By Letizia Mattiacci
'm not a movie star but my life can sometimes resemble a film. Recently, I watched as a few of my guests sat on our B&B terrace, making friends, sharing glasses of wine, chunks of pecorino, and telling stories about their lives across continents and oceans, their faces glowing in the nearly unreal sunset.
I realized all at once that it's moments like these, with people together and laughing, that make me forget the many sleepless nights caused by a tough financial year, the renovation of half of our farmhouse, not to mention last February's endless snow, which had us trapped for a week.
The solar panels that now cover the roof of the farmhouse were installed (of course) on the first day our B&B was full.
After that, it was as if the sun had decided to praise us for our efforts and beat down on us alone. The summer heat ruined just about all our fruit and killed nearly half of the plants.
But what I have in addition to worries is also what I love, and I'm grateful. It includes a dog that likes figs and mud baths, a house that's too big and that I'll probably never finish working on, and a terrace overlooking what must be paradise.
I also have luminous autumn afternoons such as these, with Google the Dog lying fast asleep on the stone floor outside. Soon, everyone in the family will be back from various adventures, from school or work, demanding attention, food, and help.
But for now, the only noise is the quiet simmering of ragł on the stove. I can actually go outside and prune the roses, my roses, in Umbria, my Umbria, bathed in impossible beauty.
Ragł di Maiale (Pork Ragł) Serves 12
¶ Soften the onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat. Use a covered, low-edged, heavy-bottomed pan.
¶ When the onion is translucent but not caramelized, turn up the heat and add the minced meat, stirring quickly until light brown.
¶ Deglaze with the wine. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the bay leaf, and the clove, and cover again.
¶ Cook over the lowest possible heat for at least 1 1/2 hours, but up to three hours is desirable. Season with salt and black pepper.
Note to serious cooks: This is not spag-bol. Make it if you're serving tagliatelle, fettuccine, cannelloni, lasagne and gnocchi. No spaghetti, please.
The author's Sicilian mother worked to prove her dignity in a time when most Italian women stayed at home.
Italy's best oranges come from Sicily, and until recently the northward trek was rare.
For those who can't stand big-store Christmas shopping, try the artisanal alternative and then make cookies.
Even when things arent going your way (never mind Umbrian sunsets) there are always pumpkins.
When Google the Dog gets a whiff of figs, there's no more peace in the hills of Umbria.
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