Saturday, May 13, 2006

Friday means Pancakes

“He who goes to bed hungry dreams of pancakes.”

cherry pancakes for lunch

Friday morning, when Antonello told me that he would probably be staying at the hospital at lunchtime with his mom, I told him that I would wait on making pancakes. We'd been planning on pancakes for lunch since we bought blueberries a few days ago, but it could wait one more day.

"What?" he said, getting noticeably upset. "When are you planning to make pancakes if not today?"

"Um, maybe tomorrow?"

He frowned. "No! Tomorrow won't work! And anyway, I'll be home by 1:45 this afternoon! That's enough time to eat them!" he said. Actually, it gave him about 30 minutes to eat them. But I got it. He was desperate.

"Fine," I said. "I'll make pancakes." He grinned.

Antonello has fallen for plenty of American foods--he has a strange attraction to Steak n Shake chili and a chocolate shake (they must be served side by side), Sour Patch Kids are his favorite candies, and he has learned to love all kinds of mexican food. But pancakes seem to take, well, the cake. Since he first had a stack of blueberry pancakes in a little breakfast spot in the states, he has ordered them everywhere. He's begun to take sides on the issue: he doesn't like them too tall, he's flat out refused to eat the really soggy ones, and they should ideally be served with something savory. Here in Italy, we're ready for any pancake emergency that might befall us. Syrups are in the cabinet, and we've always got all of the ingredients on hand. Antonello knows the French Toast recipe too (in case I should be away for a weekend), but it's the pancakes that we make most often. Our darling little crepe skillet has never seen a crepe--but it has seen dozens and dozens of pancakes.

So, as I got up, I opened the fridge to find the blueberries had gone bad. I shook my head in disappointment. What were blueberry pancakes without blueberries? um... anyway, I decided I would have to search the nearby fruit vendors until I found some more.

Unfortunately, our finding blueberries last week must have been a fluke. After visiting about 5 fruit vendors, I realized that none of them were carrying blueberries (one woman tried to sell me currants--hmm, has anyone ever had a currant pancake? Could be good...), and in fact it seemed they were confused as to what blueberries were in general (-you know, those blue fruits! -What?). And while I cursed the fact that blueberries haven't seemed to be make it big over here in Le Marche like some other berries, I started to come up with plan B. I had made plenty of pancakes with bananas in them, but I wanted another fruit. Something tangy and berry-like. A basketful of delectable-looking cherries took up the corner of a market window, vying for my attention, and I shrugged. It was worth a try. I attempted to ignore the exaggerated price tag as I bought half a pound of the little guys. I then hurried home to cook up the little cakes.

the leftover cherries

All of that effort, and as Antonello sat down to take begin his pancake lunch, he didn't even recognize that I had replaced the blueberries with cherries. After a few bites and no comments, I said, "You know those aren't blueberries, don't you?"

He sat back. "What are they?" he asked. He poked at them with his fork. "Strawberries?"



"No." Where would I get cranberries? Nevermind.

He looked at me, lost for words.

"Cherries!" I told him. Ah, cherries. Of course. Cherry pancakes. He went on eating, testing out the new pancakes and thoughtfully chewing.

"Mmm. Good." He said. "Not quite as good as blueberries, but still good."

I smiled as I ate my own pancakes, thankful that this latest batch, and my impromptu decision to change them up a bit, had gone over well with my picky pancake husband. Next time, if I feel adventurous, I will try to make currant pancakes instead. But in the meantime, I will be on a constant search for more blueberries.


Tomato juice: the universal language

While I do speak jive, I don't speak science. Though I've had a crash course this past week. This international science fair brought thousands of kids and their teachers from all over the world to Indianapolis. Walking through the exhibit hall is like going through customs in Science World. It's an introduction to a whole new culture. I can't pronounce, let alone understand, most of the words scrolled across the top of each kid's exhibit. And what do kids with patents like to do for fun? Yeah, that's a league far away from my own.

But that's exactly what we had to try to figure out. Working on the Host City Committee for the fair meant my job was to help plan the socials, the after hours events for the science whiz-kids, their parents, the judges, you name it. The welcome event for over 4,000 was my main charge and so the rest of the week I've just been able to pop over wherever needed and help hand out tickets, answer questions, or pretend to be a bouncer, checking science fair badges instead of ids.

It's been a kind of surreal experience. Not only do the kids speak science, but many of them also speak some language other than English. It's great to meander through an event and hear 10 different languages buzzing around, but there's only so many charades I can do to explain that the Indianapolis canal is not for swimming or that the Kosher meals are in the corner next to the exhibit on the mastodon bones.

Perhaps the most interesting experience came on Wednesday night. The adults were treated to a celebration of Indiana agricultural products while the kids were playing with glow-in-the-dark slime across town. Both events surely had their quirks, but I was just as happy among the soy chips and life-size plywood cows at the adults' event. The crafty event planners on our committee had arranged for free samples of native ag products for the guests to take away. A fifteen bean soup mix went fast, as did popcorn, milled flour, and the wine tasting in the corner. Somehow, though, folks just weren't as excited about the little cans of Red Gold tomato juice.

"We gotta move these," one of the other committee members said. "I don't want to have to carry them back after tonight."

So off I went, meandering through the crowd of judges and teachers and parents with armfuls of tomato juice, begging anyone in my path to "please take one, some, as many as you want!"

Some folks looked skeptical and confused but took a can anyway, somehow resigned to just take the things handed to them and figure out the rest later. Others took a can and then bowed. Some didn't even make eye contact ("Don't look at her, she'll try to give us...tomato juice!!!"). Most smiled shyly and took two or three cans.

By the end of the night, people from every corner of the world were coming up to me, saying (or charading) "Um, I understand you are the girl with tomato juice?" Yup, thanks to tomato juice, the universal language, I was world famous.

So was I surprised when the winners were announced and not a single project had anything to do with tomato juice? Well, maybe only a little. There's always next year.


Monday, May 08, 2006

The Power of Two

"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
-Emily Bronte

Today Antonello and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. Yes, May 8th was the date we had our first wedding--the small civil ceremony here in Macerata. It's the date we celebrate, of all three weddings, because, frankly, it's the only one we've had a chance to celebrate: the other two happened less than a year ago. Still, I think we'll keep celebrating it just the same. It's the day we were legally married, and the day we started our life together, as marito e moglie.

Last night we celebrated by going out to dinner at our favorite little restaurant: Il Pozzo. We feasted on crescia with vegetables and pizza, and we met a couple friends out afterwards to get gelato. Today, we exchanged gifts (I got a cordless phone! He got a porcupine whistle and a Bruce Springsteen CD!) and ate enchiladas. These past few months have been crazy and tough, and even today we didn't really get much time together, but we'll find more time to celebrate--maybe take an anniversary weekend away--later.

I'm just amazed that it's been two years already. Two years of marriage! We are lucky--the two of us--to have each other, to have had two years of happy marriage, and to know that more years of happiness are on their way. Here are some photos from May 8th two years ago, our wedding day.

Happy Anniversary, Antonello. Thank you for making these last two years so special! Ti amo!


Right before the ceremony

Antonello and his orange tie

Nothin' But Net

I am sure that someone will tell me that, after three years of living here in Italy, I should be a soccer fan. However, I guess I left my sports-loving little heart in the great state of Indiana, because I'm not a soccer fan. Hardly. I'm a basketball girl, plain and simple.

I have loved some aspect of the game of basketball for quite some time now: from cheering for the Big Ten teams during March Madness to watching my dad's junior high girls basketball squad progress year after year, but I especially like the NBA. Being back in Indy over these past few weeks, I spent some real quality time with my family yelling at the television, as the NBA playoffs began and our hometown Indiana Pacers faced off against the statstically better New Jersey Nets. Somehow I ended up back in the states at just the right time for an NBA fan, as the playoffs meant televised games nightly, and my mother and I stayed up late late hours watching all of the line ups: Cleveland against the Washington Wizards, the Phoenix Suns against the L.A. Lakers, Miami versus Chicago. Being home for two and a half weeks, watching NBA games almost nightly, seeing the Pacers win against the Nets: I guess you could say I got my basketball fix for a little while.

But while you win some, you lose some too: on Thursday the Pacers closed off their best-of-seven series against New Jersey with a loss in game six, sending the Nets off to match up with Miami, and sending the Pacers into vacation mode. As I looked online Friday morning to read the news, I sighed. Losing in the playoffs can be heartbreaking, and I felt like another year of basketball had just been washed away.

Looking again, though, I discovered that the Phoenix Suns, my second favorite team, had just won their sixth game and were about to head into a seventh game against the Lakers--a win meaning they would head on to the next series, continuing down the path toward the finals. This morning I checked to see if they had won game 7. Happily, they had! A big sweeping win against Los Angeles. I read about it and looked at pictures until my head ached.

So I'm back to cheering--for the Suns this time--and basketball is fun again. I've even been able to follow it on SI: SportItalia, the Italian attempt at ESPN, and tonight I got to watch part of the series-winning game (one day late, but still...). No matter what--in wins and losses, upsets and victories--you gotta love this game!

Go Suns!