Remembering Louise Pergolini Tucker

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Louise Pergolini the graduate nurse in 1945

Tomorrow, the 10th of April will be seven years since we lost our mother Louise and I know we all think of her daily. More often than not I think of her in the kitchen. The place where she prepared so many meals for her six children and anyone we brought home with us. The room with a table around which 12 people could sit comfortably. Where there was always a light on and a chance to talk about your day.

Today, the day before what would have also been her 88th birthday, my husband decided to cook one of my mother’s favourite dishes in her honour. The dish she always ordered when it was available. A dish that spoke volumes of her Italian heritage – spaghetti con cozze.

The mussels Andrew cooked came from a farm in Port Lincoln here in South Australia. They were big and juicy and oh so fresh. Quickly cooked with some parsley, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine. Simple and tasty. Louise on a plate.

Buon appetito.

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A glimpse of my Adelaide in Festival mode

It’s not officially March, but March Madness has officially begun. Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Womadelaide and a motor race all happening at once. Today I strolled through the Central Market on my way to an exhibition and spotted yummy foods and Fringe performers giving a taste of their upcoming show. I love the festival season.

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A belated wish for 2014

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Greetings from my desk, complete with my new fit ball/desk chair.

The year 2014 and I have gotten off to a rocky start. Already we’ve had some ups and downs.

Roo and I arrived home from our marvellous time in Argentina and Chile, documented here, on 30 December after a long flight. Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Adelaide. That’s 18 hours of actual flying, but about 24 door-to-door. Ouch!

So we didn’t make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was all I could do to watch the fireworks on TV in Sydney, which is of course a half-hour ahead of us here in Adelaide. My head hit the pillow at 11.47 pm and I was out!

The first week back was filled with restocking the house with food after 6 weeks away, doing copious amounts of laundry and generally tidying our personal effects.  As well, I had registered for an intensive 5 day training course (Certificate IV in Training And Assessment) that required me to do some pre-work in the form of watching some training videos and completing some workbook exercises. My computer decided to give me grief as I was starting my pre-work for the course. Stress levels rose! But I sorted it and averted any major computer or personal melt-down. Suffice to say that first week was full.

Week 2 was my intensive course week. From Monday through Friday, 8.30am till 5.pm, I was in a room with other learners cramming six months of coursework into our five days. This included giving two presentations on which I was judges against a long list of criteria. Because of the compressed time to complete the course there was homework and preparation every night. Half way through the week I started itching. My back felt like I had a spider bite or a bad mosquito bite. However my course did not allow me time to scratch or see a doctor.

My presentations went off without a hitch and I received some feedback that I can use to improve my delivery and my engagement with learners.

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the doctor. One look at my back (and front) and he declared, “Oh, you’ve got shingles”. Great, thanks! My chicken-pox virus from circa 1958 had been percolating along just fine until a point of low immunity when it decided to rear its ugly, red, itchy head.

Meanwhile, on the Friday morning of my course, Speedy the wonder cat was found licking his wounds in the potting shed. He was nowhere to be found when it was time for he and brother Jose to come in the night before. It seems he had a run in with a car, motorcycle or bike. He was limping and had some visible abrasions and a minor cut on one leg. He is a curious and fearless cat, but this has slowed him down for a few days. Roo got him checked at the vet and it seems he’s on life number seven or six of his allocated nine about now…

So that’s where we are now. Fourteen days into the new year and I have gained the qualification I was working for and gotten a disease as a bonus! The cat has had a near-miss but survived another day. The good with the bad.

I do have some hopes for the year. Being healthy is high on the list. Eating well from what each season has to offer is always there. Writing and reading more are also up there. Appreciating the moment, just being, is also high up. And engaging with friends and family and followers, in the myriad of ways and means we have at our disposal, is a goal.

I need a nap. Peace everyone!

Bringing Abruzzo Home

Saragolla wheat pasta and lentils from Santo Stefano
Sharing a meal of eggplant parmigiana accompanied by saragolla wheat pasta from Morro D’oro and lentils from Santo Stefano Sessanio

Normally, at home in Australia we pride ourselves on how lucky we are to have a great climate (mediterranean, in the case of Adelaide) which gives us access to a variety of fresh local food and produce, year round.  Living by the low food miles philosophy is possible here. Sometimes I break from the philosophy, particularly when I come back from Italy laden with goodies as I did this year.

Legions of migrants have enriched Australian food culture enormously. One of the earliest ‘foreign’ cuisines in Australia was Italian and it is still much loved here resulting in formerly exotic varieties of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients being quite common now. We have great producers of  Italian-style meats, cheeses, wines, pastas and sweets. Siamo fortunati! We are lucky.

My recent trip to Italy was impulsive,  brief (for me) and truly enlightening. I’ve been to the Abruzzo region in central Italy many times now but this last time I felt that I connected in a more meaningful way. It’s always my aim when I travel to immerse myself in all a place has to offer in the way of history, culture and local tradition. Nothing speaks more of cultural patrimony than what people grow, raise, produce and consume.

In Santo Stefano Sessanio, near L’Aquila, high up in the mountains of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, we ate at a restaurant, Il Ristoro degli Elfi. The Lentil soup alone was worth the trip, and we complimented our hosts Anna and Silvan on its flavour and delicacy. After finishing our meal and settling the account, our hosts presented my fellow diners and I with a bag of lentils each.  We had eaten Slow Food designated lentils, and as well as being restaurateur, Silvan Fulgenzi was the grower of the lentils.  So we were eating at the source.

The lentils of Santo Stefano Sessanio
The lentils of Santo Stefano Sessanio – produce by Silvan Fulgenzi

At my wonderful and quirky little B & B in Roseto degli Abruzzi, my grandfather’s hometown,  I was lucky to befriend the owner, Lucia Simioni.  She is passionate about the Abruzzo region and all it has to offer in the way of art, historic hill towns, ancient ruins and interesting initiatives by local people. She has a wonderful garden full of flowering plants and herbs all of which she obtained from a local supplier –  a medicinal botanical garden and agricultural enterprise near the tiny town of Morro D’oro, where my grandmother came from. One day we made an appointment to visit the garden.

The beautiful Giardino Officinale (Orto Botanico Azienda Agricola) with its small classroom and shop, is run by the friendly and knowledgable  Filippo Torzolini.  If you have been to the Abbey at Santa Maria di Propezzano then you were very close.  Filippo opens the gardens, classroom and shop to students and visitors interested in learning about the medicinal value of plants. Products made from plants, such as essential oils and flower-infused liquors and cordial drinks are available.  Filippo also told us about their pasta manufactured from the ancient grain Saragolla. This grain had fallen out of fashion, but he is now growing and producing various pasta shapes. I bought a few bags to try.

Saragolla Pasta
Saragolla Pasta

Click the photos below to see a slide show.

When I returned to Australia I had a cache or lovely Abruzzo products to share with my loved ones. As well as the pasta and lentils I had saffron from Barisciano, also near L’Aquila. And I was armed with techniques and ideas for meals to share.

Other bloggers have sung the praises of Abruzzo producers who are passionate about retaining their long history of gastronomy and I want to add my voice to the chorus that salutes their efforts. I urge you to read my new friend and fellow blogger Michelle’s recent post on this topic at Majella Home Cooking.

We are fortunate to have wonderful products in Australia to cook with and we owe a lot to our Italian migrants who have kept up traditions that bind families and communities together. May we be fortunate enough to go back to the source often. Buon appetito e salute a tutti!

I primi di settembre

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In Australia,  early September bring spring with it.  And Adelaide is putting on a spectacular display this year after a long wet winter. The lovely green patch of grass out the back of our house is perfect for spending time with the cats – who are full of energy in the gentle sunshine.

Our front garden is planted with native plants and the grevillea and tea tree shrubs are in bloom.  The native frangipani (Hymenosporum Flavum) is ready to burst into flower as well.

A workmate of Roo’s has a supply of freshly caught fish and we were lucky recipients of some squid and whiting on the weekend.  We put the fish to good use for a light lunch of pan-fried whiting with a pear and rocket salad.

Seafood and salad weather
Seafood and salad weather

Temperatures in the high 20s and 30s Celsius are a sign of sandal season and the green Birkenstocks got their first workout of the season.

Sandals out for the season
Sandals out for the season

I have to admit I am not a winter hater like some; I enjoy wearing cozy layers of clothing, not being sticky sweaty all the time, and not having to be slathered in sunscreen against the summer sun.

But it sure will be nice when the neighbour’s mulberries ripen. There are a few berries just starting to colour so it should only be a matter of weeks if these first days of September are anything to go by.

Pizza fatta in casa ~ Fleurieu Style

Perfetto
Perfetto

Da tre anni sto studiando italiano con lo stesso gruppo e la stessa insegnante. Di tanto in tanto diversi membri del gruppo si riuniscono socialmente. L’ultima di queste riunioni è stata alla casa di campagna della compagna di banco Maura e suo marito Vic. La loro casa di compagna si trova nella splendida penisola di Fleurieu, a circa un’ora a sud dalla città di Adelaide. Maura e Vic hanno avuto un forno a legna costruito sulla loro proprietà, e siamo stati invitati per il più iconico dei piatti della cucina italiana, la pizza.

Il viaggio verso la proprietà è molto bello in una giornata invernale. Le colline, normalmente asciutte, ora sono verdi dopo le piogge consistenti nelle ultime settimane. Gli animali sono in abbondanza sulle strade: canguri, mucche, alpaca, pecore, anatre, oche e una profusione di uccelli nativi. Abbiamo superato un cartello stradale per i koala e sicuramente erano fra gli alberi, mentre passavamo di là.

Si, guarda da vicino, ci sono canguri...
Si, guarda da vicino, ci sono canguri…

Quando siamo arrivati la pasta si era già stata allievitata, e il forno a legna era già acceso. Maura ha iniziato a stendere la pasta per le pizze, poi ha messo i condimenti su. Vic ha cotto le pizze al forno. E noi abbiamo apprezzato le pizze che ha risultato.

Il pomeriggio si è concluso con un recital musicale; Vic ha tirato fuori la fisarmonica e ha suonato qualche melodia. Poì Nick, il marito di Nicoletta, ha dimostrato anche le sue abilità con la fisarmonica. Siamo abbastanza sicuri che abbiamo intraveduto un luccichio negli occhi di Nicoletta mentre guardava il marito carezzando le chiavi di madre-perla …

Insomma, è stata una giornata stupenda con gli amici, il cibo, il vino e la musica.

Homemade Pizza ~ Fleurieu Style

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Perfect Pizza

For three years now I have been studying Italian with the same group of people and the same teacher. From time to time different members of the group get together socially. The latest such gathering was at the country house of fellow student Maura and her husband Vic. The property is on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, about an hour south of Adelaide city. Maura and Vic have had a wood-burning oven built on their property, and we were invited for that most-iconic of italian meals, pizza.

The drive to the property is beautiful on a winter day. The normally dry hills are now green after some substantial rains over the last weeks. Animals are in abundance on the back roads: kangaroos, cows, alpacas, sheep, ducks, geese and a profusion of native birds. We passed signs for koalas and surely they were up in the trees as we zoomed past.

Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos...
Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos…

When we arrived the dough was rising and the wood oven was fired up. Maura began rolling out the pizza bases, Vic cooked the pizzas and we all enjoyed them enormously.

The afternoon finished with Vic bringing out his piano accordion and playing a few tunes. Another classmate’s husband Nick also displayed his playing skills. We’re pretty sure we saw a glint in wife Nicoletta’s eye as she watched her long-time husband  caress the mother-of-pearl keys…

Summer, where did you go?

Oh dear, I hope that three months between posts is not the new normal. But it has been a full three months as expected back in my January post.

A frantic pace was maintained by Roo, Giulia (la cugina) and I with performances and events galore during the March Madness season in Adelaide.

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I Cugini, Giulia and Lou

Giulia’s two month visit has come and gone in a flash. We managed to get to Melbourne together for four days and to meet up in Sydney after Giulia’s Outback Tour.

Giulia and I volunteered as marshals for the Adelaide Fringe Opening Night Parade and that was a blast to get a front row view of the homegrown colour and spectacle that we have all come to expect from the parade.

Roo, bestie Kat and I saw Neil Young with Crazy Horse and were blown away by the musicianship and Neil’s strong clear voice. A truly heartfelt performance.

At the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Giulia and I saw a few performances but the standout for me was one I had not planned to go to but am glad I did – the wonderfully skilled dancer Sylvie Guillem.

The summer was very hot this year so our garden was not as generous as in previous years. We did manage some decent tomatoes though. And I once again made the recipe called Tomato Party from Plenty, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tomato Party!
Tomato Party!

Before Giulia left we got in a few more day trips, to wineries in McLaren Vale and as we usually do, we popped over to Port Willunga for a little beach walk.

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Port Willunga Beach cliffs

Since G wasn’t flying back to Rome until the evening we decided to have a good day of bike riding to tire her out for the journey. We rode to Henley Beach then home again and had a beautiful day for it.

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Bike ride along coast – West Beach, Adelaide

Daylight savings has now ended and my bike ride home will be in the dark. The view from the bikeway over South Road at Glandore makes for a lovely end to a work day.

We now have a beautiful Indian Summer in progress but it’s just a matter of weeks before the real chill settles over Adelaide. It’s all good!

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Almost home when I get here…

Back to normal?

So, the last 6+ weeks have been all about our trip to India and Malaysia. The planning, doing and the posting of photos and memories. But I’ve been back at work a week now and it’s time to take stock and think about the year ahead.

At a glance it’s like most years: It all starts with summer, Roo’s Birthday, Australia Day, Anniversary, The Tour Down Under and Big Day Out.  That’s just January.  But wait, there’s more.

February brings cousin Giulia from La Bella Italia! The Adelaide Fringe opens (yay), and the Turner exhibition commences at the Art Gallery of SA. Alongside the Fringe is always the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The Fringe and the Garden span into the first half of March.

March brings the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, which features some ‘out there’ stuff this year.  Looking forward to seeing some of the free stuff as well as paid performances. Free includes opening night with Paul Kelly and Neil Finn and on my to see list of paid things is Laurie Anderson with Kronos Quartet!  And the late night club at the Festival, Barrio must be visited this year. Oh, and did I mention Womadelaide?  Clearly Adelaide’s March Madness is in no danger of going away. Refer my past post on this subject.

So maybe the first quarter of the year is not a good example of ‘normal’.  But it’s the best time to be in Adelaide.  I’m sure glad to be home for a spell.