¡Hola! Readers of Cinnamon and Truffle
When the delicious Truffle asked me to write a guest post for her highly edible, and achingly stylish blog, I was of course ridiculously flattered and the vain-glorious egomaniac in me (such a small part of me, honest guv) jumped at the chance.
Then the non-food writer in me thought "eek". You see, I am in fact an British expat mummy living up a mountain in Spain writing about life up a mountain in Spain, motherhood and the ravages that both have wreaked on my poor beleaguered body and social life.
What do I know about blogging about food? Nada, niente, nix. But when in doubt write about what you know, right? So, I know my family and my family loves food.
The writing of this post has led me to suspect that I may have led a rather charmed childhood. Annual family holidays were spent in an ancient, and idiosyncratically rustic, Italian farmhouse (originally bought by my grandparents in the 1970s) tucked away in a Tuscan hillside. There my sister, my brother and I braved such torments as scorpions, hornets, hoppy things, bitie things, monster mosquitoes, wild boar, unidentified night-time roof dwellers, bats and much, much more. There were even tortoises to be found on those hillsides.
Long afternoons were spent playing rummy and whist in the sun. Nights were spent trying to keep cool and fending off the mosies. And in between there was swimming in the lake, trips to the sea, stargazing and moonbathing on the terrace and above all else there was food.
Our Italian holidays were a festival of food to which we as a family wholeheartedly surrendered ourselves. There was no talk of moderation. No stinting ourselves. There was limited time and we all have to eat, right? We would have our lunch on the terrace under the shade of an enormous fig tree looking out over the olive groves. Panini, finocchiona, mortadela, prosciuto, mozzarella, gorgonzola and dolce latte, bruschetta, salad, watermelon, coffee, chocolates...
Gnocchi making with Mum circa 1979. I'm the one bottom right looking for all the world like Steptoe Snr.
The majority of nights we ate out. Consequently a great deal of time would go into the planning of our eating itinerary. So many good restaurants and never enough time. You have to go a long way and try very hard indeed to find a bad meal in Italy. Or so has been my experience.
Everyone had their favourites: the best place for pizza, the best for supa di vedura, or crostini or bistecca or scottaditta or frittura mista, or best located for a walk and ice cream after dinner. At times we nearly came to blows over where we might eat. This was generally when we were running out of time. Much depended on who could shout the loudest.
Amazing pizza. So why do I look so sad? I suspect I had no front teeth that year.
But there was one place where all appetites were met, a typical family run restaurant where four generations of my family have been eating for nearly 40 years. We know the waitress as Bronzatta because of her perfect tan and general air of glamour. She's still there of course. As is her similarly glamourous brother who sports a very distinguished streak of grey. This was, and still is, the first place my family visit at the start of the holiday and the place where they choose to eat on the very last night.
So, if you ever find yourself near the beautiful hill town of Cortona in Tuscany, and in the market for the best pizza on earth, visit Pizzeria il Vallone. I would say "tell them I sent you" but I imagine, no, I am sure, that they would have no idea who or what a Bibsey Mama is.