The sun is life, the sun is joy, the sun is happiness, the sun is hope, the sun is medicine, the sun is glory, the sun is the best anti-depressant, the sun is the future, the sun is the will to go on, the sun is freedom, the sun is lack of fear, the sun is love, the sun is fighting for it, the sun is strength, the sun is immense beauty.
Very difficult to control my emotions, and act like a reasonable human being.
I’m bursting with grief, anger and a yearning to take things into my own hands.
Like run for office. Which is the last thing I would want to do.
The world is coming apart. My great country has been taken over by Satan himself, and ugliness, no, sheer EVIL, is poisoning the minds of people.
Precious babies are being murdered, criminals are let free, terrorists are allowed to spread terror.
And we, the good, decent, hard-working citizens,are expected to observe and keep our mouths shut.
Because it’s all about political correctness.
The hell with political correctness, you foolish masses of sheep!
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all this evil disappear, remove all those sub-human individuals who are trashing my America, and restore our freedom and pursuit of happiness.
I vote, people, of course I vote. And I’m going to be ON FIRE this year! Silent no more!
But for now, I’m cocooning in the (still) safe comfort of my home, and turn on the oven.
I bake, my friends. I collect flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and set up my mise en place on the kitchen table, tell Alexa to play my favorite music, pour a glass of white, and tie on my apron. Yes, I always wear an apron when I cook; it makes me feel professional, and I have a sizeable collection of colorful little beauties.
The butter is at room temperature, and it is creaming into an ivory silk in the mixer, blending smoothly with the sugar I pulverized in the blender. I watch the beater spin, and my mind is spinning along with it. Anguish and fury wrench my heart.
This time it is not love that guides my hand as I break the eggs; a furious, intense heartbreak makes me crack them with excessive force, nearly making them smash on the counter. Greasing the nooks and crannies of my beloved Bundt pans with a brush has become painting a coat of destruction over the evil that I feel all around me. The evil that has taken a grip of my country, and is allowed to flourish.
Wake up, good Americans, snap out of your obedient puppet state, wave your fists!
I scatter anise seed into the batter, but I wish to toss darts toward those who are destroying our decent, serene, honest way of life.
I place my cakes in the hot oven, feel the fire warm my face, close my eyes for an instant, and will this ancient act of preparing food to exorcise the demons that surround us.
The aroma of vanilla and anise drifts through the house. All seems well with the world.
But it isn’t.
Bake cakes, my friends, be fierce, and passionately love and defend our country!
A glorious, early summer day. I’m not near it, but I can see the Eiffel Tower in the background, in all its imposing splendor.
I am not alone, and I am happy. I mean HAPPY. That elusive, coveted feeling, yes, theone, which I have experienced – briefly – only a few times in my life
But it is different this time, it’s an all-compassing cloud that envelops me, my heart is radiant. I feel safe, free of any fear and worry.
The world around me has changed, the very air I breathe is gentle and warm, and caresses my face.
I feel secure. The burden of financial insecurity, which has been crushing me for so long, has finally been lifted. No, I don’t know how, but I feel light and cared for.
The streets of Paris are alive with people, their energy sizzles through my body, I spin around, inhale the aroma of fresh bread from the boulangerie at the corner, can’t wait to grab a buttery brioche, share it with someone I love, and begin this new journey.
Unexpected journey, sudden, radical, but I’m not frightened. At my age, I keep saying, at my not so young age, these things don’t happen…One has given up, at this point, right? An existence of quiet resignation, going along with the currents that direct you, accommodating and smiling with your perfectly whitened teeth, because it’s easy, and makes everyone else comfortable. Stay in your place, cheer their accomplishments, step back, you don’t really matter now. You had your chance, whether you blew it or not.
Even if you were too young and naïve to understand the future, while you were creating it. Or innocently allowing someone else to create it.
Beautiful Paris. The enthusiastic tourists have arrived: I am one of them. But I don’t have to go back! It is my choice now.
I am happy, I am confident, and I am not alone.
Tears almost creep into my eyes, but I never cry.
It is over, my trial. Could one burst with joy, literally?
Thank you, world, I will be fine now! I have been rescued! The pain, frustration, resentment, that lingering sadness, have all been erased! Thank you, Jesus, I am me again! The one who trusted and believed and imagined.
Paris is stunning in June, and belongs to me.
The newborn daylight sneaks behind the shades, the air is cool, and I automatically pull up the comforter.
Insomma, non ci troviamo in un momento molto piacevole
Il mondo è un disastro, la depressione e l’ansia ci pesano addosso e ci stringono la gola.
Allora blocco l’universo e mi rifugio nel passato prossimo.
Estate 2019. Viaggio in Italia. Non sola, stavolta, ma con mia figlia.
Ho trascorso molte belle vacanze nella mia vita, soprattutto nei miei primi anni, quando abitavo ancora in Italia coi miei genitori, avidi turisti intellettuali.
Poi la mia vita ha preso una svolta fondamentale, e mi sono trovata in un nuovo mondo, dove le vacanze hanno drasticamente cambiato apparenza.
Niente Portici e Napoli stavolta, ma mi sono imbarcata per il Nord Italia, da cui mancavo da tantissimi anni.
Emozionatissima, certo anche un tantino ansiosa, sono stata accolta con calore ed affetto da parenti che non avevo mai incontrato prima. Un’atmosfera diversa, calma, quasi surreale. La tensione e l’insicurezza mi sono scivolate via di dosso, per non tornare più per la durata del viaggio. Un ambiente diverso, questo, non quello a cui ero abituata le altre volte, quando i miei ritorni ‘a casa’, sono stati, a volte, causa di estremo stress, delusione e, in certi casi, anche di rabbia.
Organizzatissimi, i miei cugini modenesi, avevano già programmato la gita a Firenze, solo due giorni dopo il nostro arrivo.
Ti colpisce come un raggio di gloria e splendore, Firenze. Una città squisitamente ricamata, colorata da una storia magnifica e importante, un gioiello antico da svelare lentamente, passo a passo. I sanpietrini lisci conservano le impronte di secoli di artisti che hanno decorato anche l’aria di questa miracolosa città. E città lo è, anche se minuta, grazie al ritmo vivace che la pervade – le folle allegre dei turisti incessanti, con l’energia viva ed inebriante che le donano. Amo le città, mille volte di più di qualsiasi altro ambiente. Tenetevi pure le vostre spiagge bianche, le crociere di lusso, i cocktails esotici nelle piscine olimpiche degli hotel dei Caraibi, i picchi rivolti al cielo delle grandi cime, i sentieri bucolici. Voglio sprofondarmi nella frenesia gioiosa di una vera città, voglio cercare musei, chiese, monumenti; voglio sentire il ritmo moderno e antico della cultura locale, voglio viverla dentro questa esperienza.
L’Arno, calmo e verde, scorre eterno, sotto i ponti storici. Mi appoggio al muretto e m’incanto a guardare il sole estivo che si riflette nelle sue acque, e una nuova gioia mi pervade. Un momento purissimo di felicità, che devo cogliere e ricordare per sempre.
Eccomi nel Mercato del Porcellino, allegro e brulicante di gente felice. Il profumo delle bellissime borse di cuoio, create con passione e talento da artigiani locali, mi riempie il cuore, mentre accarezzo una magnifica borsetta rossa che naturalmente diventa mia, e a prezzo molto ragionevole.
I rilievi maestosi delle chiese, del campanile di Giotto, del Battistero, le statue imponenti scolpite dai grandi del Rinascimento, i grandiosi palazzi signorili, e l’umile casa dove visse Dante, tutti gioielli che impreziosiscono e rendono unica questa città.
Il cuore dell’Italia è qui, e lo sento battere, quando mi affaccio dalla balaustra del Piazzale Michelangelo: il sole caldo di fine giugno si adagia sui tetti rossi e sulle cupole, c’è musica nell’aria; il cappello di paglia comprato al mercatino mi rinfresca e il suo peso leggero mi fa sentire parte del panorama.
Piacevolmente esausta, sul treno di ritorno verso la mia bella Modena, mi abbandono alle sensazioni provate, mentre osservo mia figlia che si è assopita, anche lei sazia di tanta bellezza, aggrappata al suo prezioso cappello fiorentino.
As I go over my plans for our virtual Italian class next Tuesday, I reflect over the assignment I gave my students.
Una vacanza mai dimenticata. An unforgettable vacation.
I have had a few in my life. Most of them happened long, long ago, when I still lived in Italy with my parents. They were travelers, my parents, passionate and inquisitive tourists, and that trait was passed down to me. In my naïveté, I used to think that I would spend my life traveling the world, visiting all of the continents (minus Antarctica, which holds zero interest for me, not a fan of ice or penguins). That was not to be, unfortunately, as my life, after the first dramatic and future-changing turn, settled into a more routine pace, leaving me with an unfulfilled taste for adventure.
Last year, however, I can indeed say that I had the most marvelous, relaxing and rewarding vacation of my life. This time, going back to my native Italy did not feel melancholy, stressful and, yes, even somewhat tedious, as it often does.
Perhaps because I traveled to Northern Italy this time, not to my neck of the woods, guest of my mother’s relatives in Modena, where I had not gone for decades, and actually met my cousins, my hosts, for the very first time. My twenty-three- year-old daughter also came with me, my first time traveling with an adult child. I didn’t know what to expect. But all of these elements melded to create magic.
The two of us, boarding the train – together with my cousin and her husband – a couple of days after arriving, toward Florence, made my heart beat almost in a frenetic rhythm. I was exhilarated, barely able to stay in my skin with excitement. Beautiful, glorious Firenze, a precious, elaborate jewel, warm and ancient; the narrow, cobblestoned streets inviting you to immerse yourself into its medieval past; the breath of history at every step, the always comforting buzz of delighted and enthusiastic tourists, crowding every corner and filling the air with all the languages of the world.
Summer vacation in a city: nothing like it. Take all the white sandy beaches in the world, the luxurious cruise ships, the exotic cocktails by the pool…and get them out of my way. I want a vibrant city to explore, bursting with monuments, dazzling churches, stunning museums showcasing artistic treasures, true masterpieces, not the tiresome, childish, contemporary ‘art’, mono-tone canvases, but real art, created by the most brilliant artists of the Renaissance.
It was a seriously hot day, that time in Florence, which only added to my joy. Summer is the only season that can make one feel alive, when the sky is turquoise, the clouds are few and just fluffy trimmings, your clothes are light and your hair dances in the breeze. Walking, walking, spinning around to take photos with my phone, overwhelmed by such magnificence, an ode to the genius of Man who is capable of such accomplishments.
The picturesque river Arno, green and tan, calm and serene, donating that liquid mirror to the fortunate ones who reside in the City of Art, crossed by simple bridges, bridges that have always been there, intrinsic part of Florence, defining the traditional passeggiata.
A simple lunch of bread and prosciutto, packed by my cousin, consumed sitting on a stone bench, in a hidden enclave shaded by trees, resting our tired feet, and drinking from not-so- chilled water bottles. Looking at maps and discussing our next stop, another piece of Florence to explore, the lovely shops to seek, the straw hats to buy, and the spectacular Mercato del Porcellino, one of my favorite open-air markets. Hello red leather bag! Soft and supple as baby skin, handcrafted by local artisans, with that unique aroma of sophisticated luxury that only real leather gifts you.
Leaning over the balustrade of the Piazzale Michelangelo, moved nearly to tears by the splendor of the city below, wondering if I were indeed in such presence, or simply indulging in daydreaming.
Exhausted and emotional, I relaxed on the train seat, lovingly watching my precious daughter doze off, lulled by the motion, tired and content.
An exhausting day in a perfect city: this is a vacation.
Certo, una Pasqua come questa non me la sarei mai aspettata.
Neanche a inventarsela. Da scrittrice, di trame improbabili e intriganti ne congiuro parecchie, ma una roba del genere neanche nelle mie idee più audaci.
La vita ai tempi del coronavirus.
Niente bella e animata festa in famiglia, con tutti i miei figli e i loro piccoli a casa mia, tavola imbandita nella sala da pranzo, la lunga tovaglia giallo-paglia come sfondo allegro e primaverile, coperta da tutti i manicaretti pasquali che preparo ormai da una vita; il capretto arrosto, fragrante di aglio e rosmarino, con contorno di patate dorate e croccanti; niente rustici caldi e farciti di ricotta, salumi e formaggi, rivestiti da una pasta frolla dolce e friabile; niente spettacolare pastiera napoletana, morbida e cremosa, con quell’aroma di primavera tra i fiori d’arancio, cannella e vaniglia, il suo cuore di grano il simbolo della rinascita.
Chiusa in casa, timorosa di avventurarmi al supermercato, ho deciso di non cercare i vari ingredienti necessari per preparare il mio pasto tradizionale, ma di adattarmi a questa situazione surreale. Strana Pasqua a casa, solo noi tre che abitiamo insieme; gli altri, nonostante vicinissimi, li abbiamo salutati solo virtualmente, grazie a Zoom, sfiorando con le dita il monitor del computer per sentirci insieme. La messa su YouTube, seduti sul divano nel soggiorno, tazzina di caffè in mano. Grande la tecnologia, però, che ci permette di fare queste cose.
Ovviamente di provviste ne avevo in abbondanza, essendomi preparata all’inizio di questo incubo, per cui la dispensa era piena di tanti cibi. Frugando, ho trovato tutto ciò che mi serviva per preparare il timballo di maccheroni, un piatto che non conoscevo finché non mi sono sposata, antica ricetta di mia suocera. Erano anni che non lo facevo – preparazione lunga e di più fasi – ma di tempo ne ho anche troppo adesso, per cui mi sono messa all’opera. Un pasticcio di pasta condita, straripante di polpettine e di formaggi, rivestito di sfoglia a base di sugna, infornato per poi riemergere bello dorato e aromatico, un profumo che riempie la casa e ti invita a tavola. Naturalmente accompagnato da polpette e salsicce cucinate in un tipico ragù napoletano denso e saporito. Bello grande, questo timballo, il mio pièce de résistance, durerà a lungo, forse ne metto anche una fetta nel freezer.
Niente colomba delle Tre Marie quest’anno; ribadisco che non sono uscita. Però, perché non provare a farla? Il tempo ce l’ho, e anche il preziosissimo lievito di birra, nonché la meravigliosa frutta candita comprata al mercato coperto di Modena l’estate scorsa, durante forse il più bel e rilassante viaggio della mia vita, con mia figlia, ospiti dei miei simpatici parenti modenesi, che ci hanno accolto con tanto caldo affetto da farmi commuovere. Ed è uscita una meraviglia, questa mia colomba casalinga! Di forma perfetta, quasi identica a quella comprata, con quella crosticina dolcissima e croccante, e dal profumo meraviglioso! Vero, mi mancavano le mandorle intere, ma insomma, ci si adatta. Poi la mia figlia più piccola, che ho la gioia di avere ancora a casa, ha deciso di fare un dolce con delle banane che si stavano un po’ annerendo. E che dolce! Un Banana Cobbler americanissimo, cremoso e delicato, con una crosticina a base di fiocchi d’avena.
Pasqua è avvenuta, nonstante tutto. Cristo è risorto e ci porta la speranza di un futuro pur sempre luminoso, presto liberato dal diabolico Covid 19.
Non mollate, amici! Siate dolci, siate fiduciosi! Anche questo passerà.
Yup, definitely not the way I anticipated spending Easter.
Just the three of us who live together. Not the rest of the family, even though they live just a few miles away. Mass on YouTube, sitting on the couch.
A strange Easter, in this surreal, Twilight zone-like period of Coronavirus.
I stayed locked up at home, unwilling to venture out, even to go food shopping, determined to be realistic, and chose safe rather than sorry, with the rest of my family.
Thus, no ricotta, salumi, and cheeses to make the traditional orange flower, cinnamon and vanilla scented Pastiera, and my savory Rustici, with their tender, golden, sweet pasta frolla crust and the rich, hearty, salty filling, a combination made in gourmet heaven. No fragrant leg of lamb roasted slowly with garlic and fresh rosemary either.
However, needless to say, in these crazy days of panicky overstocking of foods and paper products, I had plenty of other ingredients to create my family Easter dinner.
I made an old-fashioned, traditional Southern Italian timballo, a sort of a deep pie made with savory dough that encases a filling of cooked and sauced pasta, mixed with tiny meatballs, parmigiano and chunked cheese, baked golden brown, to emerge as a spectacular ‘drum’, steaming and filling the entire house with the sweet smell of serious comfort food, in an elegant, haute cuisine form. Plentiful meatballs and sausages, cooked in the traditional Neapolitan ragù, accompanied the imponent pasta pièce de résistance.
This regal dish does not belong to my childhood, but I discovered it, in all its glory, on my mother-in-law’s table; she eventually offered me her super-secret oral instructions, which I eagerly scribbled on a a sheet of paper. Time-consuming and involved, but oh what a presentation!
I even decided to try my hand at making a colomba di Pasqua, a beautiful, light, almond-encrosted Italian Easter bread shaped like the dove of peace. This is usually purchased in boxes, since it is, like panettone for Christmas, a popular delicious commercial product that nobody bothers to make at home. But I did not get to the stores, this time, so I figured why not make it, since I have all the ingredients in my pantry, including precious yeast and perfect candied fruit, bought in Modena last summer, during my unforgettable trip to Italy to visit my mother’s relatives. Well, I was missing whole almonds for the top, but, what the heck, will do without.
Easter happened anyway, my friends. Jesus has risen and is bringing us new hope for a future still luminous, soon to be free of evil Covid 19.
Well, here I am, teaching Italian Language and Culture through Zoom.
Very strange, never thought I would have to do this. Honestly, I never even heard of Zoom until three weeks ago!
But we are smart, strong, flexible and must adapt to different situations, even surreal ones like the one we are experiencing right now.
I’m thrilled and touched that so many of my wonderful students dove right in, and joined our virtual class with great optimism. Oh yeah, we had issues with connection, video, positioning of cell phones and computers, sometimes only seeing somebody’s top of the head or the ceiling, students accidentally disconnecting, some appearing only as a green rectangle, but we resolved these issues, laughing and taking everything in stride. We will all become real pros at this online teaching, I’m confident!
Si parla ancora italiano ad Armonk!
Looking forward to the next online sessions, now that I’m not so anxious about them anymore. We all learn something new everyday, and can conquer what scares or intimidates us.
Thank you, my awesome students and friends, for keeping our precious Italian Class going. I missed you all so much!
I’m planning easier lessons, more manageable online. We will keep having fun, don’t you worry!
And, yes, of course, we will see each other in person again at some point soon (And I can finally start wearing all my beautiful shoes again! :-).
It has been quite a while since I posted a food video.
I’ve been super busy with work, of course, and had to put aside some of my favorite things to do.
But here I am now, trying to keep busy in a different way, and also to escape to my happy place: my kitchen.
This super easy pasta sauce is my adaptation of one created by the outstanding cookbook author Marcella Hazan. I found it accidentally, while I was looking up another delicious sauce recipe by her, made with tomato, butter and onion, and I bumped into this one. Being lucky enough to already have some glorious fresh rosemary in the fridge, I got very excited and decided to try it.
This is definitely one of the best sauces I’ve ever had, and my family agrees!
Just the first step, heating the golden olive oil with the sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs fills the entire house with the aroma of an Easter roast baking in the oven. Yes, there is no meat in this sauce, but it smells and tastes like there is! Magnificent.
Go ahead and make this recipe next, then let me know what you think!
Stay safe, stay healthy, eat well, and drink wine! (A good red is perfect with this dish).