Tag Archives: food

HAPPY MONDAY TO YOU ALL

3rd December 2017                         HAPPY MONDAY TO YOU ALL

A couple of weeks ago I had the urge to write a simple essay for the blog based on a typical, ordinary week in our lives, here in Tuscany. And then, like so much in life, the urge got side-stepped, in this case by two, almost back-to-back, visits from young friends. Now we are alone again although the house still resonates with their loving, thoughtful, invigorating energy.

Although Joel and I have each other, nonetheless we live a fairly isolated existence here. Weeks can go by in which the only English we speak is to each other. And so these occasional visits are essential, not only for the exchange of new ideas and points of view, but also because, speaking for myself, I get to experience different aspects of myself which perhaps lie dormant during the periods in which Joel and I are dependent on each other and, while happily so, it is natural to fall into habits of communication with each other which, while rich in their own way, are also slightly limited, in terms of how couples create a language of their own.

Our first visitors, a couple in their 40’s from California, newly in love, brought not only the exquisite energy of that love, but also the energy of early mid-life; a stage in which wisdom, experience and loss have already shaped us to some degree. It seems to me to be a stage of life in which one is at a crossroads where the choice is between turning to a sort of jaded wariness or else choosing the preservation of hope which allows us to go forward with courage and belief in our dreams. The latter quality was abundantly evident in this couple and as a result they had kept alive their younger selves which, coupled with the physical energy still available at their age, completely rubbed off on us so that it was as though we were 2 teenage couples double-dating.

It would have to be said at this point that I am completely capable of acting like an idiotic teenager even when alone with Joel…and often do! But there is something about sharing this energy with younger people that is not only a load of fun, but which reminds us that age is ephemeral; that we each of us carry within us every age we have ever been and it doesn’t matter if the wrinkles and the creaky joints say otherwise, the truth is we can experience the inner energy of our childhood, or teens or any decade, whenever we want. To that end I believe it is vital to have friends of all ages because we need each other to awaken to the fullness of our being.

Our second visitor is in his mid-twenties. European to the core, he speaks four languages and laughs in all of them. He is the type of young person who gives you hope in these dark times when all news is bad news, when we are bombarded with the vile behavior that humans are capable of. It is joyous and encouraging to spend three days with such a young person who is capable of serious thought; of willingness to look at all sides of a situation; who is in no hurry to achieve success. What a gift to be seen by such a one; to feel age disappear. To exchange opinions and stimulate creative ideas. And when was the last time a young man brought you a loaf of bread that he made himself? That offering, to me, was as ancient and symbolic as the gifts borne by the Magi. And, I might add, the bread was fucking fantastic and I’m really cross I didn’t photograph it.

However, I did have the presence of mind to photograph these exquisite orecchiette that our neighbor, Silvia, had just made, with her own milled flour!  Delicate and wholesome, we devoured the lot for dinner with a wonderful chicken liver ragù made by Joel

The time we spent with these friends was the kind of ordinary time I had wanted to write about: shopping for food in various villages, stopping to chat with shopkeepers, hanging with our friend Gianni, preparing food together and sitting by the fire for hours at a time either reading or talking, and of course, much laughter. These are the things we do with or without guests and we are daily grateful for this simplicity. But what I love is to see how visitors, most of them living in towns or cities, so easily sink into the routine of this country life. You can see the surrender on their faces and in their bodies; the shoulders dropping inches, brows unfurrowing and after several attempts to jump up and do the dishes they finally give in to being taken care of.   What they give us in return is a sense of relevancy, of having something of worth to offer and, yes, the feeling that we are ageless.

In a little while I’ll go into the library where two big crocks of olives have been sitting in coarse salt for 2 weeks. It has not been a good year for olives in Italy because an unexpected frost in the spring killed the blossoms. But the three big old trees named after our children were loaded with olives, which we harvested three weeks ago. There were not enough to make oil, but too many to cure for eating so we gave lots away. The rest we washed, drained and put in wicker baskets to dry by the fire. Then Luana came by and showed us how much salt to add. Every evening I turn them in the crocks allowing those on top to have their turn in the salt, which by now is brine. On Tuesday Luana will return to help me rinse them and put them in jars with oil and garlic. Some will get pepperoncino added while others will get orange rind.

Learning this simple ritual is another thread that weaves us into the coarse cloth of this land. It is a simple, timeless chore that marks the passing of another season while connecting us to all that is still good in life.

Wishing you all a positive start to your week

with love, Maggie

ps.  OUR FRIEND IN FLORENCE HAS JUST SENT THIS PHOTO OF THE BREAD HE MADE TODAY!

THIS LITTLE LIGHT

14 September, 2015

stone lovers

I received a lovely email from a reader in response to the last post: BALANCE. In her email she told me she has been following the blog for several years and that sometimes she was tempted to stop when it “got too dark.” I’m glad she didn’t, and I’m extremely grateful for her honesty and encouragement. I try to write about reality as I experience it; certainly it’s only my reality and the way I experience it isn’t always on the bright side. So I have often wondered how many readers are put off, or lost, as a result of my “darker” experiences.

I think it was Chekov who said that happy families don’t make for good fiction. I would add that perpetually writing only about “happiness” doesn’t make for a good essay. Nor is it of service to those of us who are willing to experience the suffering that is part of life. I admit that I went through a rough patch for a few weeks this summer. I could have kept my pen capped and waited until I could tell you that said rough patch had passed and how grateful I was for it and how much I learned. But I chose not to. Maybe I should rename the blog “The Whole Hog,” because, really, life is a pig sometime,s and I’m not interested in pretending otherwise.

However, I am happy to report that my return to Tuscany on 6th September, after 2 weeks on Cape Cod, was absolute joy; the miracle of landing safely from two flights; the joy of coming in my garden gate; the blissful embrace of this simple home; the delivery of fresh eggs from the hens down the lane; the gift of groceries from Luana’ the hugs from everyone; the sheer, inescapable beauty of the landscape and the deep comfort of slipping into bed – albeit with out my Joel – gazing out the window to the night sky; the hills recumbent yet pulsing with the mystery of centuries.

omelet

I couldn’t wait t tell you that as much as Cape Cod was familiar and beautiful, it no longer holds me in its thrall. It was somewhat like seeing an old lover, one that had been a grand passion and from whom parting had been a heartache. The kind of lover that keeps a piece of one’s heart for a while, causing it to flutter when a surprise sighting occurs. Then, one day, you see the ex-lover on the street, or at a party and your heart stays still. You are free to love again. Now, my heart belongs to Tuscany.

outside lite

And what a thrill, the day after my return, to find myself speaking Italian without aforethought. It was as though not speaking it for 2 weeks had let that part of my brain absorb, uninterrupted, all that I have learned so far. I spent that day, Monday last, pottering around the garden, surprised and proud at how much it had grown in two weeks; much the way I used to feel when my daughter would return from summer camp. I spent that day and the next two, reveling in my solitude, eating what and when I wanted, playing piano, gathering thoughts about the next essay for the blog and working on a new series of drawings.

Rocks 4

Meanwhile, my dear Joel had gone from Cape Cod to New York for 9 days, for work. We missed each other, but talked and laughed daily via Skype. Life was rich and we were – and still are – excited about Joel not taking on new projects next year. Instead we are planning to travel in Italy and the rest of Europe where we have many friends.

Plans.

On Wednesday evening, Joel’s “baby” brother, Steve, was killed in a car crash. He leaves behind a wife, 3 children, and an extended family along with so many friends that his funeral this past Sunday filled the synagogue and spilled outside. I don’t need to tell you all the details. I’m sure every one of you has experienced tragedy and loss. But I can tell you this: kindness is everything. I can tell you that we must all do our best to seek beauty and light and that even so, there will be ties when the heart is so heavy that beauty and light can only be registered for later use. And I can tell you that I believe we are light and that our light is full of the beauty and mystery of all time.

On Wednesday evening, before I had learned of Steve’s death, I lit all the candles in the house. On Thursday evening I designated one for Steve. When I went to light it, I saw that even without a flame it was already lit. I choose to believe it was Steve’s spirit and that his light, like that of each of us, remains forever. It is up to each of us, for as long as we are alive, to look up and register it.

For Stevie

With love to you all.