Tag Archives: Lula

Lago di Martignano

I love Lake Martignano, a small volcanic crater lake about 15 miles NW of Rome. The area is very unspoiled: there are no roads nor houses around the lake and only two agrotourism farms in the environs (these are working farms that usually have a place to eat, a shop selling homemade cheeses, oil and such and a few rooms to rent for short stays).  It’s an easy drive, although the last bit is on a single file path carved through tufa with a couple of blind turns and, given the Italian predilection for driving like insane people, is a bit hair-raising. The ‘beach’ at Martignano consists of rolling grassy lawns attached to the agrotourism farms. One of the beaches features hammocks and, inevitably, bongo drums. The other has a fenced-off area for dogs and that’s where Morgan and I went last Sunday. Lula stayed home because, although she loves to swim, she has grown increasingly grumpy and anti-social in her old age and I feared a mishap. Or several.

The dog beach at Lago di Martignano

Entrance to the beach is 7 Euros for humans and that includes a beach chair. You need to buy a membership card for the dogs and that will set you back 20 Euros for 10 visits.

Morgan makes a new friend

Then he catches a few rays

It was Morgan’s first time swimming (if you discount the time I cruelly tossed him into Susan’s pool) and I was anxious to see how my little terrier would do in the water. He went nuts, running up and down the beach, jumping into the water, chasing all the dogs and barking his fool head off. I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy.

And checks out the ladies

There’s a great dynamic on the dog beach. Very few fights (because Lula wasn’t there), dogs shaking themselves dry and getting everybody wet, stealing each other’s frisbees and balls, digging holes in the mud at lake’s edge and generally having a grand old time. It was a bit cool and breezy so I took my sweet time getting into the water, but once I did, Morgan swam right alongside of me, all serious and dapper in his new summer haircut.

Morgan and I have a swim with some friends

One thing to know before you go: it’s best to eat at home or grab something at the little bar on the beach. I made the mistake of pulling out a sandwich and was instantly surrounded by 50 drooling canines. Morgan was not pleased because, to his mind, that sandwich was rightfully his. He chased all the other dogs away and sat there giving me the hairy eyeball while I quickly finished it up.

Playing around with food plus bonus recipe

As Faithful Readers (and anyone who has ever met me) will know, I love food. I love to eat it. I love to cook it. And I love to play around with it, by which I mean that I love to come up with new and interesting ways to eat and cook it.

I’ve been playing around with food ever since I was a little girl. I used to head straight to the kitchen after school where I’d invent some snack or other (more often than not involving, among other things, toast and a stick of butter). My philosophy was then, as it is now, that if you put together a bunch of ingredients that you like, you’ll probably like the result (there have been some sensational fails, such as the infamous orange juice omelet – on toast with butter – but it usually works out). I have refined this philosophy over time to include the following codicil: if you fry it, melt cheese and/or chocolate over it, it will be delicious.

My Book Club met a few days back to discuss The Imperfectionists (fun novel, set in Rome at an English-language international newspaper loosely based on the IHT. Read it). Book Club revolves as much around the food that is served as the book that is discussed. I offered to bring an appetizer and it turned out so well I thought I’d share it with you.

I do so with some trepidation. Like most people who spend a lot of time in the kitchen (I think this is true) , I cook mostly by instinct. So I’m not real clear about measurements. Still, I think this mushroom slather would be pretty hard to screw up as long as you have a hardy food processor.

I didn't get a picture of the slather but here are some nice fresh mushrooms for your viewing pleasure.

And some dogs. 

Mushroom slather

1-2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 tbsp butter

½ kilo (approx 1 lb) mushrooms

1 jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil

thyme, salt and pepper

1 tub cream cheese

In your hardy food processor, chop the mushrooms until they are very fine. There is a thin line between finely chopped and mushy and you should try not to cross it. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and onion. Cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are very soft and all the liquid they have released has evaporated. That’ll take about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, drain the sun-dried tomatoes and chop them up in the food processor. Add them to the mushroom mixture. Then add thyme, salt and pepper to taste (see how I cheated on the measurements here?). Cook another 3 minutes. Turn off the stove and stir in the cream cheese. Continue stirring until it’s all melted into the mixture (see codicil above). Serve at room temperature on crackers or bagel chips.

It’s also great the next day on a sandwich on toasted bread with tomatoes and roast turkey.

Feeds a Book Club with a bit left over. 


Haut dog cuisine

Morgan started puppy school recently and yesterday his teacher and I discussed his diet. I was informed that I am to start cooking for both dogs. Apparently the can and kibble combo I feed them is not good for them over the long term because it is boring. This seems like a suspiciously Italian attitude to me but I guess I’ll give it a whirl. Mostly because I am interested to see what they’ll like. Dogs can (and should) eat nearly everything, the exceptions being chocolate (toxic), raw onions (toxic), and grapes (damages their livers). Marina, Morgan’s teacher, encouraged me to include a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables in their diets. I leave for Indonesia tomorrow for a few weeks so the cooking will have to wait. However, I thought I’d try them out on fruit and gave them both an apple. Lula sniffed hers and walked away but Morgan gave it a shot.

Morgan shares an apple with his friend Betta

The Vatican Pharmacy

My dog Lula has a rare ailment known as Addison’s Disease. This is a condition where the adrenal gland doesn’t produce enough cortisol or aldosterone. President Kennedy had Addison’s so Lula is in good company. It is very treatable but requires continuous medication. For a couple of years, I was giving her monthly injections and daily doses of cortisone but then the injectable drug went off the market (why does that happen?). So after a long and careful search, the handsome vet came up with a viable alternative. Problem was it was not yet available in Italy. Enter the Vatican Pharmacy.

Italy unsurprisingly has a very lengthy and bureaucratic drug approval process. Since Vatican City is an independent sovereign state, the pharmacy can get access to drugs that are otherwise unobtainable here. Unlike Italian pharmacies, it will also fill foreign prescriptions. As a result it is supposedly the busiest pharmacy in the world with 2000 customers a day. To get in, you need to show your prescription to one of the handsome Swiss Guards at the entrance to Vatican City and get a special pass. The Vatican Pharmacy does not carry any products that are contrary to Catholic social teaching (condoms, Viagra) but it does carry lots of top-brand beauty products at reduced prices. The top selling product is a hemorrhoid remedy and the best selling drug is Valium.