Langhe mountains views winter

A first time for everything

Someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about once said you should try to do something new every day. It’s a nice sentiment, one I’d love to live by, but it’s really not that easy. In fact, I can’t honestly remember the last time I did something for the first time. That was, until this weekend when, suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a deluge of ‘firsts’…

The first snow of the season

Wonders will never cease; the weather forecast was actually correct. The first snow of the winter arrived right on schedule on Saturday, making the Langhe look even more magical than usual. We went for a long walk, threw snowballs and sat by the fire drying off, warming up and drinking Barbera. We even ate some mince pies that I brought back from a recent trip to the UK. If we’d had a bit of Take That playing in the background we could have been in an advert for a cheap supermarket.

dog walk Italy Langhe
Otto loves the snow…

My first Italian emergency

As the snow came down thick and fast the silence was broken by a series of ever louder popping noises, followed a few minutes later by a siren. The golf club down the road had caught fire. I slid my way awkwardly down the hill and was greeted by the sight of a row of carts, a Renault Scenic and half a building going up in smoke. I stood around for a bit, coughing and pretending to be useful, but in the end sloped off home. My first Italian emergency!

Barolo golf fire

The first blogger to meet Mrs Sensible

At that exact moment, fellow blogger Pecora Nera turned up. I’m not saying his arrival and the fire are linked, I’m just saying it’s a remarkable coincidence, that’s all. Draw your own conclusions. He and his wife popped over for a glass of wine and in the process I became the first blogger ever to meet the long-suffering Mrs Sensible. I’ve been sworn to secrecy about her true identity, but I did manage to take a surreptitious snap without her noticing…

She's gorgeous, isn't she!  Photo courtesy of
She’s gorgeous, isn’t she!
Photo courtesy of

My first Thanksgiving

I never would have expected my first Thanksgiving experience to be in Italy, but sure enough, on Saturday evening an American friend invited us over for a big Thanksgiving dinner. It turns out it’s kind of like Christmas, except you substitute roast potatoes, parsnips and pigs in blankets (I once had a birthday cake made entirely out of pigs in blankets, but that’s a story for another day…) for various far more American items, such as corn pudding and sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon. It was delicious. Thanksgiving is now my second favourite national holiday.

There was a rumour going around that we would each have to stand up and give a speech about what we were thankful for. At another Thanksgiving dinner earlier in the week this had apparently resulted in various emotional outbursts, tears and lots of hugging. Here’s mine: I’m really thankful that in the end we didn’t have to stand up and say what we’re thankful for (I’m English. We don’t do that sort of thing), I’m thankful to have been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner with some great new friends and I’m really thankful we weren’t treated to the Thanksgiving classic that is mashed sweet potato with marshmallows.

Thanksgiving Italy expat friends

The first one up

I don’t mean to boast, but I’m pretty sure I was the first person in the whole of the Langhe to get out of bed on Sunday  morning. It had been a late night, but I wanted to get some photos of the snow before anyone else was around so I forced myself out into the cold. And as I drove around on deserted, snowy roads I was delighted with my decision and willpower. It was beautiful.

If you want to see some more snowy photos from my painfully early morning, check out our facebook page.

Langhe mountains views winter
Novello, our local town, looking pretty majestic

My first tartufo bianco

I’ve wanted to try white truffles for a while, and on Sunday I finally got my chance. I ordered carne cruda in an osteria in Alba and it came piled high with truffle shavings. I’m happy to report that I quite enjoyed it. It tasted earthy but delicate at the same time. There were definite hints of mud in there (not something you would usually want your food to taste of), but it worked.

And that’s it. My first ever weekend of ‘firsts’. Next weekend will be my first ever trip to Chamonix, for my first snowboard of the season. I could really get used to this first lark.

48 thoughts on “A first time for everything

  1. *Jealous* As if it wasn’t enough to hear about snow, truffles and good food, you dare to tell us that you met PN and Mrs Sensible. Harrumfh. I’m tempted to sulk, but I won’t because you made me laugh with your Take That supermarket advert line.

      1. I don’t believe you for a second. And rumour has it that PN is a big softy.. you’re just grumpy because he refused to massage your toes after your fireman intervention. I would love a holiday in Italy to meet eveyone – and try the local wine too (hic).

  2. What an incredible weekend of ‘firsts’ each one better than the last, and yes I think it highly suspicious that a certain ‘English Man in Italy’ just happened to be lurking around the scene of a crime??
    I love PH and Mrs Sensible…..maybe another blogger meet up at your place….x

      1. You need to be scared of Mrs Sensible. I am scared of her. She is the only person that makes me do as I am told, well most of the time, at least when she is watching.

  3. Oh shit! White truffles, really? you had to end with that???
    Yes that is right, I am still YET to try them!!! ARGHHH
    Deep breaths, I’m letting it go……love all your firsts, good on you and when the bambino comes you’ll have more firsts than you can poke a stick at…ha,haaa Oh don’t you loathe people with older kids :0)
    Totally envious of all your snow…and truffles

    1. Ha ha… We had a coffee with some friends with older kids on Sunday and they kept telling us all the things we need to do now as we’ll “never have any time again”. I hope they were exaggerating, but I fear not…

      Sorry about the truffles. I didn’t actually mean to try it, it just kind of happened!

  4. So it doesn’t sound like you were overly impressed by the truffles! How could you eat more on Sunday after all that food on Saturday night? And you know you wanted to stand up and say a speech for Thanksgiving…be ready for next year!

    1. Don’t worry, I have my speech saved so that I can spring it on you when you least expect it!

      I actually liked the truffles more than I expected to. The flavour was interesting and not at all what I thought it would be. I’d definitely like to try them again, maybe on something other than carne cruda next time though.

  5. Great post!
    Some of your English speaking readers may not know what ‘carne cruda’ is… well it is :
    drumroll… : raw meat… – I am curious to know how it was prepared, could you tell ? there are various ways.

    1. Thanks Vera! I’m not sure exactly how it was prepared, but it was, as always, very simple… cut up into small pieces and served with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. And truffles of course. Carne cruda is not something I thought I would enjoy but it has become one of my favourites!

      1. What I remember it that the meat – very tender veal – sliced tenderloin filet is the best – was chopped fine with a heavy very sharp knife (never ground!) and then marinated with lemon juice – or red wine for several hours or overnight (with added garlic and other flavors for the wine marinate) – then the extra juice was drained but leaving some moisture for the meat and it was served as a main dish or as an appetizer. My mother did not trust making it, she feared some contagion from the raw meat, but people that I knew ate it and loved it. Adding tartufi, black or white, would make a worthy enhancement to this dish. The lemon juice actually cooks the meat to a certain point. That is the classic preparation.
        BTW Have you had LA LAPRE AL VINO yet, also known as SALMI’ di LEPRE.? that is hare marinated and then cooked in strong red wine? in my days the hare was never bought but ALWAYS hunted – it had to be kept ‘under fur’ for maybe a week to ripen. Each family has their own way of cooking this dish, but the odor of lepre in salmi’ remains in the house for at least one week. You walk in and you can tell that they have recently had la lepre in salmi’… Let me know. And il fagiano alla panna? tried that yet?

      2. That’s right – it tends to be ‘battuta’, which is roughly chopped. The lemon juice cures it a bit, but you can’t really taste it. The best one I’ve had was prepared by a friend and had garlic and plenty of seasoning in it, I’ve never had that anywhere else though. It’s usually far simpler in restaurants.

        I’ve never tried hare… and I’m not sure my wife would be happy with the house smelling of it for a week! And I’ve not tried fagiano yet either. I’m not a big fan of pheasant to be honest. I’m sure I’ll give it a go some time though. I feel I need to try everything…

      3. Pheasant is delicious. Do not skip it….! especially cooked in pieces in a pan and ‘finished’ with fresh cream. My mom did not like to cook duck but I do and I cooked a number of them for my Hungarian husband, but ducks bought in the specialty butcher in the U.S. …

  6. A varied list that ended with one of the best things experienced for the first time myself last month — can’t wait for next year’s white truffle fairs. Otto is having a grand time in the snow!

    1. Thanks… I think we need to train Otto up to become a truffle dog. He’s a dreadful guard dog and we need to get some sort of use out of him! 😉 My wife adores wire-haired dachsunds by the way, I’ve shown her some photos of yours and I think she’s in love!

  7. Wow, so many firsts! I’m glad you enjoyed your first Thanksgiving celebration 🙂 And it sounds like you had lots of the traditional dishes, too. Our Thanksgiving celebrations always have a little bit of Italy thrown in and those dishes have now become part of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner! I love having these traditions that are unique to each family and it’s fun to see how they evolve as the family grows up! I have taken on the duty of making the swiss chard stuffing that my great aunt (who was Genovese) used to make for Thanksgiving. I call it Thanksgiving Stuffing alla Italiana! And it’s, for me, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner 🙂

    1. Swiss chard stuffing? Sounds interesting. I’m going to have to look that up now…

      I guess it’s much the same as Christmas. These little family traditions just develop and evolve. I suppose that’s why everyone thinks their mother’s Christmas dinner is better than anyone else’s!

  8. Wow! Sounds (and looks) completely awesome! I have to agree about the sweet potatoes and marshmallows – I used to live in the States and had to endure this “delicacy” a number of times. It’s truly awful. Wonderful photos, esp. of Otto and the winter scenery. 🙂

    1. I’ve never actually tried the sweet potatoes and marshmallows, but I’ve heard all about them… I kind of want to try it now, just out of fascination!

      Otto loves the snow so much (until it all gets stuck to his feet and he can’t walk anymore). We’re heading up to the mountains this weekend so that he can enjoy it again!

  9. The landscape looks so spectacular with all that snow.
    Strange to think of you meeting PN and Mrs S in real life, it’s like when characters when two literary or film characters from different series meet, intriguing but a little odd as you don’t imagine them existing outside their own worlds. Like the new Batman/Superman film…

  10. You didn’t tell me that you had taken a photo of Mrs Sensible….
    Thanks for Saturday we enjoyed your company and I was under strict orders from Mrs Sensible to behave. You need to come over to Casa Pecora Nera next time.

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