Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits With Kari: Featuring Patricia Winton

Hi folks. I've got a special treat for you today. I love Italy, and I thought it would be fun to have patricia Winton, who has lived in Italy for more than ten years, the past eight in Rome where she reads and writes, cooks and eats. talk to us today about the food and how she's incorporated that into a fabulous mystery series. So take it away, Patricia. Enlighten us :-))

Thanks, Kari, for inviting me to blog today.

The sleuth in my WIP is Caroline Woodlock, an American journalist who is building a new career as a food writer. She’s in her mother’s native Italy to write about food and to research a cookbook. When she’s not stumbling over dead bodies, she’s collecting recipes and sampling Italian food. I get to do the research. So far, I haven’t stumbled over any dead bodies, but I’ve collected lots of recipes and sampled a lot of food.

One of the joys of living in Italy is using the markets for food shopping. While supermarkets abound here, as do traditional mom-and-pop grocery stores, the markets are the mainstay of the Italian kitchen. In a market, Caroline once overheard a vital clue that helped her unmask a vicious killer.

The markets are seasonal. Strawberries in January? Never. Oranges in July? Not a chance. Law requires that the place of origin be displayed along with the price. If you come upon asparagus in December, the label will probably indicate someplace in the southern hemisphere, and few people will buy it. The first citrus will be labeled “Spain” or “Morocco” because the Sicilian crop hasn’t come in yet. Italian people have strong opinions about what part of their country produces the best of everything. The best tomatoes, they say, come from Pachino on the tip of Sicily. The label will show “Pachino” in bold letters. You’ll pay more for these than for those labeled simply “Sicily.”

In winter, the vegetable stalls are stocked with more than a half dozen different leafy greens: spinach, chard, dandelion, mustard, chicory, wild field greens, and more. There are three or more different cabbages, three different broccolis. Throughout the winter, there is an ever-changing array of artichokes as diverse varieties come into season. And the fruit stands make you weep: mandarin oranges, clementines, blood oranges, fresh citron, a vast selection of apples and pears.

Now in April, the stalls are shedding their winter coats, and spring produce is appearing. The last of the artichokes are being harvested before the weather gets too hot, so tiny ones are in the market. They’re so small that they have no chokes and are incredibly tender. The fava beans, which have been growing throughout the winter, are appearing, as are fresh peas.
Caroline has been cooking Stufato di Vedure Primavera, Spring Vegetable Stew, because the window for making it with fresh baby artichokes, fava beans, and peas just lasts a couple of weeks. You can find the recipe on my website www.patriciawinton.com, which will be up-and-running next week, I hope. She’s also going to make a risotto with the artichokes before they’ve gone from a recipe suggested by my friend Federica De Luca.

Last week, I was in the market with her. “Have you bought strawberries yet,” she asked. “Were they good.” She made me walk the length and breadth of the market to inspect every display before she selected a place to buy them. The ones she chose were from Terracino, not far from last year’s earthquake. The Italian Agriculture Ministry website says that strawberries from Terracino were praised by Ovid and Pliny. I bought some of these noble berries, too, and they were excellent. I think Caroline may try them in gelato next.

Thank you so much, Patricia. Now more than ever I am dying to go to Italy....literally ;-))


Anonymous said...

yum! thanks for the mouth-watering entry patricia.
a presto,

Patricia Winton said...

Oh, Carol, I'm glad you stopped by. Ci vediamo per un caffe?

Cassy Pickard said...

Patricia! What a delight to find you here. You and I have exchanged emails a few times. My books take place in Italy, one of my favorites spots in the world.

My first market experience was when I was 16 or 17 years old. I spent the summer in Bari as an exchange student. My "mother" went daily to the outdoor farmer's market that spanned at least two blocks with the streets closed off from dawn until siesta.

I return to Italy many times each year, usually to Tuscany or to the north western region. Two years ago my husband joined me at the International Women's Fiction Festival in Matera (Patricia, you MUST put this on your list- it's in September). We decided to try and find the family with whom I stayed.

Yikes! I'm stopping right here. You have given me a great idea for my blog tomorrow. Same time, same station- I'll tell you all about our search and about the market.

Again, Patricia, this is wonderful to have you with us.

Grazie mille.

Patricia Winton said...

Cassy, I was really surprised to discover you on this blog, too. I remember our emails. I may try for the Sept. festival. We'll see

Can't wait to see your post tomorrow.

Cassy Pickard said...

Patricia and others: If anyone has questions or interest in the IWWF, please don't hesitate to contact me. It is intimate but intense. It is simultaneously translated into English by some of the top top top translators in the country (embassy level). There is a separate set of sessions just for those of us who write mystery or suspense. And, our very own Christine Witthohn is a major sponsor. I've been twice and will go again.

Plus, Matera is a truly unusual place. There is really nothing in Italy I've seen that has some of the history and architecture of Matera.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I'm a mom of 4 (3 are boys with BIG appetites) so I can't imagine going to the store every day to shop. I'd be exhausted :-)) I'm a warehouse shopper type girl, but Italy sounds fascinating to me.

I never knew realized the food in Italy is linked to the seasons. Your books sound awesome. I'd read them just for the culture alone, so I can feel like I'm visiting Italy if only in a book :-))

Cassy Pickard said...

Kari: The food in Italy is linked not only to the season but also to the social life. It's nothing at all like it is here. You are right, shopping on a daily basis has its challenges, but it also means that its built into the culture. I suspect folks who live in tiny apartments in NYC face some of the same issues.

Patricia Winton said...

Kari, it's really interesting how often I do shop in the market. I see women who have obviously been friends for years meeting in a bar after the market, shopping carts in tow, settling down for a coffee before going home to cook that mid-day meal.

The markets can be bustling, but not especially rushed. And, Cassy, city people in the U.S. (I was in Washington, D.C.) do have to shop more often.

Patricia Winton said...

I have to go out for a couple of hours, but I'll be baaack.

Mary Martinez said...

Oh what fun to live and write in Italy! I spent two weeks there, way too short. I loved every minute of it and the food. Can't describe. After reading your post I will find a market to check out when I travel there again.

I am going to your site right now to check out the recipe. I have a wine tasting at my house on the 8th of May and I'm looking for a great new recipe to try.

Thanks Kari and Patricia!

Steve said...

As always I enjoy your writing. You have become quite the storyteller. Guess it runs in the family.

Patricia Winton said...

Hi Brother, thanks for stopping by.

Kaye George said...

What a delightful mini-trip! And I hate grocery shopping. You make me want to do it, though, Patricia. In Italy! Thanks for the mouth-watering glimpse.

Lindsay said...

Now I'm hungry for some really good cooking.

Patricia Winton said...

Lindsay, I've just made a vegetable broth to use for the artichoke risotto on tonight's menu. I'd be happy to share.

Patricia Winton said...

And Kaye, such fun to see you here and there. You have an Italian connection, too.

Patricia Winton said...

Oh,Mary, I forgot to respond earlier. My site should be up and running next week. It's not ready yet.

Lindsay said...

I'll bring the wine. Hope you like red.
As yes, I really loved the interview. Just hard to think about that when reading about all the fresh produce you have available.

Patg said...

Great interview, I always love eating in Italy.
And Cassy, I think you are right about NYC, Julie of Julie and Julia fame mentioned in her book about going out almost everyday to shop.

Liz Lipperman said...

Patricia, the tour through Italian marketplaces was enlightening. I've lived in foreign countries myself where you shopped daily for food. It's an adventure.

Your mystery series sounds exciting, I also have a series about a wannabe sports journalist who gets talked into writing a culinary column (Casserole Lovers Mystery Series.) The problem is she can throw a mean touchdown pass but has no clue what to do in a kitchen. A few dead bodies later, she still doesn't, unlike your heroine who sounds like a true gourmet cook.

I'll be on the lookout for your series. Thanks so much for being our guest on M & M.

Patricia Winton said...

Pat, the bureaucratic woes of living in this country are offset by the joys of the cuisine!

Liz, thanks for your welcome. Your series sounds intriguing. It's a clever idea. Best of luck with it.

Cassy Pickard said...

Okay, this is just too good to let go by. Tomorrow I'll keep Patricia's theme going with a few tales of food shopping in Italy. I have a terrible habit of buying lots of food, cooking lots of food, but not eating lots of food. So, on my last trip a few weeks ago, I fed a room full of people so as to not waste what was in my fridge.

Patricia, promise to show up tomorrow so we can exchange more stories. And, ahh, Rome. It's a great place as long as you don't have to mail a package with insurance, arrange for any legal transactions, or convince a someone behind a counter that you are right and he just has to check the paperwork.

Lindsay said...

On your next trip to Italy I hearby SO volunteer to not only be your official food taster but finish any leftovers.

Patricia Winton said...

Ah, Cassy, I'll see you tomorrow. I wager I can best you with bureaucratic stories since I have residency papers! They were a long time a coming.

Cassy Pickard said...

Patricia: I know you can best me with stories. My are meager. I look forward to "seeing" you tomorrow! We'll have to figure out how to connect in Rome. I land in about two weeks!

Suzanne Adair said...

Patricia, thanks for such a lovely, mouthwatering post.

When I lived in England in the early 80s, the American supermarket concept had recently made its debut there. Britons were intrigued by it. I was fascinated by the remaining little markets. Markets had all but vanished from America, except in small towns. Funny how they're making a comeback.

You cannot maintain a light-speed pace to your life if you live in a culture that has no one-stop shopping. Little markets go with the concept of lingering over your food, enjoying it in the company of friends and family. Much wisdom can be found in slowing down long enough to savor your food.

Patricia Winton said...

Suzanne, it's the lingering that is the key. If you want to do anything clandestine here, do it a 2 p.m. on Sunday. EVERYBODY else will be sitting at the Sunday table (probably at Mamma's) enjoying lunch.

When I first came here as an English teacher, I was always shocked that I couldn't schedule a 1 p.m. lesson. "But we'll be eating" always seemed like a lame excuse.