I Dream of Umbria

by Michael Tucker
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umbriapoppiesAround the first of June, we’ll fly to our house in Italy for the summer, but until then I’ll just close my eyes and dream about Umbria in the spring.

The poppies are starting to pop right about now and our whole neighborhood looks like the road to Oz. Everybody’s tucking into abbacchio, spring lamb, roasted in the oven with potatoes, rosemary and garlic.

Or simpler yet, scottadito, lamb chops pounded thin, brushed with olive oil and flash-grilled over a wood fire. You hold the chop by the bone end and eat it with your fingers. Scottaditi means burned fingers.

The thing about the lamb in Umbria is that it tastes better. That’s about all you can say. Americans have great beef and they’re starting to figure out how to raise pork – not there yet, but better — but as for lamb, forget about it; go to Italy.

It has something to do with the way the lambs eat over there, how they live and also how they die — at a much younger age that anyone would allow them to die in the States. American lambs get older; Italian lamb tastes better.

fave-e-pecorino-300x225Spring is the season for fave e pecorino, the simplest taste combination on earth. We’ll put out a big bowl of unshelled fava beans and a wedge of pecorino and let our guests fend for themselves.

Just shell a handful of beans and alternate them in your mouth with a bite of the fresh sheep’s cheese, the younger, softer, sweeter version of pecorino. A pecora if you haven’t figured this out by now, is a sheep.

The other component is salt – just dab the fava bean in a little good salt, pop it in your mouth, followed by nice bite of the cheese; then maybe a sip of grechetto, although some people swear that red wine is best.

Either way, it’s the very essence of spring in Umbria.


Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose third book is the recently published Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging ParentAlla Norcina.   He writes about his love of food on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland.

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