Tonight is Regional meal night from Calagrana. This time from our very own Umbria. We opted in for the wine since it is a new one to us. I am especially looking forward to the Torta al Testo. Fatta in casa….home-made.
Torta al testo is very old and it originated in the Umbrian area. It began as an unleavened alternative to traditional bread. There are two variants: the original one with wheat flour, and later came one with corn flour, after corn arrived from the Americas. Normal ingredients are only water, flour, salt and baking soda. In theupperTiber valley, where we live, I read there’s is a similar cake called ciacca (probably dialect), the recipe involves the addition of an egg. This, I have not yet verified.
The cooking surface, a disc about 3 cm thick, is called “testo” from the Latin testum, or the brick tile on which, in ancient Rome, focaccias were baked. Originally it was made at home by making large stones into a smooth surface and placing it into the fire to heat. Now it is possible to buy a special Torta al Testo pan made of cast iron or concrete.
Traditionally the Torta al Testo was split and eaten with any meats or foraged greens. But it is most often seen eaten with the pork products for which Umbria is famous. Our friend Vera invited us to lunch in the Before Times and she asked her mother-in-law (suocera) to make some. She does make the best I’ve ever had. They have a huge outdoor wood oven to make it authentically. It smelled so floury and bready, and it was very soft. I could’ve munched it all day. But this day I learned the traditional way to eat it, with halved sausages and cooked spinach. It was incredible. I had to borrow a picture. Photo credit to Dreavel.com. This is the traditional way. I may have to try my hand at making some myself!
I didn’t actually know Pollo all’arrabbiata (arrabbiata means angry and says it will be spicy) was an Umbrian dish. I must look it up. We finished our meal and it was scrumptious. Here are pictures.
Italiano phrase…”fare la scarpetta”. This needs some explanation. Literally it means “make the little shoe” but it is a saying. If you have sauce left on your plate you use the bread to sop up the sauce. Or you “make the little shoe”. Pronounced fah-ray lah scar-pet-ta. ~~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone, andrà tutto bene 🌈
My friend in Virginia sent a recipe for this stew that is from the NY Times. I am a big lentil fan and even though I make soups with lentils often I thought this one sounded a bit different.
And how! It was it different. The key ingredient is the smoked paprika. It adds a big smokey taste. I made it today for lunch and we both loved it. I will make it again as a dinner meal and add some sausage. It is a perfect winter-time stew.
I made quite a few changes to the Times recipe. First off, I simplified things. For instance they used three (!) pots to make it…I reduced that to two. I didn’t put the onion in with the cooking lentils but added it in with the leeks. I totally took out the saffron. It was such a small amount in a huge and highly spiced stew. You never could’ve tasted it and besides, it is an expensive ingredient. Waste. I sautéed the spices in with the leeks and in the oil to bring out their flavor. Anyway it was a hit with us! I put the recipe in the recipes in the top menu bar. Tap the title twice if it doesn’t come up with only one tap.
~~~~~~~ We’ve also gotten some much needed errands finished. Every January we have to renew our enrollment in the National Health. It involves obtaining a stamped and signed statement from the Social Security office in the American Embassy in Rome. I wrote in early December and received the statements. We had to call the health department for an appointment this year because of Covid, and that was on Monday at 9AM. Before we went though, I had to copy all of our cards and documents. That included our expired Tessere di Sanitaria, our Codice Fiscale, our Permessi di Soggiorno, our Carta d’Identita, our passports, make an extra copy of the social security statement, convert the amount to Euro and then compute the amount we owe for the year and print that out. Whew. At the appointment we met with Laura. Once our nemesis, she either has gotten used to us or she has mellowed. So she isn’t quite as scary as she used to be. She took all the papers and checked our calculations and sent us off to the Poste to pay for the coverage. There were about 8 people ahead of us in line where we all waited outside. Did I say it was frigid? Well, it was. Finally we got that done and returned to give Laura the receipt. She had everything done and we signed multiple times and – tada! We were finito. Of course they would only give it to us until April because we are STILL waiting for our new Permessi from the Questura. Seven months and counting. When we get it we visit Laura again and get the Tessere extended…to June. Which is when our NEW cards expire AGAIN and then in June I am sure we will have to go and get them extended to the end of the year…eyeroll. We pay for the whole year in January. They know we are getting our Permessi, so why not give us the card for the year? So much less work for us AND them!
Today, we took the VeeDub to the shop to get its oil changed and get its every other year inspection renewed. We will pick it up tomorrow. So the beginning of the year errands are sorting themselves out slowly. ~~~~~~~~ A friend asked me to include a sentence in Italian with pronunciation with my blogs. So I am starting that today. Here goes! “Abbiamo fatto le nostre commissioni!” It means “We have done our errands”. Pronounced abbey-yamo faht-toe lay noh-stray com-miss-see-oh-nee 🙂 ~~~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene! 🌈
I think it is important for those of us who choose to live here in Italy, to have the courtesy to try to speak the local language. In the big cities like Milan and Rome, more people do tend to speak English. As do people in the heavily touristed towns like Florence and Venice. But, even there, the tradesfolk who you will need to hire and interact with will not necessarily speak English. And, out in the rural countryside, you will find even less people who speak English. Nor do important people, like medical doctors speak fluent English and I’d say, when it comes to your health, mutual understanding is important.
I’ve been studying Italian for 7 years. I started before I moved from the US when I took an Italian 101 beginners class in Community College. It did give me a little base in the very basics of the language.
When we came to Italy I began language lessons, first, jointly with Susan and Gary and Luther. Susan and Luther are more advance so took a class together, and Gary and I, being of similar capabilities, had a class together. We did this for a couple of years before we decided to stop. Then we signed up with individual lessons with our teacher, Marilena out of Perugia. She came to our house and we each had a one-on-one class.
Time passed. A pandemic came. So our classes moved online. By now, I’ve gotten through pretty much all the grammar I could need. I still take tests on my own for practice, and we review them in my class, but most of the hour is practice in Italian speaking.
Today, I began a new, additional, conversational class with a friend who grew up here. She is English so speaks both Italian and English as a native. She is trapped here (by the virus) with little to do so this will keep her busy and give her a bit of money and it will, hopefully, help me with conversational Italian. Cannot hurt!
The topic of learning Italian comes up a lot on my blog, and on the different forums for expats I read. There are many opinions how to learn. In my heart, I know that I don’t do enough. I should be reading more in Italian. I should be watching TV more in Italian. I should be conversing with townsfolk in Italian. I actually can speak Italian fairly well. I just don’t have the confidence I need for real conversation. I also believe some people have more talent to learn languages than others…but that might be a cop out! So, comunique, today was just another added step to help me be more fluent. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t hard. Either that or I’m am supremely stupid! ~~~~~~~~~~ Stay safe…andrà tutto bene 🌈