On day two of our journey we traveled to Pingree, Idaho. Pingree is a small farming community – there are more cattle than people in the town. Wide open spaces abound, much of which are covered with potato plants. Yes, this is the part of Idaho where the world famous Idaho Russet Potato comes from and boy oh boy do they have a lot of them. Fields as long and far as you can see just covered with potato plants. Pingree is small enough that the streets are named after the people that reside on the street – since there is basically one house per street – so since Jen’s relatives last name is Rossi they live on Rossi Road. There is a gas station/general store and a restaurant/pub and that is the total of the commerce for the town.
Jen’s grandmother (94) and grandfather (92) still live on the family farm that they purchase when they moved Pingree in 1952 from Italy. Not only do they live on the farm, they still work it. Nono (the grandfather) was up every morning tending to the chickens, cows and sheep. Not to mention mending fences and working the small vegetable garden. The farm is about 150 acres and all but about 2 acres of that is hay fields, which a local guy rents out and does the work on. Still Nona (the grandmother) and Nono can be found out working those parts that haven’t been rented out. It’s quite possible that the very reason they’ve managed to live so long is that they’ve stayed active on the farm.
Being that they are pure Italians, the cooking is 100% italian. From homemade spaghetti (yes even the noodles are homemade) to gnocchi (also homemade) to the sausage, all the food is made in an italian way. Not only is it made in an italian way, but there is plenty of it. Our first night there it was spaghetti and meatballs. For lunch the next day it was gnocchi and sausage. Our last day was the leftovers from the previous two days. An interesting thing about the way italians eat is that the salad course is always last before dessert. For most Americans the salad is seen as an appetizer, while in Italy the salad is used to cleanse the pallet after a large meal.
Jen’s uncle Marion lives next door to Nona and Nono. He used to be a professor at Western Oregon University, but when he retired both he and his wife moved to Pingree to be closer to his family. He seems to help his parents a lot, which is nice. It’s not something we see very often in this day in age, people moving closer to their parents to take care of them. More often then not the parents are put in an elder care facility to be taken care of by someone else until they die. Fortunately for Jen’s grandparents, Marion isn’t one of those kinds of people.
I grew up in a semi-rural part of Maine, and there were sections of town where everybody knew your name and would come over just to pass the time. My grandparents are more in this grove then my parents are. It was neat to see the same thing happening in Pingree. People just stopping in to have a coffee and chat about what’s been happening around town and the farm. It’s a very cool thing, something I miss living in a town where you have to lock the door of your house even when you’re in it. Yes, the city is great but there are definitely things I miss about living in the country.
Monday morning came around and we packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes and headed for Victor, Idaho. I am glad that I got to meet Jen’s grandparents and to experience the Pingree that she knew growing up. It’s sad to leave, but the journey must continue.