09 August 2006

High in the Italian Alps or Stalking the Wild Genepy

One of my all time favorite days, is to explore the high country of any mountainous region. It's even more exciting when it's in your back yard and it helps to put the pieces of the puzzle of the mysterious maps of the region together. Having pored over and over said maps, now the picture snaps into focus. Yesterdays outing was one such day with Fabrizio and his father, Dante. Higher and higher we went to be able to see up close and personal several of the peaks that we look at daily from a distance from our balcony. We could see many peaks in France and the glaciers of Alpe d'Huez, Val Germanasca, and even the Po river plains with Rocca di Cavour stuck out in the middle looking like a bit of a bump. We were on a misson to find the elusive Genepy plant in the wild that I have not only heard so much about, but have tasted a few varieties of as it is the local mountain firewater and hut drink of choice. I've seen pictures, heard stories, seen the dried plant from some of the local producers like our friends the Bernards, who have been making Genepy for over 100 years in his family. (www.barathier.it) We even have a few plants in our garden that we bought a couple of years ago when we found it being sold in our local market.

And yet, I had yet to see it in the wild. And if I had been left ot my own devices, I don't think that I would have ever found it in the wild. Thanks to my intrepid mountain men, I bagged a picture of it in the wild. It's not much to look at and I certainly kept my digital hot clicking away with the many other alpine varieties of much more colorful flowers, but the mystique of the male genepy plant took us up and away where the air is thin and changeable. It was a great day. The reward and finishing touch of the day was stopping by the high country cheese diary and buying a bit of the local berge,(mountain cheese) called Toma. A taste of alpine meadows from cows grazing at their leizure. I can almost hear the gentle clanging of their various sized bells and the marmots barking and tumbling rocks from where the small herd of chamois above us scrambled to get further up and one small bleating of the youngest not being able to keep up; all in the taste of that Toma.
Ah, the taste of the high country....

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