Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Perfect Bliss

Monday was my day off

I went for a walk into town and discovered that it's even more dead on Mondays than it is on Sundays!
Thankfully there were a few places still open, including a cute little local food shop. I talked to the man behind the counter a little and told him I wanted to buy a selection of meats and cheeses that he would consider to be the most traditional from Abruzzo. I ended up with two different types of pecorino cheese (a sheepsmilk cheese that the locals go crazy for around here) and two different types of pork sausage, along with a jar of antipasto agrodolce. I then took my bounty back to the hotel where I raided the kitchen for some bread, picked up an open bottle of wine I had in my room and grabbed a book, my journal, and a blanket. The perfect picnic was what I had in mind, and I knew just the place for it. About ten minutes by foot from Villa Maiella there is an olive grove that overlooks a farms and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I found a good spot underneath an olive tree, spread out my blanket, and laid my feast out before me. I spent the afternoon lazily reading the first chapters of Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Committed, sipping wine and enjoying the warm sun on my face.
The food was incredible!
The two pecorino's I decided on could not have been more different and yet both were divine. One was younger, softer, creamy with a slightly sweet and grassy taste. The other, more aged, stronger in taste, salty, tangy and crumbly. The two sausages as well displayed the vast differences between two similar products. The main difference was that while the first had a synthetic casing and implemented the use of preservatives, the second was completely natural, made down the road (literally) and had a natural casing. The first was harder, much better for slicing than the other which melted in your hands. The first was more meaty, with a higher percentage of meat to fat that made it a little chewier, but not in a bad way. The first was mild in flavor, very easygoing on the palate, it would definitely be a crowd-pleaser. The all natural sausage was fatty, and delicious. I could still smell the pigs when I ate it, and the scent lingered from the oil on my hands for hours. A smell I will never forget after this trip. I have seen so many pig farms and eaten so much pork product since being in Italy I could pick out pig smell from any other scent in the world. Perhaps not an important skill, but a skill nonetheless.

There is something magical that happens when you eat outdoors, something pure. I considered this experience research for the final paper I must write on Abruzzo and its unique cuisine. Nothing could have been more perfect than eating locally produced cheese and organic meat with my toes in the grass from which it was all born. I felt completely alone sitting in that orchard on top of the world, and yet, I was happier than I had been in a long time.
It was truly my idea of a perfect day.

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