LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
It’s hot here, seems it’s hot most everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Local temperatures haven’t been murderous, nothing above 38 degrees (about 100 Fahrenheit), nothing like reports of 45-plus on Sardegna and Sicily. But uncomfortably warm, the kind of heat that drives us indoors before noon, out of the gardens and into the cooler rooms of our home. In this weather we cook outdoors if we cook at all, my husband on the grill and I on a single gas burner or in an electric oven—our summer kitchen, or cucina da campo, literally a field kitchen.
On the hottest days we take a picnic and head for the river; just above the hamlet of Rastello are picnic areas with tables and stone firepits along a narrow, steeply climbing riverside road. We have a favorite shady spot with easy access to icy, rushing water and compact-car-sized boulders for lounging on. We read, work a NYT crossword puzzle, sleep, watch the clouds, the slow progress of sunlight from one riverbank to the other. And we’re not alone; last Wednesday every picnic spot was taken. Families spent the day cooking and eating alfresco, napping, playing cards, wading and splashing. At mid-afternoon a group of three grey-haired folks set folding chairs at the edge of the water, stepped gingerly into the shallows of a wide pool and stood chatting quietly in dappled shade. Their relief was palpable.
We’re lucky to live outside of Mondovì’s city center, where a densely built environment absorbs and holds the heat of the day, then radiates warmth overnight. Our surroundings are green fields and bands of woodland, the footprint of our home is small and our nearest neighbor about 200 meters up the graveled road. So when we open windows and doors as evening comes on, often with a breeze out of the east, the house begins cooling. In June we added two ceiling fans upstairs, one in our bedroom, so we sleep in comfort. There’s very little air conditioning here except in places like supermarkets, certain shops, and municipal buildings. It’s still possible in this small urban area to beat the heat by changing a few behaviors, but who knows how much warmer our alpine summers will become as the planet continues to heat up? This year, anyway, we can continue to accept hot weather as a simple fact of summer, a good reason to knock off outdoor work by noon, rest in the shade after lunch, escape for a day to mountain or riverside.