Monday, 22 October 2012


I went to Francesco's funeral this afternoon. He fell off his perch on Saturday morning, aged 86. He was glad to die, the doctors having threatened to amputate a leg just to keep him going a little longer. He was one of my most revealing introductions to Real Italy. Francesco was one of that dying breed (sorry), the contadino, the smallholder. Everything his family ate or drank (more or less), he grew. He had a few acres above the local town, vineyards, vegetable plots, a cow, a few goats, a number of hutches full of rabbits, two pigs (always named after the Italian President and the current Prime Minister..the last two were Giorgio and Silvio). They were slaughtered in his yard every February. Everything was used and consumed. I used to go there grape picking after teaching in the morning. I could always find the pickers in the vineyard by their chatter, even if I couldn't see them. Then at six o'clock we would go, knackered, to the tap near the pigsty (Ciao Giorgio! Ciao Silvio!) wash our sticky hands and faces and then go into the house for a supper prepared by his long-suffering wife Giannina. The house (not that much difference actually between the human accommodation and that reserved for the animals) just stank of pork. Salami dangled from the ceiling in various stages of maturing. Great hocks lined the walls. At table, there would be maybe 16 or 18 of us pickers and helpers, Francesco would preside over it all, his sparkling eyes reserving a special glance for any young females present. Plates and plates of food would appear, jugs of wine would be emptied and the singing would start. If it sounds all a bit Peter Mayle-ish and idyllic, well, it really was like that.
RIP Francesco Campasso. A Good Bloke.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Fruits of the Bleeding Forest

 Last year was a disaster for mushrooming but this year, with some decent rain in September followed by heat, is quite the opposite. I may have written about these before but can't be bothered to find out. Caesar's Mushroom doesn't find Blighty the right place to pop up but here is his home. They look like a shelled, boiled egg, then the orange head pops up and turns into a mushroom - bingo! Below is one morning's haul:
You have to be careful because if the head that pops out is pale grenish-white then it's one that will put you six feet under. I like to eat them (the safe ones not the dodgy ones ha ha) raw, sliced and sprinkled with finely chopped garlic and parsley and drizzled with decent olive oil. Below was a baked version, lots of garlic and parsley but with Ron's spuds. Unfortunately I didn't parboil the teddies so they were a bit hard, bloody bugger. Good zingy white wine is essential of course so an Arneis is good but I think myself and Victor the Spictor saw this one off with a couple of bottles of Smooth Tony's Pinot Grigio. Or was it his Sauvignon Blanc? Whatever innit.