September 15 2013
Although it’s not officially autumn for another 6 days, it seems to have arrived early in Tuscany which, as ‘early’ is not much practiced in the Tuscan way of life, makes it seem more of a rip than merely poignant, especially when bookended with summer’s late arrival this year. I wore socks today. Socks, I tell you. How sad is that? Even the sunflowers seem to have been harvested earlier than usual; those fields that just a couple of weeks ago were never-ending seas of vibrant yellow now stand cropped of their heads, their dry skinny necks wailing into the rainy sky.
There are times, like this afternoon, driving back from Siena, when the landscape makes me weep, it’s that beautiful; the shifting shades of autumn’s ocher and sage under the mottled gray sky, the rain beating on the car’s roof. I thought we might sail through the countryside forever; that as long as we kept moving time might stand still. Yet in spite of the inevitable signs of autumn’s arrival, could the abundance of summer have been more glorious than it was this week? The bounty of nature matched only by the generosity of those who brought it to our door.
Vincenzo’s parents have returned from summer in Puglia, from whence they hail. They travel by coach, dressed the way one used to, with respect for the journey. But no sooner have they arrived than they are in their work clothes. Vincenzo’s father climbs into a tractor to plough a winter field while Mama goes to work in the vegetable garden. At breakfast she comes to our door carrying in her apron enormous bunches of black grapes. The next day Silvia leaves a basket of eggs and tomatoes on our outside table. Moro, from the village, stops by with a crate of figs from his garden. We first met Moro two summers ago when Gianni took us to his house to show us not only one of the most organized and prolific gardens, but also an amazing collection of fossil shells that he has dug up over the decades while hunting for truffles. These fossils date back millions of years from when this land was a vast ocean.
And the generosity keeps coming. Yesterday Silvia brought us an apple cake still warm from the oven. Knowing we would never be able to eat all the grapes before they spoiled we put them through a sieve and filled a huge bottle with the juice. It is so dense and intense in its natural state that one wonders how on earth Welch’s gets away with calling the liquid it sells ‘pure grape juice.’ This stuff, even in its non-alcoholic stage, is so rich we cut it with sparkling water or, on a day like today, add some ginger and make a hot tea with it.
Yesterday, Joel made fig jam; the crate that Moro brought boiled down to a single jar. We had some on toast this morning, after we had poached some of those eggs and served them on top of some of those tomatoes which I had sautéed. And yes, after breakfast we most certainly did have a big slice of apple cake with our cappuccinos.