Thursday, September 29, 2016

End of Summer 2016, kudzu and Bucatini all'Amatriciana

The calendar tell us we are in autumn already.  Here, it still feels like summer, albeit the end of it.  Last Sunday the temperature was 93 F (33.8 C) but this week we are starting to have a "cold front" which means the temperature will be in the low 80s F (28 C.)  The little flowers you can see in my heading picture bloom in late summer and have a pleasant sweet fragrance.  What type are they? you may ask.  They are flowers of the Pueraria montana plant, from the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae, or in plain English, they are the flowers of the kudzu vine.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

I understand you can make jelly from these kudzu flowers, but I certainly don't want that many vines in our front yard as kudzu is invasive and will kill trees.  In the top photo in the collage above you can see a large black pipe in the background.  The county Water Commission cut over 30 of our trees (see pictures in my January post here) and their machinery propagated the kudzu vines to our front yard.  Kudzu is from Southeast Asia and was introduced in the US in 1876 as an ornamental shrub then later on, in the Southern US, to feed goats and as an erosion control.  But it grows rapidly and will cover everything in its path.  There was a field close to our house with a small abandoned house in the center of it.  Within 2 or 3 summers the field was totally covered with kudzu and the house was just a bump in the field.  Below are some photos from a road about one mile away, kudzu around our mailbox and climbing on pine trees in our front yard.  (The barn covered in kudzu courtesy UGA.)

Throughout August the Water Commission worked on our road, digging and installing big water pipes for their water main.  They even used dynamite which made our house shake.  They also cut our cable often and toward the end of August, for over 10 days, we had no cable access (no TV, no computer) from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Some days we could not get out of our driveway for hours, or get back home.

I took pictures as the work progressed.  It was noisy and dusty.

But the summer had some highlights - such as the Tour de France which I followed on TV.  In the evenings, from August 5 through 21, we watched the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro.  The U.S. women's gymnastics team was spectacular, as well as champion swimmer Michael Phelps.  Congratulations to the athletes of Team America for winning 121 medals.  It was fun to watch small countries winning medals, such as Ahmad Abughaus, 20 years old, who won the first medal in the history of Jordan, in men's taekwondo.  Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the Olympic men's hammer title and captured the first gold medal for the Central Asian country since it gained its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.  Majlinda Kelmendi made history by becoming the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic medal (the first medal since Kosovo became a state in 2008.)  The Fiji men's rugby team finally landed their country its first medal, a gold one, when Fiji beat its former colonial ruler, Britain, by 43-7.

How about France's golden boxing couple?  France's Tony Yoka won the gold medal against Britain's Joe Joyce.  Tony is the first Frenchman to win gold in boxing heaviest division.  His girl-friend, Estelle Mossely, competed in the women's lightweight boxing match against Chinese boxer Yin Junhua and won the gold as well.  Tony and Estelle are planning to be married, and France is super excited = boxing and love! C'est magnifique!

But not everything was fun and love this summer.  There was the terrible tragedy in Nice, France.  When a tragedy happens in one's country, a city visited many times, it seems to hurt more.  We see so much bad news on TV that, unfortunately, we often cannot grieve as well for unknown parts of the world.  One year I purchased my flight on Delta Airlines months before flying to Paris to see my mother.  Then Delta had a sale.  They gave me a coupon for the difference in price.  The coupon turned out to be the same price as a round-trip flight to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  So, I flew there, by myself, and stayed several days.  Baton Rouge means "red stick" in French.  It was translated by explorer Sieur d'Iberville and his exploration party in 1699 from the native term "Istrouma" or the Choctaw "iti humma" which means red pole.  I took photos with my old film camera and also purchased postcards.  Here are some below.

I rented a car and visited many historic plantations along the Mississippi River.  I'll try to find my old film photos and if some are OK I'll have a post later on.  Below is a postcard showing some of them: Nottoway, Houmas House, Oak Alley, Destrehan and San Francisco plantations.

In mid-August I was so sad to watch on the news the extreme flooding in and around Baton Rouge.  It was difficult to look at the devastation - 60,000 homes damages or destroyed in Louisiana.  I remembered the city well with its friendly citizens.  I had even spoken French with several Cajun families.  Below are some photos showing the flooded Baton Rouge area (courtesy Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper.)

In high school in France we had to study two foreign languages: 1) English or German, 2) German or English, Spanish, Russian or Italian.  I took English as my first language and Italian as my second.  We were about 37 in my English class, but only 3 students in my Italian class.  Consequently, I spoke much better Italian than English when I finished high school.  I had an Italian pen-pal who invited me to stay in her home for several summer vacations and I went there during the months of July and August.  She lived on the bank of the Adriatic Sea in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto.  I remember when I arrived there the first time I was in awe.  Coming from grey Paris here was a town with palm trees and flowers in the avenues and a turquoise colored sea.  I did take pictures, but they were small and in black and white.  But here are some old postcards below.  I placed a blue dot under Ancona (under San Marino, on the right) in the region of the Marches, to show where San Benedetto is located.

The parents of my pen-pal Marisa, had a farm/winery inland also, in the surrounding area of Ascoli Piceno, near Arquata del Tronto (shown in pictures below.)  The Tronto is a river that ends in San Benedetto del Tronto.  We would drink the wine from their farm and it was very good.  They had a rose wine, like a sherry, in which we would place pieces of peaches and then eat and drink this as a dessert.  They also had an amber colored wine, sweet and strong, which was a good accompaniment to smoked ham and melon.  I was able to achieve a similar taste with a Serrano ham, a "melorange" melon from Arizona and a glass of Ipsus Pantelleria Passito.

On August 23, 2016, at night, before turning the light off I checked my iPad and saw that there had been an earthquake in central Italy at 9:36 pm US Eastern time, or 3:36 am August 24, in Italy.  I stayed up to find out where this earthquake had been.  The epicenter of the 6-2-magnitude quake was in Accumoli, 9 miles from Arquata del Tronto (where the family had their farm/winery.)

The next several days I was on the computer as much as possible (whenever the Water Commission did not turn our cable off...)  reading on Italian internet sites.  This quake caused the death of 297 people and flattened most of Arquata del Tronto, Amatrice and Accumoli.  Many injured were taken to hospitals in San Benedetto del Tronto, 44 miles away (71 km.)  Such a terrible tragedy - I'm deeply saddened by the loss of life and all the destruction.  (Pictures below courtesy La Repubblica.)

What a devastating loss for these close-knit communities that have been there for centuries.  These picturesque mountain villages are sparsely populated.  As you can see by my collage above most buildings have crumbled.  I heard an old man saying on TV "il mio paese non esiste piu" /my village does not exist anymore.  It is heartbreaking.  I read an article talking about the seniors living in these villages, saying (in Italian and I translate)  "...Old people who have lived their whole lives in familiar four walls saw them collapse in a matter of seconds.  They are lost in the crowd of desperate people who have lost everything, like them.  Almost.  Because when you're old you no longer have the time to reconstruct a different life.  You do not have time to get used to a house that is not yours, and that you never knew.  No time.  And perhaps not even want to.  They are left there to watch the ruin of their past and the massacre of their future..."  Below are photos of Amatrice from before (on left) and after the earthquake (on right,) courtesy USA Today.

I went to look at the internet site of the city of Amatrice, which had been voted last year as one of Italy's most beautiful historic villages.  It still showed an ad for their upcoming festival for the 50th anniversary (on August 27 and 28) of their famous sauce for spaghetti called Spaghetti all'Amatriciana (invented by local shepherds in the Middle Ages.)  I copied the artwork you can see below.  It also showed the welcoming sign, at the entry of the town which said "Amatrice, 955 meters above sea level, citta' degli spaghetti all'amatriciana/city of the spaghetti a l'amatriciana."

But the festival did not take place, alas.  For a sad remembrance of their beautiful festival and to honor the people of Amatrice I drove to the DeKalb Farmers' Market in Atlanta (40 miles away/64 km) to buy the necessary ingredients to make Bucatini all'amatriciana.  It is a classic, simple but hearty Italian pasta dish.  The dish has six ingredients: bucatini pasta, not spaghetti (bucatini pasta is thick and hollow,) guanciale (cured pig jowl) but pancetta can be used, pecorino cheese, red pepper, white wine and genuine tomatoes from San Marzano.  I added a small onion in mine.  I was pleased to find the bucatini pasta and a genuine can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.  It did not take long to cook and it was delicious, but bittersweet.

I wished to finish the end of the 2016 summer with something positive.  To bring these villages back to life, they should not be just names on a map.  There was joy there, the love of good food; so we need to keep alive their famous pasta sauce, Amatriciana (there are many recipes on the internet.)  (for those who wish to help, here is a link to .)

I hope all my blogging friends had a good summer 2016, filled with good memories.

Above is a photo of the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force (the Aeronautica Militare Italiana.)  This is to express my sympathy to the members of the Italian Air Force (I enjoyed working with them for almost ten years) and to Italy.


Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
This entire post is bittersweet - and beautiful.

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, how sad to hear about Amatrice. I read about the earthquake but this has brought it more to life. I hope they can rebuild their town but of course it won't be the same as before.
I didn't know about the Kudzu vine, I don't think I've seen it here but if I do I'll certainly root it out. It looks horrible and I am not sure I even like the colour of the flowers.
The air picture is really inspiring, and a good note to finish on.

DJan said...

So many tragedies this past summer, VB. You have written about it all so well, as usual, and I applaud your spirit of world community that you express in all your posts. This one, especially. It seems like there are more tragedies in the world every day, causing me to forget earlier ones. Thank you. Sending you blessings from my corner of the world to yours.

donna baker said...

Vagabond, I don't have my glasses on so it's a blur, reading and typing, but lots of bad things, including kudzu. I've seen it. Surprised it hasn't made it's way to OK. They need to put it in chicken feed and animal feeds - use it as a food source. Soylent green perhaps?

Jeanie said...

Oh, you are right about so many things happening this summer that weren't good. Nice, the earthquake and flooding, bombings... But there was some good, maybe small good in how people help one another. We have to hold onto that.

I didn't realize you had connections to Amatrice. Makes it all the more real.

Kudzu -- we hear much about this from Rick's dad in the south. Pity it is so very invasive because if you could control it, it would be lovely, but yes, no one likes a predator like that.

An excellent wrap up to the season.

David said...

Vagabonde, You sure covered a lot in this posting!

Kudzu is estimated to cover over 7,400,000 acres in the USA. That's just a little less than the area of Yellowstone, Everglades, Grand Canyon and Smoky Mountain National Parks combined! Kudzu was introduced to the Southeast in 1883 at the New Orleans Exposition. The vine was widely marketed in the Southeast as an ornamental plant to be used to shade porches and in the first half of the 20th century, kudzu was distributed as a high-protein content cattle fodder and as a cover plant to prevent soil erosion. The Soil Erosion Service recommended the use of kudzu to help control erosion of slopes which led to the government-aided distribution of 85 million seedlings and government-funded plantings of kudzu. By 1946, it was estimated that 3,000,000 acres of kudzu had been planted. When boll weevil infestations and the failure of cotton crops drove farmers to move from rural to urban districts, kudzu plantings were left unattended...and we now see the results of this government led fiasco.

Sad about all that construction at your home... The loss of trees is the big one! Unfortunately we have a new home going up next to us just one lot away. All the trees were stripped out and we now have construction noise and dust early in the morning. No blasting though...its not allowed here. We still have a wooded lot between us and the new house.

Baton Rouge...I was only there once on business many years ago and I've never had a chance to appreciate the finer points of the city. From a retail security viewpoint, my store in that market was a challenge. We even had a couple of gangs shooting at each other through our plate glass windows! Fortunately, no one was hurt...just scared out of their wits!

Love it when the 'unknown' or small to tiny countries win Olympic medals! What heros they are back home...such joy and national fame too.

My wife and I have managed to visit a couple of plantations along the Mississippi...most notably Oak Alley. What a handsome place and setting. Our goal is to visit more plantations up river on future vacations.

Finally...Amatrice Italy. It's so sad that Amatrice and so many small villages were crushed and will probably never recover...and if they do, their historic character will be lost. Even worse was the loss of life! Thanks for the before and after photos... They really provided a picture of what the earthquake wrought on Amatrice.

Enjoy your fall...and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Magic Love Crow said...

Another great post my friend! There was sure a lot that happened around the world in the summer of 2016. Some not too happy! Thank you for sharing so much! Where the quake hit in Italy, our friends family lived only an hour away. They could feel it! My summer was good! Lots of growing! I have changed so much from the beginning of the year! For the better! I can't wait to see what Autumn/Winter brings! Big Hugs and Much Love, Always!!

Al said...

This post covers a lot of ground - it's definitely been a challenging summer in many parts of the world.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Summer always seems to pass so quickly. This was a sad summer for both Nice and Amatrice. We never know when disaster will arrive--natural disasters are bad eenough but man made ones are even harder to accept.

I've visited a few plantations of trips to Louisiana. Oak Alley is so romantic looking.

Autumn is in full bloom her ein Colorado--autumn also passes quickly here!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

There were so many sad and discouraging news events this year that after awhile, I just tried to tune them out and not listen, watch or read the media. However, much of it was hard to ignore. I spent some time looking for good, positive stories to heal my heart and give me hope that, yes, there is much kindness and joy in this world that goes on daily and should be talked about and celebrated.

Rosaria Williams said...

Our hearts are full of tragedies these days, and because of the internet, we are all connected minutes after an event. You did tell me you spoke Italian, but somehow I forgot. You keep amazing me.

Shammickite said...

I enjoyed reading this post, even though you wrote about so many sad events. The news is full of sadness. I liked the fact that you made the special Italian recipe after the earthquake in Amatrice. What a wonderful thing to do. So terrible to lose a whole area filled with little villages.
And I have seen the kudzu covering the trees as I drove south through the Carolinas, Georgia and into Florida. Horrible. An imported plant that is out of control.

Vicki Lane said...

Kudzu is so beautiful -- in small doses. I can see why people wanted to plant it. Like the water hyacinths that used to clog waterways in Florida.

I shall have to try your spaghetti recipe -- if I can find the noodles.

bayou said...

Hello Vagabonde, so many topics, the worst for me must be your actual environment and the devastation of so many old trees and all the noise and the disruption and disturbances. Pity, you have not already moved and have to endure it all, also the changed landscape around. I have been to Baton Rouge in the late 80th and went in front of the 'State Capitol', There are 49 steps up and each has the name of every state of the US engraved on it, the last step was modified to host Alaska and Hawaii later on. Symbolically, I stayed on the Kentucky step as I always wanted to go there one day to see the blue grass by my own eyes ;-). Still remaining on the list.
The tour de France and the Games were not watched here as TV/PC etc. is rarely on in summer, our life happens outside. But now we submerge :-). Hope your fall season holds many happy moments for you. Je t'embrasse bien fort de loin, Anke

Things and Thoughts said...

So much variety, lots of things to say about all that happened this summer...Lover of spaghetti, I'll certainly try your recipe, it seems a good version of the famous amatriciana!
Happy October

Pixel Peeper said...

I'm familiar with kudzu...the vine that ate the South...from when we used to live in South Carolina. It will cover everything!

I enjoyed reading your recap of this summer, even though some of it was sad news. Are you still in contact with your Italian pen pal from high school?

Ginnie said...

Of course, I am totally familiar with the kudzu predicament in Atlanta, Vagabonde! It really IS invasive. I remember thinking how many people it could feed if it really WAS harvested and put to good use. (sigh)

And, of course, we heard all about the earthquake in Italy recently...all the time on Int'l CNN for many days in a row. It breaks your heart. I suppose we will continue to hear more and more about such devastations in the years to come. One wonders what climate change will continue to wreak havoc on until we can figure out how to stop it!

Down by the sea said...

Your posts are so informative! I have never come across kudzu before, it was so interesting to learn more about it.
Nature can be so wonderful but can also cause so much devastation. Sarah x

Shell Sherree said...

The kudzu flowers are lovely ... and goodness me, those earthworks are pretty enormous! Much sadness this past year - thankfully always blessings to count and uplifting things, nature's renewal and the human spirit to make hope spring eternal in the face of troubled times. That last photo is a beauty. Thank you for these travels far and wide, Vagabonde.

DeniseinVA said...

The year went too quickly. And with sad events that were devastating. We ourselves experienced the death of a very much loved member of our family, and within two days the birth of another. Hurricanes are now blasting their way through causing more sadness. Such is life, I try never to take it for granted. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. Your posts are always very thought provoking and written well, with so much feeling. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

joared said...

You've answered some questions I've had about kudzu -- what a scourge! I've been disappointed in Olympics TV coverage that we don't hear more about athletes from smaller lesser known countries such as you report here. The earthquake damage in Italy is so tragic. How soon our news coverage moved on to other topics. Clearly you would feel the impact more acutely from your experiences there and can appreciate your concern. I, too, think of how challenging the situation would be especially for older residents. A lovely connection with your special food preparation and mouth-watering photo.

Mae Travels said...

Vagabonde, you have so much international experience that every tragedy is for you a personal loss. I am so sorry that you have to experience so much vicarious pain on top of the local construction terrorists on your street and in your yard! I'm relieved that you could find an enjoyable way to cook the dish that makes you think of better times in your small town in Italy.

best... mae at

Pat said...

What a shame that such a lovely plant should be so invasive. Just recently one of my sons was bemoaning the invasiveness of wistaria in his garden and I remembered how I had - for years - tried to grow it unsuccessfully in mine.
It is wonderful that you commemorate the Italian Festival and honour their peop0le by making the pasta dish. With all you have to cope with - I salute you Vagabonde.

Reader Wil said...

Merci de votre commentaire.Un tremblement de terre comme ça est terrible et on ne peut rien pour aider les habitants des villages.

It seems that there are more earthquakes and tornadoes this year than last year.There is a lot destruction by the war in the Middle East too.
What a terrible world!

Cergie said...

Bonjour Vagabonde, encore un long message très personnel et documenté !
Je découvre cette magnifique liane, le Pueraria montana une belle empoisonneuse donc quoique comestible ! Elle me fait penser au liseron qui est difficile à éliminer car le moindre morceau de racine donne un nouveau plant. J'ai lu qu'après la mort de Claude Monet un bull avait été passé sur son jardin de Giverny, dispersant les mystiques helianthus au point de les rendre incontrôlables jusqu'aux jours d'aujourd'hui.... Certaines fleurs sont assez envahissantes dans mon jardin comme les asters, ou les bourraches ou les géraniums des près. Elles se reproduisent par graines et à force de supprimer celles-ci il peut arriver qu'elles risquent de disparaître totalement (elles sont parfois en voie d'extinction) ce qui n'est pas l'effet escompté. Ecoute je suis assez intarissable sur les fleurs alors je vais arrêter là, d'autant que je dois prendre le RER A et sortir mon plus jeune petit-fils de la crèche dans le 19ème cette après-midi afin de le voir, bien sûr, et de raccourcir sa "journée"
Que ton week-end soit beau !

Carola Bartz said...

As EC said, this is a bittersweet post. I was very saddened about the tragedy in Nice - I think we all were - but I didn't even know about the earthquake in Italy. It happened while we were on vacation and we completely stayed away from any news (mainly because we didn't want to hear anything about the US elections). Earthquake news always strike uncomfortably close to home and I feel saddened for the people who lost their homes in this earthquake.
It has been a bittersweet summer for me as well as it was the summer before our daughter left for college. I miss her, but I also enjoy new kinds of freedom.

sweffling said...

As usual Vagabonde, a thoughtful and penetrating post. As others have said too, bittersweet. I hope you have had some good times this summer despite the sad news stories. Here we have had a good summer given our circumstances! I am intrigued by the reference to your working with the Italian Air Force: do write a post on this some time please:)

Tamara said...

Again your story telling is powerful. The highs and lows of the past few months have had global effect. Many of us share the dsitress and coconcern for the people affected by these tragedies. On a lighter note, thank you for the introduction to you beautiful little flower.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I'm so sorry about that beautiful old town -- but I applaud your idea of doing something positive in its honor.

I enjoyed the look back at your wonderful trips. And envy your ability with languages.

Linda P said...

A visit to your blog is long overdue. As you know life has been a trial lately and my blogging has had to be put on hold. You have had to cope with difficulties yourself and I hope all is well with you. The roadworks must have caused a lot of damage as well as inconvenience to residents in your neighbourhood. We had the same experience last year when the city council installed new street lights, resurfaced the roads and built new pavements. We knew what it was like for the people in the region where the earthquake struck as my husband's family felt the impact and after shock tremors during that tragic night and during the next day. My husband's native home is on the other side of the mountain range(south of Rome) and also vulnerable to earth tremors. We have experienced them ourselves when we have lived there or have been on vacation. We can imagine what a tragedy this disaster has been with villages and towns destroyed. Thank you for standing with the people of Italy and your love for them. Wishing you well my blog friend.

Unknown said...

May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to its home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at

Kay said...

Wow! So much has gone on this past summer, so many tragedies, sadness, but happy times too. I believe the Japanese don't have too much of a problem with kudzu because they eat it. I guess that's the axiom, "If you can't beat it, eat it."

Thérèse said...

Pire que le lierre ce kudzu! Quelle plaie! Il faut le plus souvent sinon toujours se méfier des plantes à stolons.
Tes photos de Baton Rouge ne font que renforcer mon envie d'y aller... même après ces terribles inondations. L'Italie, soit dit en passant, continue d'avoir des secousses.
Oui tu as raison de finir sur des notes positives, il faut s'y accrocher, il y a tant de gens à aimer et tant de belles choses à voir, à revoir et à chérir.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Vagabonde--so sorry to read about the earthquake in the area you had been. I enjoyed your post as I always do but at 82, and on oxygen 24/7 I am no longer able to do much but go to the table to eat or to the bathroom.

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