14 September, 2013

WWOOF Days 4 & 5: Farm & Food

For those unaware of what WWOOFing is, I guess you might wonder what it is exactly that I'm doing here in Italy. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms whose objective is to bring volunteers and farmers in need of a helping hand in contact with one another. In exchange for room and board, a WWOOFer is expected to work various jobs on the farm depending on their experience. Being someone who loves the outdoors, nature, and gardening, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn a bit about organic agricultural processes and what it means to live off the land. That and the fact that I desperately needed to get out of the city, and my thoughts took me to, where else, but Italy. 

The farm sits amongst the hills of the Tuscan valley about 17km from Florence. The nearby village is a tiny thing, whose train station consists of two platforms, and whose main street is so small that in passing, just a blink and you'll miss it. The town seems to be in a constant state of siesta. The busiest areas are the bazar and market where shop owners, still donning their aprons, can be seen sipping on espresso while chatting with the regulars. Don't expect any sort of "run-in, run-out" shopping here. Everyone knows everyone, and what normally would be a five minute trip turns into thirty after being filled-in on what's going on with So-and-so.
The farm itself was built in 1459. Yes, you read that correctly. At over 550 years old, the house stands unyielding to the effects of time, as if it sits upon some sort of fountain of youth. Of course if one looks a bit more closely the centuries of passing footsteps can be seen in the depressions of the stone staircase.  Giant cracks in the walls  and uneven flooring shed light on it's age, but don't detract from it's beauty in any sense. The expression "if these walls could talk" definitely comes into play here.

Most of my time working here has been spent in the garden pulling up weeds and pruning the plants where needed. I've already finished with the tomatoes and have now begun work in the strawberry patch. As I Ferngully my way through, ripping and tearing, I can't help but have pity for the poor creatures that call these weeds home. What must be a war zone and absolute chaos for them, is pure tranquility to me. There's something about digging earth, sitting amongst the trees, with nothing but the sounds of nature and chickens to keep you company that brings about an indescribable sense of peace. (Or maybe some people might say insanity, depending on what you think about chickens keeping you company...)

Another incredible meal...and this was just the entrée!
This sense of tranquility is probably heightened by the fact that I'm eating the best I've ever tasted in my life. Theresa and Mathilde are without doubt the best cooks I have ever had the pleasure of eating food from (sorry dad!). And this is no exaggeration. The daily lunch and dinner menu is like going out to a five-star Italian restaurant, but better. This is home cooked, fresh from the garden cooking, all the recipes learned of course from father, grandmother, and so on. Each pasta dish, cooked to al-dente perfection is topped with a made-from-scratch sauce, be it from cherry tomatoes or a subtle marsala. Every tender slice of beef marinated in some sort of delectable sauce, melts in your mouth releasing an audible "mmmm"(....and all this coming from someone who typically doesn't eat red meat).
I've already asked that they come live with me in Geneva and be my own personal chefs. I think my roommates wouldn't mind. Too bad they've politely declined. ;)
Home-made pasta with parmesan butter sauce topped with truffles.
Sunset from the farm.

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