I awoke on this particular morning with anticipation. It’s really hot and humid here so I decided to walk early to a large grocery store. I knew that there were little fresh fruit and vegetable vendors where I could pick up fresh things along my route.
In the parking lot of the store was a truck advertising “pesce”. Mmmm, seafood sounded good. I went on in, found my balsamic vinegar, checked out the vongole in the meat departmentand decided that I would rather have fresh clams from the vendor, even though they were more expensive. I couldn’t resist the mussels so I left with a hefty bag of shellfish.
This feeling of simplicity and plenty melded together into the possibility of a wonderful supper since I already had fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and olive oil. I even had a bit of wine left over. I can’t describe how lighthearted I felt to have spontaneously planned a meal after reading a sign in a parking lot.
I walked along wondering why I don’t do this at home? Why am I so hung up on planning ahead for meals from exotic recipes?
My next spontaneous move was to buy a large quarter of a watermelon in spite of my mile trek to the apartment. I turned my shopping bag into a backpack and labored down the street telling myself to consider this as weight lifting.
What could be a healthier beginning to my day?
Until my landlady, Gina, knocked on the door.
“Here,” she smiled, proferring a huge chocolate cake. “This is for your figlia when she arrives. Please, just taste it.” (Unfortunate food number one – wheat, dairy allergy, egg intolerance.)
This is a simple question. It’s just that I have some food sensitivities and in spite of being in Italy, I have been trying to avoid wheat. But miss an invitation to a meal in an Italian home? Never!
It was a simple meal with her daughters and her mother. Italian and English flew around the room as she prepared pappardelle pasta. I happily sat at her small sidebar where our plates were set for lunch. We took turns spinning the tupperware (go figure!) processor to chop the basil. She drained the pasta as her mother admonished her for not leaving more liquid in the pan.
A simple mixing in of the basilico and a healthy dollop of olive oil and she dished it onto our plates. The pasta was beautiful and delicious.* (Unfortunate food number two- wheat.)
A hunk of parmagiano reggiano cheese was passed around with a shaver. (Unfortunate food number three – dairy allergy.)
After the pasta, cut-up cucumbers were served with olive oil and balsamic on the side. A peach for dessert perfected the meal and set me up for the obligatory afternoon rest.
In the late afternoon I walked to Centro Storico. I’ve written of the ongoing search for my old friends. This was my I was lucky day.
Rosa Alba was working at her hotel. When she saw me she jumped up and came out from behind the counter. She understands and speaks no English but we have managed to communicate enough to be good friends.
We visited while she had her dinner. She reached into her refrigerator (small house) from the table and broke off a piece of cioccolato al latte and proudly handed it to me. “From Germany”. (Unfortunate food number four- dairy allergy again.)
You know about my grand reunion with my friends, the sisters. What I haven’t explained is that I was to meet Gina, once again, so that she could point out the most authentic places to buy food for the best prices. I’ll need this information when my family begins to arrive.
As soon as we met on the street she told me that she wanted to buy me a gelato. “This is where they make the BEST gelato,” she insisted. “My treat!” This could have been unfortunate food number five – dairy allergy, egg allergy but I ordered sorbet and happily finished my day as healthily as I began it.
As for the unfortunate foods? Luckily for me it means a puffy rashy, face; not anaphylactic shock. Maybe I am fortunate to have done it all in one day. And fun with my friends was worth every bite.
P. S. My seafood was beautiful and tasty. I wish I had taken a photo. There was so much of it that I shared it with Gina and her family. Can you believe there was enough for the five of them?
*When I asked Gina how much basil she used, she just shrugged and said, “What I had.” I will remember the brilliant green of it in order to re-create it.
TRAVEL NOTE: Everything I read indicates that sorbet is safe for those of us with dairy and egg allergies.