Farm Stories from the Alps // Slowing the Pace

Vea Carpi is a homestead mama, baker, & author living on a ‘maso’ in the Italian Alps with her husband Renzo and her three children, Pietro, Viola, Sole. Vea is passionate about making delicious and healthy food as well as serving it at the Farm-To-Table restaurant that they operate as a family.

My dear friends, it’s been quite a long time I haven’t been here with you. Life has been hectic during summer (I think you know what I am talking about). 

Sometimes it feels kind of overwhelming having to manage the farm from Monday to Wednesday and the restaurant Thursday to Sunday. We practically never get a day off. And my husband is also working outside the farm Mo-Fri. I am not here to complain, but just to tell you  that we made many thoughts about it. I have been listening to many voices here on Homestead Mamas, suggesting all of us to take time off. We have chosen this life because we wanted a slower pace, didn’t we? On the other hand, there is budget to think about: we have loans and bills that need to be paid, just as everybody else has to. These two needs have been on the table long enough. We made up our minds and decided we are going to close the restaurant on Sundays, November to March. This will give us some time to rest and to spend with our kids. I realized this might be one of the last winters we are going to be all together stably. We are going to add Thursday dinner shifts instead of Sunday. I know we’ll lose some income, but I feel that we all need this so much and that we would regret it otherwise. 

So, let’s talk about my favorite season here: fall! I am sure I am in good company. Crispy mornings, clear deep blue skies, yellows and greens and browns and reds all around the forest…that’s just wonderful. 

 

With fall comes also the harvesting season. Up here the season is quite short, and at the end of September we are already thinking about frosts and snow. 

Fall also means potato and corn harvesting. I wanted to talk to you about these two crops that are so important in mountain people’s diet and suddenly I realized…THEY COME FROM AMERICA! So here I am, talking to you (mostly Americans) about your native plants and about how these plants saved lives here and made people’s lives so much better. And how they have become the most important ingredients for our most popular dishes.
 

In the Italian Alps potatoes and corn (mais) started to be cultivated in 1800. Before that people up here were basically surviving on beets and wheat and rye. But potatoes and corn are so much more nutritious and have more calories per kilo. And they adapted splendidly to our climate. 

Here in the north of Italy we eat a lot of polenta, a special and easy dish we make with corn flour: we are often called “polentoni” from southern italians (it means “polenta eaters” more or less). 
Potatoes are, if possible, even more popular. I have so many recipes in my mind with them. 
There is one though I’d love to share with you. It’s so simple and yet so delicious and nutritious: it’s like an ode to old times, when mountain farmers had to be very creative with what they had (and believe me when I tell you that they didn’t have much up here in the days)
TORTEL DE PATATE-POTATOES FRITTERS
 
500 gr peeled potatoes
50 gr all purpose flour (or buckwheat flour for a gluten free version)
1 teaspoon salt
fat for frying
 
Grate the raw potatoes (you can also coarsely blend them in a blender). Let them sit for a while in a strainer (never mind if they oxidate a bit) so that they release some water (especially if they are freshly harvested you should allow water to get out). 

Mix potatoes, flour and salt. You’ll get a coarse dough. Heat the fat in a frying pan and scoop spoons of the dough in the frying fat. Fry until heavenly cooked. We usually have them with cheese or spreads (or even cranberries jam).
Enjoy

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