Today was Anna’s mother’s birthday, which meant a full-blown Italian-style Sunday dinner. Around 10:30 people started showing up, some described themselves as family and others just told me their name. Later, Paolo told me some of them were friends from their university days.
By the time everyone sat down to dinner, around 2pm, there were 25 of us around the table. Craziness. First we enjoyed some focaccia that Anna’s sister made, then we had this really tasty potato thing. It was mashed potatoes mixed with rosemary and garlic, rolled out and fried in a frying pan so it was this thin flat, crispy pancake like thing, cut into slices. So tasty. Then we had risotto with sausage, and a really sweet tasting salad afterwards. The lettuce was very similar to bibb lettuce and was from Anna’s grandfather’s garden. Following was some capo, or capocolla, and a roast beast. I’m not so into the meats, but I tried some of both and they were good.
The final main dish can only be described as a beef version of ceviche. I believe it’s called Carpaccio. Silvia, the friend who was over last night and today, told me it’s named after the painter (whose name I assume is Carpaccio or something like it) because of his strong use of reds in his paintings. I’m cringing at how long that last sentence is. Anyway, yes, it was thinly sliced and practically minced raw beef, dressed with diced eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers which had been marinating in lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. My first thought: There is no way in hell I’m eating that, raw meat, gross gross gross. [Note: I don’t even really like red meat as it is. I hardly ever eat it, and when I do it makes me sick. But I’ve been eating some, when offered, on this trip because I must try everything.] Then I back-tracked and told myself that I’ve tried everything so far and have not been disappointed, and I did say at one point that I’ll try everything twice. So I stopped being a ninny and spooned a small bit on my plate. Besides, the abandon with which everyone was heaping this dish onto their plate told me I might be missing out on something amazing.
I was wrong. But that’s okay. It wasn’t bad at all, it just didn’t have any flavor to it. Maybe it’s that my nose is still messing with my taste (I had a wicked sinus infection last spring and haven’t been able to smell or taste properly since), but it was sort of weak. I would have added pepperoncino (surprise, surprise) or lemon zest, or SOMETHING to give it a kick. More like ceviche and less like plain old raw beef. But we’re in Italy, not Brazil. I tried it and now I know. The next time I try raw beef, I’m going to need some siracha.
And the food just kept on coming. Figs with cheeses. Different breads. Turkish delight. And finally, two different dessert plates: apple crumble (made by Silvia) and some plum tart thing. Now, when I saw the apple crumble I was surprised. Pino had acted very confused when I made ‘crisp’ at his house, like, “What is this apple thing?” So I asked Silvia and she said that they don’t normally eat it, but she had a friend who had been in America recently and brought back the recipe. True enough. Everyone gobbled it down though. Then we had coffee and a little bit later, some tea. By the time it was all over, three hours had passed. HOLY MACKEREL. Three hours of eating. But it’s all done so slow here. And in tiny portions. A bit of risotto, some meats, a bite of cheese, some salad in the middle. Now not every meal is like this, but it does say something about Slow Food and such. I was very happy to be a part of such a festive and traditional meal.
I helped clean up and the promptly collapsed in my bed for a snooze. I love a good afternoon nap :). Especially after all that food and wine.
I spent the evening helping Anna clean everything up and get organized for the week. Another work week starts tomorrow, bright and early! And to think, this time next week I’ll be in Nice, munching on a Nicoise salad. On second thought, I’m so full I might cry, so let’s hold off on the Nicoise salad.