Italy has been fabulous so far. However, I’m learning some important lessons. One would be how important it is to to fill your food bowl with love. Everything undertaken shouldn’t only be done well but done with passion. This will translate into no more Ms. calm cool and collected simply throwing food into a pot. Equating food with love and showing love through food is something I’ve discussed in previous posts but now I’m not sure I knew what the hell I was talking about. Frederico has moved me to a higher plane!
Never have guests come to my table and felt a tiny tear in the corner of their eye as I explained to them how I came up with the menu. Never have they felt like they had to get up and hug me to say, “it’s OK, I understand your strong feelings about this food, this oil, this cheese and we will get through this together!” No…I sling some hash out on the table, expect guests to chow down and slug back a beer or guzzle a glass of wine and head on home. If it’s a really good day they might get a piece of apple pie that I made in “memory” of love because I can’t make a pie without remembering mum, my mother. (who did feed us love in every bite she prepared…thanks, mum.)
The other night after meeting up with our host, Frederico Isernia, everyone had small tears in their eyes. Frederico had rushed in from work at the bank – not his favourite pastime – and thrown together a meal of teeny tiny local clams and pasta, fried up some local fish delicacy, shown us how to eat a piece of fruit we had never heard of and then blew our minds with the best strawberries and cream on the planet. Of course some incredibly delicious white wine was involved as well. We had to stop him at the champagne as we were becoming overwhelmed.
However, it was his words that made us want to cry. As we were eating he told us that he had chosen this menu to demonstrate his passion. His passion for his country’s cuisine, his love of food, his delight in extraordinary ingredients, his pleasure in the preparation of the food, and his presentation of delicious a delicious meal to welcome us into his home and his life. Cooking without love is not possible for him because it is through his feelings for his guests that he chooses the right shellfish, the perfect wine, an extraordinary cheese. Frederico’s guests can actually touch and taste the friendship he is offering. Now tell me Casey, after a couple of glasses of wine wouldn’t you be extraordinarily moved as well. I must admit though that Sylvestro, the cat who kept leaping the balcony to dine with us, didn’t feel Frederico’s love…..I heard capito stupido a few times and Sylvestro was returned to his ledge with less than a gentle toss.
After dinner we headed to Genoa with Frederico so he could indulge his other passion. He and his former “best” student, Christina, are teachers of the Tango here in Chiavari. We whipped over to Genoa at 10 p.m. to see the two dance – and it really does take two. None of us moved a muscle as we sat at our table. It was quickly apparent no one wanted us on the dance floor so we sat and passed commentary on everyone there – now there’s a pretty woman, wow that is one heck of a slit up the front of that dress, that guy LIKES that woman, etc. Soon a professional couple all the way from Argentina hit the floor to show us how it is done. Our jaws dropped.
So Casey, we continue our trip through Italy. Today we did the big hike along the sea coast of Cinque Terre, the Five Lands. It was hot and the crowds were large but we had a good time. Let me add no one makes lemonade like the Italians! The beach at Monterosso was lovely and we all took little naps on our beach chairs. Soon we will say good bye to Frederico and head to Sienna.
Miss you Casey but you’d hate it here as it is very hot and there aren’t as many dogs around as you’d like. I think you would enjoy chasing Sylvestro around the apartment, however! See you soon. Love, owner and curly haired.