Saturday, 29 August 2009

Harvest torture and food heaven

The real harvest has started and I must confess I’m a little bewildered.

We sorted grapes until 21:30 last night and even when we left the other people being paid to do the job were still going and probably only finished at 23:00. When we were called out of the vineyard at 11:00 yesterday morning I thought we were lucky to be removed from the midday sun, but I soon realised as I was stuck in grapes up to my elbows that this was not the best job on the farm.

The sorting of the grapes require at least six people. My job was to remove as many stalks from the berries as possible before the next person did the same and the other four people as well. The grapes come too fast though and two hands aren’t enough to remove millions of stalks at a time so very soon you’re basically using your whole body to remove as many stalks as possible. In between there are wasps and heat and a sore back and sticky feet to also try and handle. I now realise why the people used to the job are almost permanently sipping on a beer or something stronger, they need it. I can’t imagine anyone doing for a job and going through this torture twice a year, once for grapes and once for olives. I don’t think the young people going to study viniculture have any idea what they are letting themselves in for when they register.

Despite that, the people and the food have made it all worthwhile. Every now and again, while you are sorting grapes we stop for ’n dinner of fresh bread and pancetta. Or we have a seafood fiesta for lunch (yesterday). I don’t even like anchovies, but the Italian peasant dish of anchovies, lemon, onions and garlic was divine; a good precursor to the mussels and potato and eggplant waiting for main dish. We ate mussels and built towers with all the shells we collected... a memorable and delightful lunch.

Another highlight was the Italian barbeque we had on Thursday evening. Different types of salami and bread for our first starter. The different types of Italian sausages for the next course – I lose track of what each course’s name is and I don’t think the Italians really care, they just want their food. And the best and most tender T-bone steak I’ve ever had. The steak was about 7cm thick and we shared it between about 12 people. I was a bit disappointed when the fillet side was already taken when it reached my, but the other side was as tender as marrow and I had to stop myself from hogging the whole thing for myself. That and the fresh bread with chilli in olive oil made me a very happy girl. The meat deprivation I suffered in Tagliacozzo is now well and truly erased; I think I actually have credits in that department again.

Now only one week of work left before we move on to the next pasture, but I think this is our last weekend. It sounds as though we will be working straight through next weekend so I will post again in about ten days time. That’s if I haven’t drowned in fermenting grapes by then.

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