We head out for Montalcino on Tuesday and we are over the moon excited. We will actually be cooking dinner for about 35 people in the village – how cool is this?!?! ‘Why’ you might ask? First I have to take you back a bit. Stick with me here!
In 2006, our family stayed in Tuscany and visited Montalcino on a day trip. I was instantly smitten with this picturesque, magical little village. So I returned again and again …..and again. The villagers must have thought ‘Her? Again???’ If you go to Montalcino, no stay is complete without reading the wonderful books on the village written by Isabella Dusi (‘Vanilla Beans and Brodo’ and ‘Bel Vino’). I am in awe of her writing! Her books weave magical tales about the history, the people and the warmth of the little walled village. Over the years, I have come to know Isabella and her husband Luigi, who both have become dear friends.
Montalcino is divided into four neighborhoods or ‘quartieri’. Each quartiere has its own headquarters or ‘sede’ which is the pulse of each neighborhood. Isabella is affliated with Quartiere Pianello. Meetings are conducted. Dinners planned. Ancient traditions and cultural values are upheld. And strategy is plotted for the annual archery tournaments. Archery has been important to the village since 1110.
Isabella says in her book that fifty years ago, the four quartieri revived the ancient old tradition in the form of an archery tournament, Sagra del Tordo. In 2009, I was incredibly humbled to be invited by Isabella to cook with the women of Pianello for their annual Sagra weekend. Although they wouldn’t yet trust me to actually cook anything, it was magical to just be part of this long held tradition in an ancient village. (I failed miserably in my task however. I was allowed to spread the topping on the crostini and place the caper in the center. Except when I picked up the tray of crostini, my little capers all rolled off the top. I had forgotten to give them a nice push into the topping. I am surprised they are letting me come anywhere near the kitchen after that!)
And after 21 years, Montalcino won the tournament!! I was suddenly swept up in the throngs of Pianello members through the village in their parade, singing along at the top my lungs although I could barely understand the words!
But back to this trip! Each quartiere survives only on self-funding and voluntary labor from their members. Ten years ago, Pianello was able to purchase a 1,000 year old church that sits adjacent to their sede through donations from members all over the world. They have restored this amazing church to a glorious place of worship. And now, the quartiere has deteriorated to a dangerous level – new kitchen equipment is needed; new medieval costumes must be sewn; a new Ape is needed – all to help Pianello continue to nuture the children of the village and continue a way of life steeped in ancient culture and traditions.
So Isabella and the members of Pianello are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money. And we are blessed, honored, excited, humbled to be part of the effort. Our Italian Table has contributed recipes to the cookbook they are producing for the effort (look for more info as it becomes available!!) and we will be offering Our Italian Table dinners back here in the US as part of the offerings for the campaign. Our trip next week will allow us to finalize details for the project. We will also be cooking a dinner for about 35 people in the village. (Oh my – did I really just type that last sentence? Americans cooking Italian food FOR Italians!?!?!) Our dear friend, Deb Keith and her daughter, Kaylen will be joining us for the trip and have contributed every step of the way! Deb, a caterer with a blog of her very own, has contributed recipes and they will be cooking along side us in the kitchen.
So come along for the ride this week!! We will post lots and share lots of photos!! Feeling very blessed and excited. Thank you all for the support and love for our little blog efforts over the years. This is simply magical. xoxo, Michele