Archive for November, 2012

Pick olives in Italy – Fragneto Monforte, Compania

Would you rather pick olives in America or Italy? After weighing the options, I vouched for Italy and found myself in Fragneto Monforte, a small little village (paesce) with family friends, Tina and Michael. I thought all I would do was come pick olives and study my Hebrew textbook, but my two weeks here were better than I ever imagined, and didn’t get to as much of the Hebrew as I had hoped.

After 24 hours of travel from California to Chicago to Munich-Germany to Naples and then a long drive to Fragneto Monforte, I got up the next day, watched Tina (the Chinese-Italian Mama) make an amazing seafood pasta, and went olive picking on the nearby farm. There I met the Venditti family, a fun-loving warm-hearted bunch who embraced me with their big smiles and jovial laughter, and so the adventures began.

Over the course of 12 sunny days, when I wasn’t learning to make Italian cuisine, I joined them almost every day and helped pick olives (cogliere olive). It was hard work, but being out in the brisk mountain air, it was a refreshing experience and I picked olives to my heart’s content. Every day they asked me if I was tired. With the biggest smile, I would always reply, “Nope, not tired! That was fun! See you tomorrow!”

Pretty quickly, I learned lots of Italian words and it all started with my first lesson from Maria “Non lo so. Non ho capito. Ripeti, per favore.” (I don’t know. I don’t understand. Repeat, please.) Every day I learned new phrases and could converse simply by the end of 2 weeks.

But this is what it’s like to pick olives in Fragneto Monforte, Italy. An amazing and unforgettable experience!! I hope I can return some other October and learn how to make wine with the grape harvest. Civediaaaaaaaamooooooo….

Only one way to get to the farm.

Almost at the farm where "work" can begin.

Santino and Giovanni - the dynamic duo.

Black olives, silvery leaves.

Nicola works in the treetops.

So many olives!!

What's a farm without a dog? Diana was really our supervisor.

I picked a whole crate of olives (ok, Maria helped). :)

Santino sends down the treetops and we continue to pick.

I finally graduated from ground floor and got to use the ladder.

Everyone has an olive to pick.

Every so often, it's ok to chill.

Fold the tarp and let's go home.

After the day's harvest, sometimes you find a few lost olives around the far edges of the tarps.

Every day's reward after picking olives. Ci vediamo domani...

After ~30 crates, you spend a day to remove the branches and leaves.

After olives are cleaned they can be sent to the press.

The old farmhouse - storage for olives before they go to the press.

Picking olives is always more fun with friends.

Leaving the farm...until next time.

Why is Munich white sausage (weisswurst) white?

I read over 10 sites that came up on Google search about why Munich white sausage is white. None of them really told me the answer, but they did tell me how to eat this traditional meal. I obviously did not know the way to eat it properly (you either cut the casing lengthwise and eating the inside, or you cut the tip of the casing and suck out the meat bite by bite). I ate it by cutting it into bite-sized pieces like how I eat my good ol’ American hot dogs. It tasted ok, but I think I would prefer the usual pan-fried brats over this one that was cooked with hot water. Nevertheless, I was left with one question: What makes these white sausages white?

I went olive picking today and met an older Italian man named Giovanni from Germany who said white sausage is white because it is made from the meat scraped off closest to the bone. But it’s also unhealthy for you and he only eats it maybe once a year. I always thought pork was just pork and any part of the pig would be the “other white meat.” Unless anyone else has ideas, I’ll leave the story be, but one thing I do know — I think I met my sausage quota for the year.

The pretzel (breze) was also a traditional Munich side to the sausages, salty, crusty on the outside and super soft on the inside. The way they should be!

White Sausages

Munich White Sausages - the one interesting thing I felt I should try while wandering the Munich airport on a 5 hour layover.

Rice Krispie Treats Recipe – Remembering Grandma

I was talking to an Israeli while living in Israel for 10 weeks and he’s never heard of rice krispie treats! Hmm, I sense a new market niche for this snack in Israel and I think it’d be pretty easy to make them kosher. :) I should open up a cafe in Israel and introduce these to Israel.

Every time I think of these delectable treats, I’m reminded of my grandma as she’d often stay up late and help me make rice krispie treats for bake sales when I was a little girl. Grandma was a truly amazing woman and on October 29, 2012, she went to be with the Lord after 91 years of life on earth.

The story of her life is truly remarkable - a simple village girl, widowed at 22 while pregnant with her second son (grandpa died on the battlefield during WWII), she had little money of her own, no education, and raised two sons who became doctors, bravely traveled the world, moved to a new country in her 50s, adapted easily, became the ultimate Taiwanese-American grandma, became Christian, and had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met and took care of her grandkids and relatives and friends with the same love and concern as she had for her sons, never asked anything of anyone in return, a farmer’s market extraordinaire, she cooked and cooked and cooked, and the stories go on.

Today, we had a memorial service to remember her. I am deeply humbled and thankful to have had such a grandma (or ah-ma as I always called her) and every time I make rice krispie treats, I will always think of her.

So here’s the recipe for how I like to make Rice Krispie Treat Balls:

 Step 1: Follow the recipe printed on the marshmallows bag or rice krispie treats cereal box.

Step 2: Dump out the final mixture onto a big sheet of wax paper or similar unsticky surface (i.e. silpat).

Step 3: Wear plastic disposable gloves and pull golf-ball sized handfulls of rice krispie from the pile you just made and form it into little balls. Make sure to lightly handle and just form them so they stick together. If you compact them too much, they will be become like rocks.

And there you have it, rice krispie treat balls that are easy for guests to eat!

I love you grandma.

DIY: Paint Projects

When I’m not traveling, I like to paint and find it most therapeutic. I love how in the moments when paint and canvas meet, all the craziness of life seems to fade away, my being finds calm, my thoughts are silenced and then it’s just me and the paint. Perhaps in sum, I’ve had maybe one year of art training in the 4th grade and am no expert by any means, but I like to think it doesn’t matter how much formal training you’ve had. Art is a wonderful outlet for the soul and there’s an artist within every person.

An exploration into acryclic paints with wedge sponges.

But most recently, I was apprenticed in the commercial painting trade and had the opportunity to hang out on rooftops and felt kind of like Tom Sawyer, except instead of whitewashing and conning people to paint, I got to play with spray paints and thick flat paint and enjoyed every minute of it. And if I could do this, I think anyone could do it. Here are two DIY paint projects.

DIY Project 1: Poop-covered, rusty vent hood.

After steps 1 - 3.

Step 1: Brush off all the dirt and poop, lightly sand down every surface, brush off the sanded paint. Be sure to wear a dust mask.

Step 2: Spray all the rusty parts with rust-oleum. Wear a mask.

Step 3: Spray over the rust-oleam with a white primer if painting with a light color or else the brown rust-oleam color will show through the light paint. Wear a mask.

Step 4: Roll/brush on two coats of paint.

Project 1 complete.

DIY Project 2: Prevent wooden boards from splitting. (The backing to a decorative part of the building.) 

Project 2: Before

Ready to scrape away.

Step 1: Scrape of all the old paint with a wire brush. Wear a dust mask and protective eyewear. You don’t want to breathe in paint chips or get a chip lodged in your eye, or else it’s a trip to the ER.

Step 2: Sweep off all the dust. Wear a mask.

Cut in at edges with a brush and roll everything else.

Step 3: Paint the edges with a brush and roll as much as you can of the rest. Load up the roller real good and squish in the paint into ever nook and cranny in the wood.

Hard at work in the mid-day heat. Not an easy job.

Step 4: Apply a second coat.

Project 2: After

Step 5: Do it all over again for the next building over. Even if you get stung by paper wasps that made their home behind the wooden boards. (I guess they didn’t like me trying to beautify their home. At least I found out I’m not allergic to wasp stings but it sure hurt and swelled up.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Stretch every day or you are going to be hurting after all that crouching.
  • The most important part to any paint job is in the preparation of surfaces to be painted. It’s not the fun part though and takes the most time.
  • Rooftops are another one of my favorite places to hang out.