A Little Grumble And Some Great Local Cuisine In Tuscany

If you are new to this column I should tell you that each month I reflect back on the previous one, which in this case is January 2018. My aim is to bring you lots of fun things, and not too many serious ones.Despite the above claim, I want to start with just a little grumble. Well, I suppose a grumble is not exactly a serious thing, but just occasionally I need to have a little gripe. As you know the Italians love festas. That is the excuse to take time off for a day or more and celebrate with family, friends, good food and wine. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Early in January was the final celebration called Befana, when the good witch pays a visit to all the Italian children to check if they have been well-behaved or not, and then award them with presents or a lump of coal.

Hurrah, I thought, festivities over Certaldo’s post office is open, so I can collect that long overdue Christmas packet! But O Dio, I had forgotten that Befana is also is the start of a week’s holiday for many Italians, and guess what, the sorting office was still ‘a vacanza’! This was Monday the 8th January, so I was rather peed off. Anyway, that’s my little gripe over and done with.

On a lighter note, Italy’s Ski team were doing really well in the world championships in Austria. The women’s team won the world title and well done to them I say. Further south in the Dolomites you would have found a lot of Italian tourists enjoying the north of Italy for skiing and generally chilling out. That’s probably where Certaldo’s sorting office team were hiding out!

Back closer to home, January is the month for Pitti Uomo in Florence. This is when you will find the streets filled with male fashionistas strutting their stuff in all kinds of fashion, from very elegant, bohemian to grunge. Then a little later it is all about children’s fashion and Italian youngsters do become fashion conscious at a very early age. The shops are full of funky clothes for kids; it’s not unusual to see a three year old toddling around in a designer leather jacket and hi-tech trainers! Italian boys are constantly checking their reflections in shop windows making sure no hair is out of place, whilst sunglasses and top of the range cell-phones are essential accessories.

Meanwhile, January produces great Tuscan foods including new potatoes and cavolo nero. Cavolo nero is a dark green cabbage, full of iron and vitamins. Cooked in various ways, however, I just like to steam it and toss in a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. New potatoes are most popular here as potate al forno. Chopped up small, tossed with rosemary and garlic, then roasted. My neighbour and friend, the celebrity cook Judy Witts Francini, has all the Tuscan recipes you could want for these veggies and everything else throughout the seasons. Visit her website.

On this same subject, I have embarked on a healthy diet quest, to ensure that my man and I both get to a ripe old age without any nasty illnesses. Fortunately, this part of the world makes things easy in that direction, particularly all the lovely seasonal fruit and veg. I am only buying organic and have stopped using canned or processed foods. Even the Coop supermarket here has a big range of organic products. It is also possible to buy freshly baked integrale (wholemeal) bread every morning at La Dispensa in Fiano, where I go for morning coffee. I have also changed to brown rice and am leaving lactose out of our diet. I have had to buy in a load of new herbs and spices that smell fabulous, so that I can follow some healthy eating recipes. A brilliant place to go for these and near here, is the Global Market shop in Via Sienese in Poggibonsi. Well, I’ll let you know how things progress!

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Meanwhile, here in the Chianti hills the mimosa tree suddenly burst into bright yellow blossoms. This was a little too early and should not be in flower before mid-February, closer to La Festa delle Donne in March, when all deserving women are handed bunches of the stuff. So let’s hope there is another rush of blossoms nearer the time.

Well, overall the month turned out quite nicely with mildish weather and not too much rain. So we looked towards February, knowing that it can sometimes get very cold then. But we are were stocked up with logs for the fire and looked forward to toasting our toes and warming our hearts in this lovely part of the world called Tuscany.

Salute June x


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