Eating at Castello di Potentino
My experience at the Castle would not have been the same if it wasn’t for Christina Dale, the 23-year old chef extraordinaire from Colombia.
Christina had initially come to Castello di Potentino as a wwoofer, but ended up staying for a few months as head chef after Charlotte discovered her immense talents in the kitchen.
I think every wwoofer I met would agree that eating at the Castle was one of the main highlights of volunteering there. Every meal was fresh, flavourful, and soul-restoring after a long day in the fields.
The wwoofers would take turns helping to prepare dinner and lunch. It was really up to us whether we wanted to help prep, but whoever didn’t got clean-up duty afterwards.
Christina instructed us on how we could be useful in the kitchen (everyone else — except curious guests — needed to get out!).
Tasks included chopping, peeling, grating or slicing ingredients, many of them plucked fresh from the Castle garden or trees.
We also helped to plate and serve dishes when a special dinner for guests was underway, organize the fruit and vegetable baskets, wash dishes, set the dining table, take out garbage and compost, and anything else that was needed.
No matter how tedious or dirty the task might be, no one ever complained to Chef Christina. How could you when each instruction was followed by “my love” or “buddy”?
The kitchen was a place of wonder for guests who would drop by to take in the wonderful aromas and find out what delicious meal they’d be savouring next.
We tasted all kinds of incredible dishes: pastas, risottos, soups, pizza, wild boar stew, quail, and lamb.
Eating things like pork were more rare (and I can’t recall ever having beef or chicken), but Fabio, the butcher actually came a few times during my stay, and the Castle ended up storing loads of leftover pork pieces in the cellar freezer.
Freshly baked bread, salad, and, of course, wine always complemented every meal. (Yes, there was even wine at lunch!)
We were also treated to meals by some guest chefs, like Avi who works at The River Cafe in London. One of his exquisite four-course meals included some tasty pigeon.
Avi’s wife also cooked an Indian dinner that Will, Graham and I got to help prepare. I became a veteran chapitas fryer in no time!
Breakfast was had in the woofers’ flat and usually consisted of coffee/tea, cereal, bread, and fruit. A grocery run was made every few days (paid for by our hosts) to stock up our little kitchen.
All of our other meals were typically eaten with the Castle guests, Charlotte, Alexander and their mother Sally either in the large dining room, or outside in the sheltered loggia that had a view of the grand mountains and clouds.
On our days off, we had a choice of helping out in the kitchen with lunch/dinner in exchange for being able to eat the fruits of our labour, or going into Seggiano, the closest town, and eating at one of the three restaurants there.
While it was definitely nice to leave the Castle walls once in a while, it was hard to resist staying for a free meal when it tasted like we were eating at a high-end restaurant every day!
One of the most poignant things I took away from my trip to Italy was the time and care that was always taken to prepare food, as well as the time we indulged in to enjoy each meal as a group.
Indeed, meal time was a joyous occasion when everyone came together to chat, laugh and restore themselves after a long day’s work!
>> Read the next post in the WWOOF Italy series: What to Expect WWOOFing at Castello di Potentino — Part 1