The nearest house to me is unoccupied during the winter though Giovanni comes to feed his 3 cats twice a week, driving all the way up from Taranto. He is retired and I think he does it to get out of the house. He and his wife work to set times to do things. You don’t need to look at the calendar you know what date it is by the things they do. It is something I have never been able to do nor indeed want to but they seem happy. So like clockwork today at 9 a.m they arrived and unloaded the same pot plants and whitewash that they do every year on this day. Maria arranges the pots on her veranda while Giovanni collects the earth from the garden and then they have a good bellow at each other. They are both quite deaf so even though they stand close they shout. Maria also has that fiery Italian mamma temper so when she then moves into upset mode our house shakes. On Tuesday Giovanni will whitewash his house and the walls around it. On Thursday he will paint the gates. You get the drift ? This timetable which I know by heart will go on till September 20th when they move out. Not the 21st not the 19th. The routine never varies. Still it takes all sorts to make the world go around.
plus the sun is shining and I have had my first lesson in making orecchiette the ear shaped pasta that is the pasta of Puglia. So let’s take a quick run through how it is done. You need about 100grams per person of flour ( Semola di grano duro which you can buy in supermarkets and Italian food stores).
Make it into a volcano
Now we talked sometime ago about the lack of dairy products in the Puglian diet and here we are again . We just add water to this volcano and gradually make it into a rugby ball of dough
That was easy wasn’t it. The white packet in the photo above is pasta flour. We now buy ours from the flour shop in Villa Castelli. They sell flour by what you need it for and helpfully write it on the side. It is way cheaper that the supermarket and it is ground on the premises .
Okay so now you cut your rugby ball into slices
Then roll these into long snakes
Now the tricky part. You cut a small piece off the end of the snake and then hold the knife at right angles and roll the pasta ball applying enough pressure to flatten it. The forefinger of your other hand follows the knife tip and the pressure you apply with that finger helps shape the pasta as you see below
I then got my own board my own knife and my very own snake
I struggled but eventually began to get the hang of it while continuing to complain that it wasn’t a left handed knife nor a left handed board. After several minutes I had produced my first orecchiete
In the time I took to do those Rosa had produced 4 trays like this one !
But I will get better it is just practice and once I find a left handed cutting board ….
So after a good lunch with five pieces of my own orecchiette in the mix we did the above for the rest of the day.
And that rubber planter from yesterday I mentioned, well first some background . The P&O lines as it was known not only operated ships to OZ though that was the primary route . The O stood for Orient and it operated smaller ships on a very regular basis to Malaya as it was then and to Hong Kong. Officers and crew in the 50’s and 60’s signed on for 3 years and you were at sea for that period before you had leave. So it was possible for regular passengers to get to know staff really well before air travel changed the world of shipping for ever. Security at ports was almost unheard of. The gangway was manned but visitor passes were held by the deck officer and were liberally handed out. It was deemed good publicity for the ship and the company.
So an English plantation manager in Malaya regularly came down to visit the P&O ship when it docked there and spent time both in the bar and drinking with a group of officers that he made friends with over a period of years. A heavy but entertaining drinker he was popular enough that soon he stayed on board after the ship had sailed and was put into the pilot boat with the pilot when he had taken the ship out of the heads and into open sea. By then he was pretty well comatose.
After five years he was due his leave back in the UK and booked his trip back on P&O . Down to the ship he went and boarded . His baggage as was normal was loaded separately and placed in his cabin. He as always went to the bar and then to a number of officer cabins where he drank his usual rather large amount of booze. The ship sailed and the officer of the watch came down to find him to put him on the pilot boat. His rather rambling protests were ignored by the officer and the two seaman carrying him and he awoke in the pilot’s office some 8 hours after the ship had sailed away to England.