September 28, 2009

Che tristezza..je suis trop triste

Che tristezza..sono qui a firenze..e Marriage Freres e a Parigi...e finito il mio te' preferito..Pleine Lune..la luna Piena..the full moon..the simple pleasures of life in a cup of tea. Paris was never so far away...

September 25, 2009

The Capitano is always right

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Memories of sailing and savoring the Amalfi Coast and all the lovely islands nearby that deserve a look, a swim or a taste, especially that famous one. Procida. Or was it Capri? Just ask Captitano Antonio Scotta di Perta. The captain is always right.

September 8, 2009

Stories that need to be told: Sant'Ambrogio Market, July 1999

The market is the only thing that consistently inspires me. I am living in the middle of Florence in a beautiful Palazzo with Piazza Signoria and the Uffizi five minutes from me, yet I choose to spend my time at the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. There I feel at home.

My meloncholia threatens to keep me under water or perhaps its just my sensitivity to constant change. But I am pulled, attracted to the source of light like a moth. Or should I say the source of color, texture, and the sounds of life of the market. Not for selling wares, but selling food. All types of wonderful, fresh, tasty food. There I don’t feel stupid for asking a question about something I don’t know. Americans don’t like to appear ‘uninformed’. They prefer the prolonged humiliation of going around in circles when they are lost, than the brief vulnerability of admitting err. On the other hand, I have come to salivate my ignorance at the market, for I always find out more than I expected, and no one takes notice. As a matter of fact, if I ask a vegetable vendor for advice and he doesn’t know, he turns around and ask whomever might be shopping near him. “Senora, lo sai come prepare bene questi cipollini bianchi?” The Senora replies, “Of course, you simply boil the small white onions first, then toss them in a frying pan with olive oil and a pinch of salt. If you put a touch of vinegar or lemon it becomes even better.” For me it is a living free University, a private study of learning just what I want to know. I have learned about cuts of meat and how to cook them. “Well, if you are going to cook it in the oven, you need this one.” Says the butcher.

I am spending all my money in the market. I love the way they greet you. “Mi Dica!” Tell me! Or, “Ciao bella, dimmi tutto!” I feel like a kid in a candy shop. “I would like un etto of procuitto dolce, and un pezzo da questo formaggio, per favore.” The lady behind the counter whispers and cocks her head to the side, “Io adore questo formaggio!” I feel like I’ve just won the lottery. I have touched her heart. I’m in.
Or the young man who makes a bouquet of ‘odori’ (parsley, rosemary, basil, a stalk of celery, a carrot) extra special just for me, and I think, ‘hes in’. How could I go somewhere else with this kind of gentilezza?

A man walks swiftly by the eggplants with a tray of compari’s. I think to myself “where is he going with those at 9:00 in the morning!

Meanwhile, I stop in at the local cafe’ to see Franca and have something warm to drink and there is “Chammomila”. A short man, balding, with hair that flips up in the back looking very scrooge like, but much nicer, having his martini. They call him Chammomila because that’s what he asks for, knowing that is not what he will get.

I would feel lightweight all of sudden leaving the market, if I didn’t have five or six bags lugging me down. As it is, I leave reluctantly, only by the fact that I know that I can return tomorrow.

Stories that need to be told: letter to Sally 13 April 2003

I am here in Elba...the water so clear that the rocks seem like ice in a glass. A perfect day.

Last night was the festa for Luciano's restaurant 'Il Chiasso' as you know.As usual with parties where you don't know but one or two people apart from the host, I was wondering why I came. That odd moment of getting all dressed up and standing around with your plate in your hand and trying to find a corner to put one's glass down. I felt rather like a bird with my plumes spread, somehow there for the looking but not for the talking. Then I heard the name'Lia'. I saw on old woman sitting in the back with longish grey hair and sun glasses on surrounded by people. I realized that this was Luciano's aunt that I had heard so much about but had never met. She is almost 80. She was a student at Columbia when Eisenhower was the president after the war from 1948 to 1953. She studied philosophy and taught in Rome for many years. Lia of the lees..she is the real story. The real story for why you are coming and the real story behind Luciano. She quotes Dante, the Greeks, Shakespeare, sings Frank Sinatra, see's your very soul and drank us all under the table. It might as well have been coffee as her performance grew more intense and passionate without a waver. She was the most awake of all of us in every sense and still going strong until 3 am. Dagmar, Luciano's x wife and I took her home..and she said..Peggy, Peggy, questo e il mio castello! Guarda come bello! Like my aunt Sarah, she lives alone without a car deep in the countryside in a glorified hut. She is half blind but her memory is stellar.
I remember when I came to Elba the first time and met Luciano. I knew then why Fabio was Fabio. He was heavily influenced my Luciano as he spent every summer here in Elba and learned Luciano's gregarious, fearless, rustic ways of cooking. He took it and refined it. His habit of wearing red pants and orange shirts must have come from Luciano, part actor, part clown. Now upon meeting Lia, I see where Luciano took his.
His first trip was with Lia to the movies when he was 10 years old, changed his life. She transported him away from the provinciality of Capoliveri, in his mind, and from there she became his mentor.
The story does not end there. Her sister's family moved to Australia when her children were small. Her nephew's returned grown and gorgeous. She and the youngest one, I believe 8 years her junior, fell in love. It was shocking for everyone including themselves. They asked to be married by permission from the Pope and he granted it. They never married and he died early, from a cause I am not clear on.
These women keep showing up..whether in Alabama, West Virginia, or here in Capoliveri. There stories need to be told.

I'm off to the beach, cara. Soon it will be a conversation 'voce a voce'.
We'll be discussing how sweet the tomatoes taste this time of year..and
how gentle the breeze feels today.

Lia died last year in June, 08. Her 'castello' stacked with books.