Saturday, January 24, 2004

Stone Soup

Last night Antonello and I had friends over for dinner for the first time since I arrived. I didn't really think four people could fit comfortably in my tiny underground apartment, but there was room enough for all of us, and plenty of food to go around.

I made my dad's veggie soup which always reminds me of home when I make it. Just the smell, invading my basement Macerata kitchen, brought back memories of our kitchen back home in Indianapolis, all of us checking the soup pot every once-in-a-while to see if it's ready to eat. It's almost a group effort back home, but here I was all by myself, cooking half the afternoon to make that soup, sandwiches, onion rings, and salad. A feast for four people.

The dinner went well, and everyone seemed to like the soup. It was nice to gather around like that and share a little something of home with friends that I hadn't seen in months. Afterwards, Antonello brought out his photos from America, and we shared photos and funny stories (the American Coffee story!), and Antonello proudly spouted out various facts he remembered from our trip. We ate plum crostata and Pandoro di Verona.

When our friends left, Antonello turned to me and smiled. We had accomplished a dinner party, of sorts. I was exhausted.

The true test will be today, though. For lunch we are offering the rest of the soup (I always make enough for 60 people, even when I try not to) to Antonello's mom and grandma. Everyday I eat lunch at their house, and now they can try something from mine. I'm eager to see how it goes.


Update: His mamma liked the soup! She even called it buonissimo, which I take as a serious compliment. His grandma on the other hand...well, she didn't really comment on how the soup tasted, just the fact that we called it soup at all. "Soup? Oh, that was soup? Believe me, I have had plenty of minestrone, which is what I would consider soup, and..."

Slippery When Wet

I just heard the forecast for this corner of the globe. What extreme contrasts! Six months ago the sunset painted colors on the buildings across from our kitchen window until after 9 o'clock. Six months ago I refrigerated espresso before my first sip. Six months ago I was tan (we worked hard, didn't we, Lori!). Half a year and half a world away, I can't seem to catch the late afternoon sunset. I heat latte for my cafe to keep it extra warm. I'm pasty (what time does the train leave for Civitanova, Lori?!)

So much has changed in six months.

They predict ice and sleet and snow (oh my!) for the next 24 hoosier hours. Last Saturday I skated and slipped my way to work at Elements Restaurant (guess who's the "native-born Italian!" Ha Ha!) and that may have been good practice for tomorrow's trek.

Even as I slip down the little sidewalk ramps and coast across blocks with a good wind behind me, I must remember that the landscape of downtown Indy is no comparison to the scallete and colline of Italian hilltowns . A bit of ice there and gravity - like so many other eternal truths in bell'Italia - becomes immediately clear.

See you in the rink!

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A Tower and A View

Sunday is Antonello and my day together. It's his only full day off, so we take advantage of it as much as we can--to go traveling, hiking in the mountains, caving. I look forward to it like a kid looks forward to Saturday mornings, yet I'm complete with plans and ideas of what we can do, ready to start our adventure in the early hours of the morning (okay, let's not get TOO crazy, for me early hours include as late as 8 or 9).

Last weekend I spent the week before researching the hill towns of the Ascoli Piceno province, which is just a bit south of Macerata's province. Antonello and I hadn't visited it much, except to know that it was considered the prettiest province in Le Marche by many. Both of us had been to the city of Ascoli Piceno (a day trip there over the summer come to mind, Corrie? :)), but were unaquainted with the province. This was to be a little adventure.

We started out searching for the hill town of Moresco, which is listed on Italy's picks of the "Most Beautiful Towns in Italia." Although I'm not one to always follow such advice, A year back Antonello and I had been lucky to find the town of San Ginesio, here in Macerata's province, to be a real gem--and this was after seeing the town on the list. So we decided to go for it. Moresco, based on photos I had seen, seemed quite nice actually--with a castle-like wall surrounding a small medieval center. We had directions, a map, and Antonello's camera bag. We were ready to go.

Well, Antonello left the map at home in his kitchen. So we decided to follow a road down to the hill town of Amandola, and from there follow signs to Pedaso, a city on the coast. Our directions (that I had printed out from the internet) were from Pedaso, so I didn't understand fully why we were taking a round-about way to get to Pedaso, but I had faith in Antonello. Plus, this was an adventure. It's best to start adventures by following your directions backwards.

Halfway there, past Amandola and another cute town called Communanza, the sun was shining overhead, and we looked up to see--perched like a bird on a branch--this tower on a cliff. It was dreamlike--one of those things you don't just find while driving. I pointed up at it, and Antonello and I stopped the car to take pictures. As we got out to look, we noticed it was a complete town--tiny, but a town nonetheless--with church towers, an old fortress, buildings which could have been homes. I started having hopes that it was on the list, that it was Moresco. But we drove further and discovered its name was Montefalcone Appenino. Moresco, Montefalcone. Close enough. "Let's go there," I said.

So we drove up the dangerous looking hill, curving back and forth until my stomach almost begged us to stop, pausing every once and a while to snap another shot of the city. Finally, as the bells of the church rang, we drove through a tunnel cut through the stone and arrived in the village.

It wasn't much of a village, just a small windy town, but with a view that couldn't be matched. From up there, you could see all of Italy, it seemed, perhaps the whole world. Mountains to our right, snow covered and menacing, shadowed over the peaceful valley below. We took pictures for half an hour, and I just couldn't stop smiling. I stood up there, on a bench looking down over Italy. On the balcony of the country. And, oh, what a country.

We ate lunch at the sweetest little osteria you have ever seen--a place where your grandmother serves you lunch. We filled up on tagliatelle, ravioli, salad, eggplant and zucchini. Then we finished it off with tiramisu' and apple marmalade crostata. And, of course, a caffe.

Leaving the city to find Moresco, we were renewed and hopeful. We drove like this, pointing out cities, almost running into them, the rest of the way to Pedaso. We never did find Moresco that day, but instead we had a revelation that maybe what happens in this part of Italy is the cities find you. The cities tell you where you should go. They pull you in with a tower and a view. And a curvy road. And sunshine.

We decided that someday we'll go back to find Moresco, but even if we don't find it, we know we'll find something else. We'll continue on our little adventure, "accidently" leaving the map at home, in Antonello's kitchen.


Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Food for Thought

I've been making dinner for Antonello this past month, and it's been going reasonably well. I've never considered myself that much of a cook: I enjoy cooking, but doing it like this--every night something brand new--has been, well, challenging. The fact that I'm a vegetarian and he's a meat eater doesn't help much, but he's pretty open about food without meat, so that's good (for me). Luckily so far he's liked pretty much everything--from nachos covered in beans, jalapenos, sharp cheese, salsa, and everything else that's not Italian, to Orrecchiette "Pugno Chiuso" ("closed fist," in Italian)--a regional dish from the Puglia region. After about three weeks, Antonello has gotten a pretty broad taste of my cooking repetoire.

Well, today I bought a little notebook at one of the Tabacchi here, and I've decided I'm going to journal my day to day cooking experiences. Plus I can include in it some recipes, etc.--it will be my little Italian cookbook/food journal. I think Corrie did something similar over the summer. Anyway, if anyone has any recipe ideas, you can email me or post them in the comments section. Do it soon: I need something for tomorrow. :)


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Pizza e Pinocchio

Tonight the IIC (Indianapolis Italian Coalition - oka Eric, Erin, and Corrie) met for pizza and Pinocchio. While the crust was baking we watched Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio and congratulated one another for understanding the story without the subtitles. The pizza was splendid, the film strange, and the evening smashing.

We set some dates for a nearly confirmed trip to Bell'Italia. We're planning a glorious week in March. The list of cities to visit, friends to meet, and foods to purchase is growing. Non vedo l'ora!

The part of our upcomng trip we still need to address is the luggage. Eric, I'm not going to carry your stuff! :-)


Monday, January 19, 2004

It's a Bad Day

I've been told our blog is having problems scrolling down. Anyone been noticing this? I have to fix the template.

But today's bad news is that the Colts lost. I don't have much to say today. It's even raining here in Italy. I always felt that the Italians were Colts fans, deep down.

Off to buy dinner. I will blog more tomorrow, when the sun comes up.