Favorite Things: Italian pottery soup bowls

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It was a little embarrassing, everything I bought that day. Thank goodness I was with a bunch of food writers who could appreciate passion for the table.

Our group was in Umbria, in the heart of central Italy. We were staying in an enchanted villa in Umbertide (I pronounced it as one might: Umber-tide, and a cabbie denied such a place existed. Then a light bulb went on and he said, AHHHH! oomBEARteeday!). Each day, we took field trips of the most delicious kind: truffle hunting, bee-keeping, vineyard-tromping. And a visit to learn about the specialty of the town of Deruta: Italian pottery.

The entire village is devoted to pottery in every shape, size, and pattern you could imagine. Grazia Deruta is among the finest of them, and as we walked into the workshop, I felt urges I could not, and would not, control. Maybe it was my dormant love of throwing clay, which I had indulged in by taking a couple of elective classes when I was in college at Saint Mary’s. I remember running into one of my English professors in the art building with clay all over myself and he said: I get it, words and clay. You like to shape them both.

Selecting a pattern was difficult, because there was no time to think anything over. I’m not usually an impulse buyer; I want to stew about it before pulling the trigger. But not here.

I went for the classic Raffaellesco for its brightness, its yellow rope-like border, and the contrast of ribbons and flowers with dragonheads that you might not notice amid all of the color unless you look closely. Eight soup and pasta bowls, several large platters (one large enough to serve a whole salmon on), and a few serving bowls later, I boarded the van outside with my compadres (including our creative leaders, Antonia, Elizabeth, Sharon, and Don) cheering me on, yet wondering what kind of 90210 crazy had taken over.

Since then though, these are the pieces that make the table for me, even when there is no table and I’m eating off my solitary lap on the couch. It’s quite possible that I consider making soup first and foremost with thoughts of getting to use the bowls, knowing that with them, everything really does taste better.


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  1. Robin Kline says:

    Ah, Maureen, I instantly recognized the beautiful and inviting spot under the ramada at La Pietra! Lovely, lovely…..the visit to Deruta and bowl you returned home with.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Robin! What happy memories! Hugs to you.

  2. elizabeth wholey says:

    Thanks, Maureen, for bringing me back to those beautiful days at La Pietra. We forged friendships as we explored, cooked (and shopped) together. . .unforgettable.

  3. Julia says:

    That pottery is just beautiful! I love collecting pretty kitchen things like plates, bowls from places I travel. My husband and I are going to Italy in May and I can not wait to find some beautiful things to cook with & use for entertaining! Your trip sounds amazing. What a great experience!

  4. nancy says:

    mille grazie, maureen. your photos of a place i love are a joy to see, apologies if i drooled on your plate right through this screen

  5. Neeshan says:

    Too precious! So beautiful are your photos.
    What kind of soup is your fav at this time of year?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you Neeshan! I always love this garlicky lentil soup, and can’t wait to share another wonderful Lebanese soup recipe later this week!

  6. Janet Moore says:

    I did sort of the same thing while in Italy….buying dishes that posed a problem when packing to return home. But, I love all the things I bought. Yours are beautiful. I must take the plunge and use mine more. I put them on display afraid of breaking one if I actually use them. Shame on me!!!
    Loved the story about “Umbertide”, still laughing…..

  7. Patti says:

    I love the pattern you chose, it’s bright and beautiful – like you!