October 2009 Olives, etc.
Every Thursday morning, there is a farmer's market in town. We buy a lot of shell beans and make a big soups with the beans, tomatoes, dandelion greens (chicoria), pumpkin, onions, potatoes and cabbage. Dandelion greens grow in the fall as well as spring here. All the fresh vegetables and fruits are local and seasonal. When the peaches are finished, they don't import them from Chile. They go on to the next season's fruit: persimmons, pomegranates, apples, and in winter we'll have oranges and tangerines.
We bought a lot of fresh sardines, which are very cheap here, 2.50 Euros per kilo (about $1.60/lb). All the other fish are a lot more. The local fishermen catch and sell them the same day. We pulled the heads off the sardines, split them open, took out the spine, then soaked them in wine vinegar for 1/2 hour and then lemon juice for 1/2 hour, drained them and covered with olive oil and they're ready to eat. They don't even need to be cooked. The acid replaces the cooking process.
Last month we collected a bucket of olives from the trees in our yard. Frank pressed them one by one with his thumb to split them open. Then we soaked them in salt water for a week, changing the water daily, to remove the bitterness. Then we soaked them a few days in fresh water to remove the salt. I'm reading a book called The Olive Route, by Carol Drinkwater, an Irish actress who has an olive farm in France. She took a trip all around the Mediterranean to discover the origin of the olive tree. She found a grove of ancient olive trees, still alive, in Lebanon that were carbon dated as 7000 years old! She also found in Malta, olive trees planted by the Romans 2000 years ago that grow sweet olives that can be eaten right from the tree. Normally olives are extremely bitter and have to go through a process like we did, to be edible.
A friend of a friend manages an olive orchard in Israel and told her that much of the Mediterranean olive crop had "failed" this year because it had not gotten cold enough for a certain hormone to be produced by the tree which assures the olive production. She was so glad to hear that olives in my part of the world had not suffered from that fate. They are involved with "peace oil", a joint venture between Israeli and Palestinian olive farmers to press and market their olive oil together. I didn't realize that olive trees needed a certain amount of cold. I hope that global warming will not make that an ongoing problem.
We don’t have a washing machine, so we wash our clothes by hand, heating the water on the stove. The stove works from a propane tank called a "bombola". We can get hot water to take a short shower, but it takes a half hour to heat up. You have to push a button and wait. We prefer to get clean by swimming in the sea. Frank and I still swim, in October, but we are the only ones in the sea now.
I'm learning to ride a bicycle again. I used to ride all the time, 30 years ago. I went to medical school on a bicycle, riding through the center of Philadelphia, to Hahnemann Medical School, (named for the father of homeopathy, but they hadn't taught homeopathy there in many years.) I ride along the sea, not much in town yet. They drive very fast everywhere in Italy. Speed limits are considered "only a suggestion". Gas is $11 a gallon here, so we don’t use the car much. We had a big rainstorm a few weeks ago that washed away part of the beach, almost up to the road. The "road", Via Del Porto, in front of our house and running along the sea, is unpaved, made of rocks and sand. The storm washed away a lot of the sand, leaving the rocks, making it hard to ride a bicycle.
Frank wrote a letter to the town council about getting the road fixed, and we went around to all the neighbors to get them to sign it. It was a good way to meet the neighbors. They all make you sit down and serve coffee or tea. Several of them keep chickens, and gave us gifts of eggs. They also have cats, to catch the mice that eat the baby chicks. One neighbor has about a dozen cats, all named "Mish”. They don't buy cat food, just give them leftovers from the table. Apparently, Italian cats like pasta.