Firmly Planted, Looking Forward
A year ago today we lived in Portland. Oregon, It was raining. Brian was recovering from a severed Achilles tendon and I was working more than 50 hours a week in a soul-sapping job. I had been recruited for the position; it held a great deal of promise that proved to be utterly unfulfilled. We loved Portland, but the weather was starting to wear on us. We felt stuck, seeing little potential for change on the horizon. Then, six months later, we changed everything.
We left our jobs, sold our house, stored our things and left for Italy. Years ago we bought and renovated part of an old palazzo in the centro storico of Martina Franca, a lovely little baroque gem in the heart of the Valle d’Itria of Puglia deep in the heel of the Italian boot. We had visited for a month here and there over the years, always in the summer, but never for any longer than a vacation and certainly not with the intention of staying. We decided to give ourselves a year to reinvent our future, so here we are.
Our children were thoroughly supportive, but not without trepidation. We’re a close family, so the separation isn’t easy. Skype helps, but it’s not a substitute for a hug and a kiss. We miss our extended family and friends, too. But we can both say unequivocally that we would make the same choice again in a second. We even wish we had figured out how to do it sooner. And this is the message I share with all of you: make the choice to change your life and everything else falls into place.
We are launching our organic extra virgin olive oil import business, Pascarosa, within the next month. We’ve planted 30 more olive trees on our country property and have pruned our almonds, walnuts, figs and plums so they will bear new fruit this summer. We are diving deep into the social pool of Puglia, renewing old friendships and discovering new ones. Our days have a new rhythm that is scaled for human interaction, yet our access to technology allows us to choose the degree of intervention we find necessary. We miss our children and parents terribly and we know they miss us, but they are thriving without our close presence.
As I write, our doorbell rings. It’s a neighbor, Annina, who has brought a plate of holiday season pettole for us. They’re hot and yeasty, covered with vanilla sugar, just begging to be liberated from their foil-covered tray. Annina said she was making them and thought to herself that “the signora” (that would be me) might like to try them since they are nostrane (literally ours, but more deeply felt than that). This gesture represents all that we have come to love about this nuovastoria. It seems that our new friends and neighbors have time to care for one another, to reach out without worrying about being intrusive and to share themselves with the likes of us.
So while we acknowledge the past, we are living fully in the present and looking to a future that is rich with possibility. Everything we’ve experienced until now has brought us here and for that we are truly grateful. If we can presume to offer any advice on an auspicious occasion like the eve of another year, we urge you to believe that you really can make life-changing decisions and say yes to a new way of living. Here’s to you and yours and the fulfillment of dreams.
To hasten the arrival of good fortune in the form of great prosperity, do as the Italians do and be sure to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve. Here’s a quick, easy way to enjoy them while you hatch your plans for 2013.
Insalatina di Lenticchie—Little Lentil Salad
1 cup green lentils (or use the lovely brown lentils grown in Castellucio in Umbria; now they’re available in the U.S. in good grocery stores)
2 cups water
1 sweet red pepper, diced
½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
For the Vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 to 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, to taste
1/3 cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the lentils with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan tightly, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked through but still firm enough to hold their shape. Don’t allow then to get mushy.
When the lentils are done, remove from heat, drain, and place in a bowl along with the scallions, red pepper, parsley, and walnuts.
In a separate bowl, combine the shallots with the vinegar, mustard and salt to taste. Let this mixture stand for 10-15 minutes before gradually beating in the olive oil.
Toss dressing with the lentils and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve the lentils on top of spicy arugula, endive or a mixture of lamb’s lettuce and radicchio.
Makes enough for four as a small salad.