Many governments are talking about reducing dependence on fossil fuels and thereby increasing the state’s autonomy but I have a new idea. Why don’t we try to produce 80% of our own food by 2013?
What is we started making preserves and other foods to last through the next winter? We could grow basil and make pesto, we could jar our own applesauce, etc. and we could then use these to barter for the things we don’t have, like eggs.
If we get a goat we could make goat’s cheese and trade that for mountain herbs with Maurizio up in his chalet. We could then trade the herbs for other things we need.
The easiest way to translate labour into tangible objects is by producing food. Food can be traded for other commodities based not on monetary value but on personal value. You could then trade your labour for pasta from a local producer of pasta, or we could even start making our own pasta!
Wednesdays the town square is filled with traveling vendors, what if we could set up a stand on another day trading what our community produces with other producers of surplus commodities.
The value is in the ceremony of the exchange when currency is taken out of the equation. Get to know the producer and the food will be infinitely more valuable than any packaging could ever imply. The producer has a vested interest in feeding you good food because in this case the consumer is not separated by thousands of miles.
Near the top of Mount Terminillo there is a mountain refuge which is presided over by Maurizio S. Maurizio came out smiling and gave us two coffees. We told him we were making a community down in Posta and then we had a discussion about art. Maurizio told us he wants to start growing vegetables and we said we have some land to do so. He said he has no time to come down from the mountain (a very long trip), but he was very interested in creating a currency free trade zone. We told him we could grow the veggies and exchange them for the rare mountain herbs that he has access to.
Yesterday Enzo told me he was going to give me some very valuable cooking ingredients. He too is not interested in receiving money for this service. I find these all to be good indications that maybe, with a bit of energy and effort, we could form a finance free network around this area.
Later we went to lunch in Villa Camponeschi where we met the former director of the largest bank in the region. He said that this area was one of the poorest both financially and culturally because of its geographical position. Being surrounded by mountains and cut off from all communication for centuries, these little towns have become quite insular and, he claimed, self interested. He said there is nothing uniting the inhabitants except greed. He then took my number saying that he could find a way to help us by providing extra accommodation should our group require it… for a low price.
I have found in life that usually when people claim a society or a group of people are a certain way they are often speaking for themselves… without knowing it.
Posta is nestled in a mountain range that offers an abundance of walks, cycle rides and culinary experiences. Today in order to expand my knowledge of Italian gastronomy, we bicycled to a neighboring town of Bacugno to sample the fresh mozzarella. We stopped by a local cemetery and averted a run in with some shepherd dogs that were on the loose. On the way back we passed by a Agriturismo. So we stopped in to see what was cooking. An Agriturismo is a curious and special thing to Italy – a place that naturally grows and serves food that follows local traditions offering to reconnect people to the land and its food. We met Domenico who helped to make Amatriciana famous. Amatriciana is a local Italian pasta dish that has now traveled the world, with Domenico steering the dish onto an international stage.
After returning to Posta we decided to take advantage of the sunny skies and go for a walk. We walked to nearby Borbona and then decided to take a hiking trail over the hillside to the small and picturesque town of Vallemare. We traversed the hillside walking along a moderate grade that brought us to a vista that revealed a rainbow falling over the village of Borbona with the mountains glowing behind, a dam gorgeous sight. Soon we came to an encumberment in our path, someone had dumped a large bundle of trees and natural refuse in our way. Jeff in order to tap into his powerful problem solving mind, steadied his body and grabbed ahold of a small twisted rope that was tied waste high between posts. Jeff’s brain went into overdrive as a sudden 100 volt shock sprang from the rope and Jeff nearly launched himself off the side of the hill as he was pulled back from deathly harm. ‘What the FUCK was that! It almost killed me!’ Jeff screamed still twitching as he tried to determine whether the electricity had fully existed. ‘What does electricity taste like?’ I asked. ‘Jeff that rope has been following our path the last 500 meters, it’s a cattle electric cattle rope,’ I explained. I went ahead and lead us up around the arboreal refuse that had blocked our path. We arrived at the edge of Villamore where two (new) barking shepherd dogs angrily approached. Jeff, fearful of a another physical shock swiftly moved forward leaving me to fend for myself. I intrepidly faced off against the shepherd dogs. After overcoming an initial growl or two I was able to pet them both into subservient submission. Soon the two dogs trotted ahead in order to shepherd Jeff back into the flock. We neatly rounded the bend with our two trusted shepherd dog companions when the beautiful village of Vallemare appeared below. After having a nice tour of the village we decided a coffee was on order at the local pizzeria. A sign for the pizzeria stood above a closed up building when yet another shepherd dog appeared. Our two dogs obediently responded to the sudden danger and ran up to the this bigger and obviously stronger dog. The new dog bit one of the dogs and both dogs retreated back to us looking for safety. The new big dog approached us growling and with a bloody toe. A growling dog is frightening, but if a dog and I gently calmed the dog and we added a third dog to our group.
Today we hiked about 3/4 of the way to Mont di Cambio. We couldn’t get all the way to the top because we got a late start and the sun was already setting when we got to Monte Iacci. The trails around this area are well marked and one could go hiking for several days, staying in refuges and passing through small towns and villages. Perhaps in the winter we could start snowshoeing.
The mountain paths are all maintained by CAI, the Italian Alpine Club. They have meet-ups and excursions in the area, the most recent being a trek for chestnuts in Antrodoco.
Hiking and mountain biking appear to be popular sports in the Apennines as many organizations and individuals maintain very informative websites about outdoors activities in the area.
There is a lot of talk in the Italian media these days of “ancient crafts” that have all but disappeared from everyday life. A widely publicized story involves Marco Grazietti, a 27 year old with a degree in Biotechnology who opted for a career as a shoemaker. Another article is about a Peruvian shoemaker who took over for a retiring Italian because no else wanted to continue the business (The Peruvian man hope to hand the business down to his son someday). There are many such opportunities all over Italy.
Despite the “crisis”, many consumers are now opting to spend more for quality foods and products. Perhaps we have learned our lesson that by saving a bit of money and buying corporate, in the long term we helped eliminate many craftspeople’s livelihoods while inflating multinationals and in the end getting a less durable (IKEA) or processed (insert corporate food chain) meals. In addition we lose contact with our community and send money across the globe that just winds up in shareholders’ bank accounts.
In Borbona this morning, the local pastry chef’s wife was lamenting the fact that many people want their pastries, but they don’t have the energy to keep up with the demand. They use no preservatives and the croissants are perfect, but they only make a very few of them each day because the pasticero is 70 years old and doesn’t want to get up at 4 AM any more.
Some bloggers have even claimed that becoming a shoemaker (or any other of these ancient crafts) has become the fashion. In Posta, there are many of these professions that are dying out because no one wants to do them. Perhaps we could start filling in these positions with foreigners afflicted by the crisis? I already have my heart set on becoming an arrotino! -(Just like Spinoza)
Wednesday is market day when all the vendors come to the main piazza to sell their goods. The best time to stock up on veggies is therefore Wednesday. There are also people selling housewares, clothing and shoes.
Aida, who needed help carrying her groceries home, filled me in on all the gossip that concerned me as we walked to her house. Aida, it turns out, was Serena’s uncle’s girlfriend back in the day.
Speaking of gossip, Emma at the little shop in Bacugno, said there is a lack of it since the arrotini have disappeared. An arrotino is a person that travels from village to village on a bicycle that is fitted with a grindstone. As he arrives in the village he announces that all the women should grab their knives and their scissors because the arrotino will sharpen them on the spot, and if you have a small gas leak in the kitchen or if your kitchen ventilation is blocked, the arrotino will fix that too. Needless to say there are countless stories about the arrotini quite similar in nature to the milkman in English speaking countries.
Emma also spoke of how the arrotino is essential to the community because they encounter many people in any given day and they are really representative of the community and also have all the gossip!
I think that PostaHouse should be equipped with an arrotino bicycle and I will now take “mountain bike” off the wish-list and replace it with “grinder’s bike”.
As I exited Emma’s shop I was accosted by locals who were informing me of new tricks for roasting chestnuts and recipes to get rid of all these apples in the kitchen.
Road to Bacugno
On second thought, maybe we could get an arrotino/mountain bike hybrid. Otherwise how would one get from village to village on these roads?
Today in one of the neighboring villages (Micigliano) they had what is called a sagra. A sagra is small fair that usually celebrates a natural bounty, in this case the chestnut.
- The town of Micigliano.
In the main square of the town they have communal tables set up for eating. then they have a ticket desk where you pay for what you want. Then you get in line. You wait in line for your turn to get some food.
- A typical scene at a sagra.
A sagra is a chance to get some of the best local food produced by the townspeople (collectively) for the enjoyment of everyone. Usually you need a car to get to a sagra, or in my case a bike, because they are held in small town that are off the beaten path.
The mountain of apples in the kitchen is no longer tolerable without walnuts, so I was very happy today to find some walnut trees by the roadside. No one can turn down free, fresh walnuts. It’s a different experience altogether.
We harvested many (not all) of the apples and pears. Anyone got a good strudel recipe?
The town of Borbona as seen from the old town, which is high above the new one.
Today was a very enjoyable day. Giulio came up from Rome to help out for a few days and we now have a stockpile of firewood, a second bicycle and numerous other things got done (not to mention a lot of planning and new ideas).
This afternoon we went for a walk in some of the neighboring towns. We visited the butcher in Borbona, went up to the old town of Borbona and took the long way home via Vallemare, which is a beautiful town as well.
There are many paths for walking between these villages where no cars can go. The paths take you across the tops of hills and along the side of the mountain. It takes fifteen minutes to drive from Vallemare to Borbona on a winding road while the footpath takes a little over an hour (and it’s straight).
Driving between these towns you see a lot of sheep and farmland, but mostly forest. After visiting Borbona we did some cleaning and then started a fire and grilled zucchini, aubergines and peppers over the hot coals. With our abundance of apples we made apple sauce that Giulio tried on his pork chop.
Now that we have got a bit caught up on yard work, maybe tomorrow we can go and harvest chestnuts.