Since I was a child, summer has always been the synonym for two things: school term end and harvesting time. Now that school days are – alas! – a faraway memory, harvesting time still retains its fascination to me, who I was brought up in a small village and I spent my summer vacations at my grandparents’ house in the countryside.
Recently, I had the chance to watch harvesting machines at work in the countryside around Atessa, in the acreage surrounding La Grande Quercia agriturismo (farm restaurant, i.e. a business that raises, grows and cooks its own poultry, livestock and vegetables). A quintessential locavore stop.
The name comes from the majestic oak tree just in the middle of the yard – legend says that the oak offered shelter to the Borbonic troops in the XIX century – but the area surrounding the building is worth to be looked at, too. In front of you, hillsides covered with wheat, interspersed with brush spots and olive tree plots and the village of Atessa just behind your shoulders. My idea of wheat field had to be rethought: how can you call a “field” a stretch of land that is as steep as a mountain slope?
Nowadays harvesting is carried out by means of harvesting machines, which save time and exertion. The job a machine can do is far more quicker than a handful of toiling and sweating man. However, the spirit of this activity remains unaffected: “as you sow, so shall you reap” is to be meant literally.
Lunch break at La Grande Quercia is quite and experience. My suggestion is that you should be fasting a week in advance before booking a table for a meal. Servings are copious – this is an understatement, I tell you – so stop fussing about diet, calories and alike and enjoy antipasto all’italiana, peperoncino-flavoured bread rolls, pappardelle, chitarra al ragù, and all the season suggestions… But this is another story, untill then “Bon Appetibilis”.