It’s November and my pool is turning green and leaves are drifting from the trees. The days have a slight chill but the sun is strong and the days are warm and clear. On the mountains snow shines against the fragile blue of the sky.
People here live a simple existence, close to the earth, very communal, very dependent on each other. It’s one of the poorest regions of the country but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels rich and varied, loaded with sociality, events, customs and colour.
A month ago in my village they had pressing day. People were invited to bring their fruit and have it pressed into juice for the winter. The owner of the press came with it loaded on a trailer behind his car. He parked it behind the town hall in a square full of sunlight and white gravel. The area around him became covered in boxes of apples, pears and quinces. They sold bottles and apples in wooden boxes. First they tipped the apples into a pulping machine, then, one by one, by hand, they packed the pulp into square wooden frames about two inches high already loaded with a large piece of chamois. They packed the pulp on the chamois up to the edge of the frame, then they folded the edges of the chamois together in triangles from each side like a pastry. When nine of these were stacked one on top of each other, they turned on the press. The apple juice ran down the sides shining deep brown in the sunlight like honey. Then they pasteurised it in a silver vat and pumped it via five nozzles into bottles.
The entire process took about four hours. I went away I came back. Local people stood around all day, helping occasionally, talking, watching. At lunchtime they all had a meal at a long table sharing cheese and bread and wine. I brought 15 bottles of apple juice for 13 euros. It tastes like honey and I’ll be drinking it all winter. ‘bring back the bottles next year’ said the young woman as I was going.