The Umbrian Supper Club
Marlena de Blasi
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'The only sauce is olive oil - green as sun-struck jade - splashed in small lustrous puddles, through which one skates the flesh, the fat, the bones, the potatoes, the bread. In the last, best drops, one skates a finger.'
Luscious and evocative, The Umbrian Supper Club recounts the stories of a small group of Umbrian women who - sometimes with their men and, as often, without them - gather in an old stone house in the hills above Orvieto to cook, to sit down to a beautiful supper, to drink their beloved local wines. And to talk.
During the gathering, the preparation, the cooking and the eating, they recount the memories and experiences of their gastronomic lives and, as much, of their more personal histories. For a period of four years, it was Marlena de Blasi's task, her pleasure, to cook for the Supper Club - to choose the elements for supper, to plan the menu and, with the help of one or another of the women in the club, to prepare the meal. What she learnt, what they cooked and ate and drank and how they talked is the fundamental stuff of this book.
Including a dozen recipes, drawn from the Supper Club, The Umbrian Supper Club is a delight to read and to taste.
the Calabrian mafia in its most delicate incarnation. As so many men – and boys, too – were and are wont to do in those parts, Pierangelo made his living doing the clans’ bidding. You see, a few days before Pierangelo’s appearance on the farm my father had been refused a loan at the Cassa di Risparmio in Orvieto. Bankers are often as diffident to modest desires as they are malleable to excessive ones. Pierangelo was entrenched in an unofficial partnership with the very banker who refused my
jacket. ‘Once I remember Niccolò pulling a corked, dark glass bottle from his coat pocket, ‘Ecco, behold, oil just pressed, just robbed from my own mill. Tomorrow is soon enough for pastasciutta. I booked Roncalli. Forza, forza, I’ve left the auto running . . . ‘“It’s an hour to Foligno, Niccolò,” my mother whined. ‘“What do you care? I’ve salame in the other pocket and wine in the boot.” ‘“But why? Everything is here and . . .” ‘“Because there will never be another Friday evening at eight
like bingo numbers, foods Miranda hasn’t lately cooked or ones she’s somehow never cooked at all. ‘I’ve yet to say I will. That I will cook for one more Thursday.’ Miranda knows the only way to capture their attention is to whisper. The talk ceases. Barely raising her volume, Miranda says, ‘Bring me a haunch of young boar by Sunday evening, a litre of decent brandy and a package of syringes.’ ‘Syringes?’ Half seconds separate each one saying the same word. ‘You heard me.’ Her wistfulness
road to your past. Here’s a truth for you, Gilda: your case is hardly a particular one yet the whole of your sympathy you keep for yourself, checking your wounds, poking at them like stigmata, just to be certain they’re still there. What do you know about Magdalena’s past? Maybe she couldn’t leave a path flowered and lit for you because she, herself, never had one. So many of us never have.’ Miranda becomes quiet then, pats her upper lip with the ends of her apron, closes her eyes, presses the
with my newborn self with myself at Dafne’s age, at Livia’s. Magdalena, also, had been not so much present as she was elsewhere.’ • With only brief respites back to the present, Gilda has been telling her story through the first and second forty-minute interval between wine dosings, during which time we’ve variously sat by the fire, stood in the kitchen, stepped outside to feed the chickens, brought in from the garden three pumpkins, which we’ve peeled and cut into chunks, set to boil on top of