orti or vegetable patches. There are still a few hardy winter veggies like cabbages, but not much else.
I turned up-river and took a couple pictures. Tiber a bit high.
You can tell when we have had a lot of rain because this small “river” called a torrente, which is normally a trickle actually lives up to its name! Here it is joining its bigger brother the Tiber.
Last night I went to the Christmas open house at Books for Dogs – Libri per i Cani. I think everyone who reads this journal knows about this charity which supports two local canile which care for abandoned dogs. It was a nice little gathering. I saw some folks I knew, and met some I didn’t know. I snapped a couple, pictures in the town as I went home.
Tonight, on my way back from my doctor appointment. It was about five-ish PM. We are nearing the solstice so our days are short. It was dusk. The sky turquoise. Is this not beautiful?
This next photo is going to be one of my all time favorites. You know why? Because of the Ape parked in the foreground. It is pronounced Ahh-pay. It is one of the ubiquitous Italian three wheel workhorse trucks seen everywhere here. Somehow it makes the composition just right. To me this photo is perfect.
Today was our usual Saturday market. It poured rain all night. And continued throughout the day. Here is a picture of the Tiber which is muddy and full.
We went out because we needed a few things. It wasn’t cold at all. Just wet. We visited the Carrefour grocery a few steps from the Centro. We picked up some things we needed. I always laugh at the baby food when I notice. I bet you can’t get Coniglio, which is rabbit — baby food!
After the grocery we got some vegetables from the vendors in the pizza. Then I paid a visit to Books for Dogs to make a donation and also visited Laura at her ceramics shop, CeramicArte. You may remember her from posts last year. She is very skilled and will make things to order for you, personalizing them. I wanted to ask about buying a new Deruta ceramic table for our new house. We sold the round table we had made for our terrace with this apartment. The new place has a larger space with room for a bigger table so I thought it would be nice to get one that seats six. I got quotes from her and will drive to Deruta, probably next year, to the factory where she said there were lots of tables all ready to buy.
As always she has lots of great gift items in her shop. Here are just a few.
These are by another artist Carol Brannigan. A very different style, but very nice.
I love the snowman, which is a bell. She had several similar ones hanging on the mantelpiece. If you’re in Umbertide, stop by her shop.
We are told a frigid air mass will be hitting Italy starting tomorrow. Time to batten down the hatches! Buona domenica!