I'm reading
Lessons from the village
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Lessons from the village
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Lessons from the village
Pass it on
Pass it on
8 September 2020

Lessons from the village

A regular column from our friend Lentil Purbrick about her experiences moving to a small village in Italy with her husband Matt.

Written by Lentil Purbrick

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

Discussed in this Story

Buying a vineyard – 26 January, 2020

On this day, we bought a quarter-acre vineyard, a small piece of land, to integrate ourselves and become “one of the village”. Most people in our neighbourhood have a small plot of land that they tend to, solo or on weekends with family. So we searched for one of our own.

One handwritten note,
eight phone calls,
four house visits,
one plate of salami and cheese,
one vineyard guided tour,
four coffees,
three wines,
two scooter rides,
two homemade Zeppole (festival spiral-style doughnuts)
232 cheek kisses,
one shared family Sunday lunch,
two handwoven picking baskets,
one glass of homemade Vov (egg liqueur),
one vine pruning demonstration,
two visits to the Comune (local government building),
two packets of homemade biscotti,
one package of homemade ravioli for the freezer in case we needed a quick meal sometime in the future,
three visits to the Notaio (public notary)
we owned a quarter-acre vineyard.

We saw a little vineyard, with smoke still signalling the recently extinguished wood-fired oven. We could see the sea.
It was super tiny, but felt like enough.
So we wrote a note and left it there. It went something like this: “is your little vineyard for sale? Si? Call us on…”
As if predetermined, they called, they said yes, let’s sell it to you.
It was a family, with no one in line wanting to make wine. The 80-year old head of the family, Salvatore met us with his daughter. As he guided us through the vines and border of fruit trees, he shared with us the importance of owning land for health, and emphasised the commitment you must have to tend to the earth. We nodded, taking in the words from the man who had lived almost three times as much life as we had.
He didn’t remember the grape varieties he had planted, but knew its order to be “mixed reds here, mixed whites there, table grapes up there”. For him, the varietal names are unimportant compared to the tasks at hand and the grapes’ purpose of fermenting into wine or being placed on the table as food.
Perfect, we said, inconsequential details are for the fool, for the man who chooses to see the legs rather than the whole table.

We met in person again. “It’s better with four eyes,” the family said. As they fed us homemade zeppole (festival doughnuts), wine and vov (egg liquor), we drafted and signed an agreement of trust and the vineyard was ours (the official parts came later, almost of unimportance).
We began trimming the vines for the year of growth to come, hung the picking baskets, and washed the heavy outdoor table they had cemented in many years before our time. We were ready for the upcoming harvest and ensuing 12-person feast.
We celebrated with the 14 person family over their weekly Sunday lunch, as they insisted the transfer should be ceremonious. They told us we were to invite them to the vineyard at times in the year to come, and we were, now, part of their family.

We celebrated eight years of marriage days later, with a zeppole (of course the mother of the house Carmella had packaged some up for us to take home) and morning coffees.
I dyed my hair a bright red,
and cut my husband’s hair.
And he gave me a prison tattoo, with a full stop.
And committed to always putting too many ands in a story.
And everything was as it was meant to be.
For the first time, in a very long time.


“Zeppole” doughnut recipe

Handwritten recipe to take home from Carmella.
These are generally made around Carnivale time (February).

15 g brewers yeast
400 ml lukewarm cows milk
500 g semolina flour
Pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Frying/to serve
Olive oil
Fine sugar for dusting

(Recipe notes and variations: if you want to have slightly more textured doughnuts you can play around with adding a small boiled, peel, mashed, potato. You can also try to reduce the milk a little and add an egg instead.)

Dissolve yeast into the milk. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, remove and bring together with your hands. Place mixture into a bowl, cover and allow to rise (about 2+ hours in a warm place).

Once it has doubled in size, it’s ready to fry. Heat a generous amount of oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and make a spiral shape into the hot fry pan, fry until lightly browned.

*You can also use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls into the pan and make simple small “doughnuts”.

Place on an absorbent tea towel, sprinkle with sugar of your choice, serve warm.

Lentil Purbrick

Lentil is the co-author of two books: Grown & Gathered: Traditional Living Made Modern (2016) and The Village (2018).

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