If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

22 October 2005

Gastronomic postcards

"Meals are talismans salvaged from a reckless, selfish life. On a hot day, it is easiest to think back to such things as silver-green mint juleps, or the smooth golden taste of cold papaya on a freighter near Guatemala, or a crisp lettuce anywhere." (Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, The Art of Eating, 1954)

Talismans salvaged from a reckless, selfish life: how true. Meals are simultaneously totally self-oriented and community experiences. A travelogue of sorts: favorite meals. Some glimpses from my own history:

Dinner at The Ivy in London with UBlend. Nobu in Paris, the weekend of Almost Legal's 40th bday. (For the snob effect, if nothing else.)

My grandmother's veal scallopini (I still have her hand-written recipe card for this.) Or Chicken Paprika - the one with the water chestnuts - from the San Francisco cookbook, which she photocopied for me. In her day, she was a hell of a cook. Pimiento cheese spread.

Anything at The Oval Room - three chefs ago - when it was still 'our secret' and fabulous.

Virtually anything from the kitchen of The Old Soul. Looking back to the times I feel safe, welcome, comfortable, 'at home' -- it's standing in his kitchen sipping a martini or prosecco, making idle chatter - rehashing the days events or just enjoying the moment, watching him encrust a fish or stir risotto. He probably has no idea how much I have learned from watching his effortless 'throwing dinner together;' or how much I prefer being there to just about any restaurant in town.

Anytime I've ever eaten at Grotto #9 in SanFran.

The Mom's porcupine meatballs, beef barley soup, potatoes romanoff, or the holiday-special beef wellington. Because they just taste like love.


The pay from my job is nothing to write home about but the people and the memories are absolutely priceless - from simple to extraordinary: Ham sandwiches on crusty bread at Monet's Garden with Blossom and the Pecks. Seven years ago: the checkered tablecloth, sliced salami, Mr. Zelari (who spoke no english), a 17th century farmhouse, 'house wine' and a 250 year old olive tree (I do believe that was the day I fell in love with Italy). The most recent was a private evening - complete with broadway musical performances - at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. I must confess that I don't remember what we ate, but I do remember the electric moments standing alone with VanGogh and Monet; and the stunning vaulted ceilings of the room in which we ate.

Macaroni and cheese (at least I *think* that's what we ate?) with Dad and Danza Sorellina. I was probably 11? Mom was away for the night, and we got to eat WHILE WE WERE WATCHING Wheel of Fortune. TV during meals was a complete "no-no" in our house, but Dad was a great rule-breaker: letting us feel "privileged" and "in on a secret activity... shhh, we can't tell your mom ..." just with a flick of the switch.

Dinner at Montelucci with Sparky, Tortola Artista, and Stefania. Because sometimes the characters outshine even the most amazing food.

Because it was college and we could: Olive Garden takeout on days we didn't go to classes. Thanksgiving dinner in the boss' apartment. The night we ate nothing but lifesavers for dinner. Aaaah, those were the days.

Linda Bracken's Gumbo. I carry the recipe on a purple sticky note, hoping someday I will be half that elegant, graceful, and collected when I have no running water and a houseful of international guests 60 miles outside of civilization.

Dinners with Big; he always orders for me, I always let him, and it's always wonderful. Stolen moments in a chaotic life, the symbol of a slightly dysfunctional friendship.

Hot Soup at sunset in the meadow above Weaver's Cottage.

Lunch the day we played "tour hooky" with Jane, where she taught me how to make day old risotto pancakes, which inspired (nearly three years later) - the 'day old risotto lasagna' with Beatrice and sitting in the tuscan sunshine.

27's invention: Mayo/Mustard/Breadcrumb encrusted chicken. Because not all the memories are bad.

The magical, all-natural dinner at The Botanical Ark, tropical north queensland, Australia. Slow food, passion for a cause, and gorgeous gardens.

Burgers at Skinny Legs and Lobster at the Lime Inn with Uncle Bob & Auntie Carol.

Spaghetti and telline (tiny clams) at Ida & Luciano's: because the gift of being welcomed warmly into a neighbor's home ... when you only barely speak their language (and they don't speak yours at all) ... and you leave having laughed hysterically, somehow having found a kinship and a way to communicate.

Cooking meat on personal "hot stones" (for a group of 40!!!) in Germany.

Hands-on, making dinner with Il Cavaliere at La Querciola 2 1/2 years ago. Looking back; the end of 'the trip' and the beginning of an adventure.

Which brings me to last night: the solo farm girl personified. I put a fire in the wood stove to stave off the damp from 3 days of rain. Heated a pot of broth and wine on the wood stove (I'm COOKING ON A WOOD STOVE, can ya believe it?!?!), and made the perfect sausage-and-artichoke heart risotto. Mary on the stereo, montepulciano in the glass: Delicious. Here. Enough.


Blogger The Mom said...

How do you recall all of those eating events? I am glad to have made the list - once with things I still cook when you venture home and once in Mac and Cheese (oh-my- gawd-I-am-so-glad-I-left-for-the-evening)memories with others I love too. You've made me hungry. One of my favorites was sitting in the shadow of the Cathedral in Milan drinking coffee, Grotto #9 and the sour dough and cracked crab that I'm looking to repeat in the next couple of weeks with you and DS. Here's to more memorable eating and drinking experiences.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'll be damned. I made the list of memorable meals. And what good memories they are. There's a "life saver" anniversary coming up...

Daisy Boy

11:36 PM  
Blogger Viaggiatore said...

Aaaah, Daisy Boy. Look what the proverbial cat dragged in! That's the thing with these here blogs - they're the lazy girl's way of staying in touch. Good to hear from you; been too long.

Yeah, the romantic old sap (is THAT what they call it?!?) in me buys a pack of pep-o-mint lifesavers and throws T&C on at the beginning of every Christmas decorating season. Those *were* the days...!

I love that you picked EXACTLY the blog nick I would have given you. Some things just ... fit, even - or perhaps especially - over time.


12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so impressed to be on your list,

3:11 AM  

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