The Hills of Tuscany-“Funghi” by Ferenc Mate

January3

I have two last excerpts from Ferenc Mate’s accounting of the planting of their roots in rural Tuscany.  I have to be careful not to read this when I am hungry or I will start salivating and building fires to grill my mushrooms over.  Even though I am a happy forager-loving the wild flowers and blueberries around our summer home, I have bever pursued the study of safe mushroom harvesting.  Belair Forest which surrounds our property, is regionally famous for their wild mushrooms and as a result of reading this, I intend to become an expert this coming fall.

 The first funghi-feast at their house I will never forget.  Piccardi casually invited us to taste the year’s first finds.  It was a Saturday night and we went through the graying light, up the hill to their house and looked down on our valley, taking some Vino Nobile and some PinotGrigio from Orvieto.  We had no idea what we would be eating.

The table was set for seven, for their children too were there: feisty Francesca, gentle Angela, and the resolute Allessandro.  We chatted about their schooling, about the coming fall, the nearing vendemmia, because the grapes might be ready early this year with all the heat.  Then the season’s first funghi appeared, chopped fine, cooked down to a sauce and spread on round crostini.  It was heaven.  The pungent, fragrant porcini flavors exploded in our mouths-bittersweet, moody-and the flavors came even more alive with the Vino Nobile from the Avignonesi vineyards.

Having finished the appetizer, I asked if we should open the Pinot Grigio for the next course, but Anna Maria said coyly, “No, there’s a bit more funghi.”  That night at the Piccardisfunghi rained like manna from heaven.  After the crostini came tagliatelle con funghi, not with one but two kinds, the first made from tomatoes, the second with porcini only, cooked with sliced garlic, parsley and salt in oil about twenty minutes, then at the end splashed with wine and simmered for a while.  Then came a zuppa di funghi, a think soup of sliced mushrooms, deep, peppery, calling for more wine.  After that we were convinced that we had reached the end, leaned back to relax, thanked Anna Maria for a stupendous dinner, when we noticed that Piccardi had been absent for a while.  We asked if all was well, and just as Francesca was about to reply, in burst her dad, aproned, grinning, carrying in his arms an enormous plate of grilled porcini.  Their fragrance wafted across the room and eddied all around us, and their taste made for the world’s best grilled steak taste dull.  We ate.  Savoring each bite as if it were our last.  The room fell silent as a tomb.

That was, thank God, the end.  Except for some whipped chocolate cake with a thick sauce of berries, and a bit of vinsanto and coffee, and just a tiny bit of grappa.

I can just feel the heaviness of the rich food in their tummies, can’t you?  Next installment  from The Hills of Tuscany is of their Easter Feast.

Kath’s quote: “Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom.”-Thomas Carlyle

Love-that is all.

 

 


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