9th November 2007
Now that the new/old walls are starting to ‘grow’, you can almost begin to see what the apartments in the old stables under the house might become. I squint and then close my eyes, trying to conjure up images of cool, clean, furnished spaces with new shutters thrown open onto shady terraces planted with lavender and pots of basil, the sound of laughter, wine being poured and enticing aromas wafting from the kitchens.
But it’s still difficult.
For a few days now we have had no builders here as they are rushing to finish replacing a roof while the skies are still blue. Valiantly, despite wearing two pairs of trousers and an unfashionable top, mio marito works on. He has cleaned and restored the old steels in the more ‘modern’ apartment and they gleam with an industrial shine. He has also uncovered a beautiful internal arch in the more rustic, beamed apartment. He works alone, only appearing for plates of pasta, the odd espresso and to check the head count behind the oven.
The best thing I ate today;
Zuppa di Farro e Borlotti
As a kind of mid-week treat, if we have both been working (because I do help – sometimes), we occasionally go out for lunch. The place of choice would be described, in England, as a ‘builders caff’ or a ‘greasy spoon’. The food is cheap and the tables are wipe-able, no cloths, no candles. There are usually 3 dishes on offer for each course and no written menu. The waitresses have attitude and it would be a very brave ‘muratore’ (bricklayer) who asked them to repeat the choices or lingered over his decision. They want to feed you, and feed you fast.
The soup is thick and swampy, the Borlotti beans a rich brown, the colour of the newly turned earth in the surrounding fields, its taste is earthy too. The farro has a nutty ‘bite’ and in its depths the subtle, rounded heat of peperoncino. Savour every steaming spoonful and wipe the bowl clean with a ragged crust of saltless Umbrian bread.
This is Italian soul food.
Farro, know as ‘spelt’ in English (a bit like pearl barley), is a type of hard wheat grown in Umbria and Tuscany and used in the distinctive soups of this region.
Where to get it;
Bar Pineta, Panicarola
Tip; The dress code is strickly builders boots and overalls.