Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Wish I Was Here....?
Writer Janice Horton has asked a bunch of her on-line writing friends to think about that today - where in the world would you like to be, right now?
Okay, I know - everyone who knows me will say I'd want to be in Italy. It's my favourite country. Well, wouldn't you, when you see things like this ancient stone wall on what is a fairly ordinary house in the beautiful Umbrian hilltop town od Assisi? I'd live there tomorrow! And check out the stunning view below from my friends' garden, and imagine waking up to that every morning. Wonderful!
It's my ambition to visit Italy at as many different times of the year as I can, and I've already managed it for late November/early December. That's the time of the olive harvest - it can be bitterly cold, but the work of raking the olives from the branches and collecting them up in the nets draped around the bases of the trees will soon warm you up.
In the rural areas like Umbria, where I've visited many times, most of the houses will have olives trees somewhere on their property. Some have many, and will bottle litre after litre of oil to see them through the year, while those with just a few trees might band together with neighbours and combine their olives together, and everyone gets a fair and useful share of the harvest. The year we helped friends with their harvest, we were treated to a visit to the local olive mill - the frant'olio - later that day. Forget dreams of stone buildings and ancient wheels - these days it's mostly a modern, highly efficient operation, all stainless steel and geared up for maximum oil extraction and maximum profit, but the magic is still there.
Inside the frant'olio, the scent of oil hangs so heavy on the air you could almost grab it in both hands. It impregnates the fibres of your clothing so much, you'll smell it for days. The expression of quiet satisfaction on the faces of the Umbrian olive farmers, young and old alike, must be the same expression seen over many centuries as the first oil, the extra virgine, drips from the press. In the old days it would have gone into a large glass fiasco, but now, again, shiny, hygienic stainless steel is the norm - but no less wonderful for that.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the rest of the olive after they've extracted every last drop of precious oil? The skins and stones are pressed together and used as fertiliser for the land. Nature in full circle, and the circle complete. I love that.
Ahh....I'm waxing romantic about one of my favourite places! Well, Janice did ask...though the truth is, if I can't be in Italy - and I can't, this year! - I would be just as happy here, at home, with my husband and children around me. Home truly is where the heart is, as far as I'm concerned!
Of course, there's more to 'Wish I Was Here' than just me banging on about Italy! It's a chance to share the HUGE fun today as Janice releases her new book, Reaching For the Stars. I'm really happy to showcase a fellow Scotswoman's work - what's more, it combines two more of my great loves, Scotland and food!
In Reaching For The Stars, Chef Finn McDuff feels he's had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and disappears into a self-imposed exile for a while. No wonder Janice has picked as her launch day theme, 'Wish I Was Here'.....!
I love the pun in her title, too, with a chef reaching for Michelin stars as well as - well, you're going to have to read the book to find out what else Finn is reaching for, and where it takes him. You're guaranteed a great read!
Reaching For The Stars is out now on Kindle UK and Kindle US.
To find out more about Janice Horton and her work, do take a moment to visit her blog and website here. Good luck, Janice - happy release day!
(PS - If I've given you the urge to visit Italy and its gorgeous 'green heart,' Umbria, I highly recommend you check out this place to stay, the beautiful Casa Delle Rose.)