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Archive for January, 2013

That’s a quote from Tom Callanan found in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. It speaks to one of the great joys of travel. It is easy when everything is familiar to lose our sense of wonder. Even though we often decide on a place to live and choose a house based on things we love, we tend to lose sight of those things over time.

Travel reopens our eyes. When things are new and fresh we easily regain our sense of wonder. That wonder extends to your home when you return. Once again you rediscover the reasons why you picked a place. Then again, as happened for Kristi and me, it can awaken you to the mediocrity of a place. It was the stark contrast between a rich, enlivening Orvieto and a mundane, soulless suburbia that induced us to look for something better. And so for three years we have enjoyed our new intimate, small town mountain community of Morganton.

We still wonder at everything here. I think we will continue to do so because it, like Italy, cuddles and embraces you. Too, our twice yearly trips to Orvieto enable us to return to appreciate the wonder even more. We are two lucky souls!

Wonder in our back yard

Wonder in our back yard

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Book Cover

Book Cover

One of the highlights of any of our trips is the cooking class we do with Lorenzo. Lorenzo is a James Beard chef, a great teacher, and a lot of fun. Kristi and I have been to cook with him several dozen times – it is never the same and always a blast.

Lorenzo has just written a book called The Etruscan Chef, along with his partner Kim Brookmire. Kim lives in Boston, is a teaching chef, but she spends time in Italy with Lorenzo. During her visits Lorenzo,  would tell her stories about growing up and life in his small town of Baschi. Kim encouraged Lorenzo to e-mail her the stories and write them down for her. The Etruscan Chef is the compilation of those stories and a fabulous collection of wonderful recipes.

Lorenzo is, all at once, a traditional cook and a very progressive, innovative chef. He is imbued with and reveres the cooking traditions of his home and upbringing. At the same time he loves to try new things, experiment, and test the untried. Our cooking classes are rooted in history while we simultaneously test the boundaries with things like garlic gelato! On one occasion on the last night for one of our groups he cooked us a multicourse meal that he made up on the spot pulling from whatever was in the kitchen. We had very traditional

The traditional bean and egg dish

The traditional bean and egg dish

dishes such as beans with a raw egg added at the end which was cooked by the beans – a very traditional way of getting protein from the old days he explained. And we had completely nontraditional courses he invented that evening. Incredible!

In some ways I think the conservative folk in Orvieto think Lorenzo does not follow the time tested ways like he “should”. But I don’t believe they understand how completely rooted in tradition he is, and how everything that comes out of his kitchen springs from history – all the way back to the Etruscans.

So this book is a history book – a capturing of a slice of life of a very traditional, rural Italy. It is also a history of Lorenzo. And it is a great collection of recipes. So whether you like history, biography or cook books, the book will satisfy you. It really is a great read. You can order it from Lorenzo by e-mailing him at info@ristorantezeppelin.it. The cost with shipping is roughly $25. I think you’ll enjoy it!

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Listening

Easy Conversations

Easy Conversations

I’ve just started a new book given to me by my good wife for Christmas. It’s called “Seven Thousand Ways to Listen” referencing the 7000 known languages on this planet. At the beginning Mark Nepo says,

“Listening stitches the world together. Listening is the doorway to everything that matters. It enlivens the heart the way breathing enlivens the lungs. We listen to awaken our heart. We do this to stay vital and alive.”

This brings to mind all the gathering that takes place in Italy’s piazzas and streets, and the lively conversations that take place there. There is a lot of listening that goes on too, of course. It really is lovely, and I think one of the reasons we are so enamored of the country. We see all the listening, hear all the talking, and it brings us alive in turn. For, in a way, we, as observers, are also participants. As participants our hearts are awakened as well.

Italy, and Orvieto where we travel, awakens us on many levels. We talk often about the sensory awakening that takes place in such a rich place. But our hearts are awakened as well, and I think the listening we do is one way it happens. Happy 2013!

Hearts awakened by listening

Hearts awakened by listening

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