The last week or two have been a bit hectic around here as our first group of artists arrived. The last minute panic to get things ready gave way to a steady rhythm of activity as the workshop got underway. It seems, at last, we are beginning to do what we came here to do which is, of course, run painting holidays. After all the graft that has gone before, this seems somehow incredible to me. There is still, however, so much to be done that it seems there will be no time for resting on our laurels, at least not in this lifetime.
The most amazing thing to me was how the studio was transformed by the addition of the students. What they brought to what is, in fact, just a large, light space was all the atmosphere and vibrancy that made the place hum.
The start of the art courses seems to have shaken things up around here and change is definitely in the air, good change.
Despite my being one of those irritating people who appears to suffer from unusually high self-esteem, I have been left reeling from the fact that my eldest daughter, recently and at surprisingly close range, mistook me for one of the builders. It’s not that I have anything against the builders, but still it was quite a blow.
The last two years of living in rural Italy on what can only be described as a building site seems to have turned me from someone who used to look like a relatively well put together urbanite into, well, let’s be honest, someone who looks like a builder.
A Winter spent huddled by the stufa mainlining Gorgonzola hasn’t helped me much either and after an honest self-appraisal I think I have to call time on this particular look, it’s obviously not working for me anymore. Spring is here and I need to ‘re-glamourise’.
This afternoon I quit the building site, donned my Ipod and my running shoes and hit the white roads. I haven’t been running for a couple of weeks and the first kilometer felt so bad I almost gave up but, after a while, the music got to me and the old euphoria began to kick in. Anyone who runs regularly will tell you that it’s very addictive, in a good way. I came home on a high with plans for extensive surgery and a whole new wardrobe, or at least to go running regularly from now on and to stop wearing marito’s old clothes in public.
It occurs to me while writing this that if you ever see a woman in the supermarket, here in Italy, with dusty hair and paint splattered clothes, or a frazzled looking mother covered in cement at the school gates you can be 99 per cent certain she’s not Italian. They just don’t do ‘sloppy’, in fact most of the mothers at the school pick-up could give Victoria Beckham a run for her money.
The best thing I ate;
You would think that given my new regime I would be nibbling on a leaf or something, but actually I’m back on the bruschette. My latest addiction is bruschetta with cannellini beans and rosemary. There is something wholesome and comforting about creamy cannellini beans, here they are mashed into a coarse puree and perked up with the pungent oily taste of rosemary, a spritz of balsamic vinegar adds a slightly acid bite and the drizzle of good virgin olive oil transports it to sublime. Top lunch-time treat of the moment.
1 tin or jar good quality cannellini beans, drained
Large spring rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
2 cloves Garlic
Coarse country style bread, sliced
First grill your slices of bread. While they are still hot drizzle them with olive oil and rub them with a cut clove of garlic.
Pull all the spikey leaves from the rosemary spring and chop very, very finely until almost a powder. Fry one clove of chopped garlic in a little olive oil but be careful not to let it colour. Add the drained beans and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, add the rosemary, a little more oil and season well with salt and pepper and a spritz of balsamic vinegar. Mash everything together using the back of a wooden spoon until you have a coarse puree. Heap the beans onto the grilled bread and drizzle with more of the olive oil. This is delicious with a sharp green salad on the side and a glass of rough red wine to wash it down.