y brother lives Rome and thinks Umbria is boring. I suppose he’s right in some respects. We have no Mediterranean Sea next door. There are no big theaters. If we’re lucky we’ll have a noteworthy art exhibition every two to three years, and even then you have to drive to see it. As for shopping centers, there’s a small smattering here and there. And there’s no IKEA.
He’s a computer geek who owns a Harley Davidson and plays jazz music on funky guitars.
What Rome does not have is an agricultural fair.
Out here, we can buy 50 breeds of chicken. We also have some of the biggest bulls known to man. And — get this — some of the tractors on display are larger than his microscopic apartment in the capital.
The result of all this is that we have fun.
Every year as March fades to April the whole region gathers in Bastia (near Assisi) for Agriumbria. Everybody and their aunts show up, preferably with a huge porchetta sandwich in hand.
But back to the fun.
There are Dutch chickens — Bantams — with hairdos that make them look like Tina Turner in the 1970s. There are food stalls with kilometers of sausages. There are rosy babies in strollers laughing at the sight of hundreds of baby ducks. There are majestic Chianina cows, with the bulls as tall as 1.8 meters (5-foot-11) and weighing at over 1,600 kilos (3,500 lb).
You can buy rare seeds, army fatigues, chainsaws of all conceivable sizes, a wood oven, a grass cutter fit for a football field, an olive oil press, a bottle of limoncello: the choices are mind boggling.
We always have a grand day. I buy geraniums for the garden. My husband disappears in the XXL tractors section, a dream of his. My daughter would love one of those funny rabbits with droopy ears.
Google the Dog doesn’t come to the fair. She doesn’t like crowds. She’s just a peaceful country dog. She’d also love a rabbit, which is why we don’t bring one home. Only the geraniums come with us in the end, and suddenly the fairground day is done.
Time for dinner.
Beef and asparagus stir fry (Serves 2-3)
- 200 gr./6 oz very thinly sliced beef, preferably Chianina, if you live in Italy.
- 2 Large garlic cloves.
- Juice of 1/2 lemon.
- 350 gr./2/3 lb. green asparagus, the woody stalks removed.
- 3-4 spring onions, sliced.
— Cut the meat slices into bite size pieces and place them in a bowl. Add lemon juice, one crushed garlic clove, and two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Toss to distribute the marinade and set aside. Refrigerate if you plan to marinade for more than one hour.
— Clean the asparagus, drizzle them with one tablespoon of EVO oil and broil under a grill until just beginning to char but still crispy-green. Remove them from the oven, chop in 5-cm/2-inch long pieces, add one finely minced clove of garlic, and cover to infuse.
— When ready to eat, bring the meat at room temperature. Slice the spring onions and soften them in 1/2-tablespoon EVO oil, increase the heat to very high, add the beef strips — marinade and all — and stir vigorously until just starting to color. Add the asparagus and their juices and stir some more until warmed through. Serve immediately with faro, cous cous or whole-wheat rice.