If you are in Italy, there is no going to the bar and asking for a shot of prune juice and a plate of granola. You can have espresso with lot of milk, a little milk, or no milk. You can have it with a splash of liquor; they don’t care what time of day it is, but they’re not going to give you prune juice. And if you want a piece of pastry with chocolate cream or vanilla cream or no cream, that’s OK, but if you want cereal, that’s not OK. Same in France, except your coffee usually comes with a piece of chocolate on the saucer. In Scotland there is no going to the bar for breakfast. You go to the cafe (caff) and you have a fry up–eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, beans, haggis, stewed tomato, and (white) toast. If you want jam, you can have that.
So now that I’m home it’s all about how to get things moving, how to hit the restart. For breakfast, there is only one thing on the menu–muesli. It’s the rough guide to recovery. Half a cup of raw oats, 1 teaspoon of blueberry jam, 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries, 1 grated apple (with peel), 1 tablespoon of currants and a few tablespoons of chopped almonds.
France was a dream.Â I started at the stately chateau where we will all be staying, withÂ flowers and Â red wine in the room to send us to sleep andÂ croissants from the village when we woke up.Â From there I went from castle to wine tasting to medieval village to wine tasting to a fairytale home of Louis the 14th, lush with tapestries and paintings and lovely objects.Â It was like a imagination gone wild come to life.Â The kitchen, oh the kitchen…hanging copper pots and bowls of the days fresh fruit and vegetables piled into bowls of gorgeousness.Â Another wine tasting with all the glasses set on a barrel rolled out from a cave, where we were seduced glass after glass into drinking lovliness in tastes and colors I have never known.Â Â And thenÂ another village, haunted by fabulous antique stores and lovely linens and perfect pastries.Â We spent nearly an hour one night I think discussing beautiful, sumptuous cheeses.Â That’s how it goes in France.Â
I am in Scotland now.Â High winds and sunshine.Â Clouds, rain and views of magic.Â We hiked 7 miles yesterday to the top of the highest mountain on the isle of Arron.Â We flattened ourselves against the stones at the summit so as not to be blown off.Â At the bottom, I had the pea soup perfumed with tarragon and drizzled with cream, thatÂ in an orangery set in the tree branches.Â
I like this place.Â
My husband and my mother in law thought it best if we had a convertible in Italy to truly appreciate the countryside by day and the stars at night.Â My vote was that I have no time for convertibles-that I preferred a tractor with a roof.Â They won.Â And so last night after Jonathan was done with work, we went zipping through fields of hay and sunflowers with roof down to a tiny little movie festival in the town of Montone, where the whole village turns out to watch the films and eat ice creams in the piazza.Â I have never seen so many stars.Â Before we left, we only had time for something from the fridge.Â I cut a new potato into teeny tiny bits and sauteed it with chopped onion and fresh basil, cooled it a bit, while I ripped up a loaf of yesterday’s ciabatta to saute it in garlic and olive oil, and then addedÂ the potato and onionÂ to a bowl of beaten eggs.Â That went into the frying pan to make a frittata, slowly pushing the sides until the bottom was set and top was still a bit runny.Â I slid the frittata onto a plate, turned off the flame, gave it one more second in the hot pan, and then flipped it back on the plate.Â We had it all of that along with string beans with more olive oil and garlic (throw in a little pepperoncino as well if you like it spicey), and Ferd’s birthday cake for dessert.
I love my job. It would be easier if I were in shape or regularly breathing deeply, but it’s a ton of fun just the same. The trick is to run to the car or the shop or the coffee bar whenever possible, and laugh. I find the effects to be very similar. I taught for a week and we cooked until we could cook no more and then ateÂ by the light ofÂ the moon and then Ferdinand and I went off to Urbino for a visit with an old friend who re arrived like magic. Time has no meaning when you love someone. There is only where you left you off. And so while our boys played, we talked and talked some more and she walked us through the halls of the Ducal Palace and all the treasures of Raphael. We came back to Mercatale all together, stayed at the top of a hill with a view of every star and ate and drank a dinner of pork chops, panzanella with the summer’s sweet tomatoes and fried basil, a salad of cannellini, arugula, lemon, pine nuts and parmesan, and a massive piece of watermelon for dessert. Ferdinand had his birthday the next day at Caroline’s. More eating and drinking on exotic rugs and cushions under a tassled silk umbrella and the sun and then the stars; Ferdinand broadcast his latest compositions with a dance thrown in at the end. He even danced with his mother.
We will rest for a few days while Jonathan works, and then we will fly to Paris to study the Loire Valley. I am on a mission for croissants, castles, and wine for teaching this fall. After that, we go to the isle of Aaron, where they have a trove of seashells to hunt. We are really excited to see Grandad and cousins and uncles. Then to England and Nanna, and then home. Love, love and more love to everyone, Faye