Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reflections on our sustainable Easter

Easter started off with a breakfast of succulent Tarocco oranges from Sicily.
We bought pizza bianca from our neighboring town of Castelnuovo di Porto and, although I've not sampled pizza bianca from every bakery, I am pretty sure this is the best.

We served our guests two sheep cheeses to eat with the pizza bianca, one of which was fresh ricotta di pecora, made just hours before.

This morning I used fresh eggs from our neighbor's chickens to make omelettes and French toast, using Colomba Easter bread. Our neighbors chickens are all free range and spend their days enjoying the countryside almost as much as we do.

Lunch was at our neighbor's country farm. Everything was prepared fresh using produce and animals from the farm. The two authors of our fabulous meal are the matriarchs of the family, women who have just passed the eighty year mark and live guided by a lifestyle that is slowly disappearing.
Lina, who I've known for two decades now, moves at a slow & efficient pace. I've never seen her rush to do anything and yet I don't know anyone who accomplishes more in a day than she. She chops the wood for their fireplace, raises the animals and tends to the produce that graced our Easter table.
When I think of sustainability and how it should be I think of Lina. She cares for her animals with affection and humanity and when the time comes to slaughter them does so using that same affection and humanity. She really is the benchmark that we all want to strive for. And yet the reality of "farm to table" in its truest sense is just a little bit difficult for me. Lina's two daughters are both professionals and while they enjoy the fruits of Lina's labors neither has the heart to take the life of an animal when the time comes. They've offered to raise the rabbits and chickens if I then slaughter them but so far I just can't make that jump. When Lina is gone, with her will go the generation of small farm traditions now present all over the Roman countryside.
Lina and Alfredo's garden is almost enough to feed their extended family year round. Today we had Roman-style artichokes and roast potatoes, both cooked with olive oil from their olive trees and herbs from the garden.

No meal is complete without freshly baked bread, this from the local town bakery in Riano.

Roast baby spring lamb is the Easter tradition and now the hills are covered with sheep and their baby lambs grazing the hillsides.
These lambs were crossing the street in front of my car the other day. Lina and Alfredo don't have sheep, but most farmers in the area do.

One of Lina's best dishes is coniglio (rabbit) alla cacciatore. Lina makes it with fresh herbs, olive oil, garden tomatoes and olives preserved from last fall's olive picking. It's simply delicious.
Lina raises rabbits year round. They have a large, pristinely clean living space and feed on hay and leftover vegetables.

And on to dessert! We are now right in the midst of strawberry season: we had a huge bowl of berries with fresh cream and sugar.

In addition to the traditional Colomba Easter bread we had Pastiera Napoletana and an upside down pear tart.

Roman tradition has it that on May 1st everyone has a country lunch of pecorino Romano cheese and fava beans fresh from the pod. As Easter was so late this year the fava beans were already ripe for the picking. Mid-afternoon, after coffee, we picked fava beans from Alfredo's vegetable garden and ate them in the garden.

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