La Ciba Umbria

Just thought I’d update real quick before I (hopefully) get to finally talk to my sister for the first time in forever…

This afternoon a little before five, we met in Piazza Italia to catch a bus out to the Perugian countryside for typical Umbrian cuisine. This was organized through a company called AltraUmbria… there is a trend in travel, particularly Italian travel, in which tourists don’t just want to sight-see– they want to experience Italy. Alternative vacationing usually involves staying with a family, cooking meals with them, etc., and thus experiencing a different culture from a very inside-perspective. I think it’s a fantastic idea… anyway, AltraUmbria organizes vacations like this, and set my class up with the opportunity to have dinner with a Perugian family.

We hopped on the bus and went wayyy out, a good 20 minutes past even where my voice teacher lives. We were definitely in the countryside now, and I saw things I’d never seen… beautiful castles, villas, estates, farms… it was gorgeous. We finally got off and were picked up by the mother in a car and driven even further out into the country. A storm was rolling in, and as we drove through the hills we could watch the storm clouds forming vertically on the horizon. It was incredible.

We were greeted by a precious puppy when we got out, as fat rain drops fell, so we ran inside and entered a toasty, cozy home, complete with four Italian children who knew how to say their names and ages in English. They were so cute and sweet and round!

They gave us hot tea and some biscuits that I’m not sure of the name of– they were specifically for lent, and they warned us that they were hard and are supposed to be that way, and to dip them in the tea to soften them. Well I almost broke my tooth and it took me about twenty minutes to get through a small, 2-square-inch biscuit, but… culture.

She spoke to us in Italian for quite awhile about what were going to be making and eating, and explained that all Umbrian food has a history, a story… it doesn’t just taste good, it has historical value.

We started by making torte al testo, which I explained in the last entry… (by the way, I have the recipes for all of this, and now I know how to make it, so when I come home, you’re all getting an Umbrian meal. Well, maybe just some of you.) So we made the torte al testo dough, and while it sat, we tried fresh, raw fennel which we dipped in olive oil and salt. It was interesting– like licorice and onion in one vegetable. Then we made the sausage and baked the torte al testo, and finally made biscotti with fennel seeds… soooo yummy.

As things baked and cooked, we sat at the table and they served us fresh pecorino cheese topped with local honey made by her father-in-law… amazing. Then we had some ciabatta and a little local wine.

We sat down for dinner and started with lentil soup that she had pre-made, and it was wonderful. We ate it with bread (no salt of course) and a little local olive oil, and then she served the torte al testo with some cabbage she had made before, and also the sausages which were baked in a touch of balsamic vinegar with water. Finally we finished with the biscotti with small cups of Marsala, an Italian liquer-type beverage… yummy. By this time, it had been almost six hours and we were basically stuffed…

It was all very interesting and I learned how to cook! She even let me separate the eggs. It was wonderful, and I loved sitting and chatting only in Italian… a few of the others looked a bit lost, but my friend Frank and I speak decent Italian and enjoyed the discussion a lot.

Well, that’s that! I’m so sleepy! Buona notte!

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