Martinmas in Italy - not for vegetarians!
It’s St Martin’s day today – what’s called Martinmas in England – one of the old feast days to celebrate the time when crops had been harvested and cattle were being slaughtered before the winter set in. In Italy it’s still celebrated with food fairs and big meals.
Last night the piazza in Pietrasanta was full of stalls offering local cheeses, dried mushrooms, cakes, chestnuts,
and lots and lots of meat.
Everything from sausages and salami to a whole pig. This is not a feast for vegetarians!
They’re also celebrating the arrival of the new wine, just pressed and the new season's olive oil. I can't believe that something that tastes so nice can actually be good for you. When it's new it's thick and peppery and you can taste the olives in it.
Everyone around us is picking olives and the woods are ringing with the rattle and tap-tap-tap of canes knocking the olives from the twigs. It sounds like a plague of woodpeckers! The Frantoia just down the road from us is working flat out to press the oil. I had a taste of the new wine last night, at the local Cantina which was having a St Martin's celebration, and it’s very, very nice this year – mellow, still fizzy and slightly sweet, but will age into something dark and velvety. Not all years are the same, depending on the weather – sometimes it’s acidic and rough.
Then we went out to have supper with friends – not a Bacchanalian feast, but a very good meal. It's a very international community here and there were a couple of Italians, a Norwegian, a Dane, an Austrian, a Canadian and an American as well as the English. There really isn't anything nicer than sitting round a table with people you like, eating and drinking and talking, candles on the table and a roaring log fire in the stove. One of the worst storms of the year was raging outside (parts of Genoa evacuated, serious flooding in Massa and Carrara) but it felt very cosy, at least until we had to drive up the mountain road again in wild, wild weather! I'm going to have to buy a pair of rubber boots.