Nonno Willym’s Minnestrone

There’s been a decided chill in the air over the past few days and in a concrete apartment with marble floors it is more noticeable. So what better way to ward off an Autumn chill than a hot bowl of Minestrone liberally sprinkled with grated provolone, a loaf of crusty bread, a plate of spicy olives and a nice robust Chianti. And maybe some spiced cold meats as an antipasti to get the appetite in shape. Follow that up with some of those late season pears and a chocolate biscotti and Saturday night should be just fine.

Fixin's for Minestrone
What we have here are the fixin’s for tonight’s dinner: a Neapolitan Minestrone. There are as many types of Minestrone as there are regions in Italy and as may variations on those types as there are Nonne (Grandmas) in the regions. Guess this is going to be Nonno Willym’s version.

The recipe I’m using is from that classic of Italian Cooking Il cucchiaio d’argento (The Silver Spoon). Thankfully this 1200 page bible of Italian cooking has been translated into English and published by Phaidon in 2005 (back then the price in Euros was exactly the same as the price in USD – oh how times have changed.) Originally published in Italy in 1950 Cucchiaio was an attempt to preserve old recipes which were fast disappearing from household kitchens. Now in its 8th edition, some of the recipes have been updated to cater to current tastes but many of the old recipes remain – I know I’m just going to run out and get the ingredients for Brain Sauce*. The book is still a traditional wedding gift for an Italian bride (I know, I know but in many ways they’re still in a time warp here, hell women didn’t have the right to vote in Italy back in 1950.)

I’ve tried a few of the recipes and like most Italian recipes they are simple and quick but depend on the ingredients being fresh, preferably local and tasting the way they should.

*Brain Sauce
1 bay leaf
1 small lamb’s brain, membranes and blood vessels removed (I should hope so) and soaked in water for 1 hour
2 eggs, hard-boiled
olive oil, for drizzling
1 baby onion, chopped
1 fresh parsley spring, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon, strained
salt

Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Drain the brain, add to the saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the brain, place in a bowl and crush carefully with a wooden spoon. Shell and halve the eggs and scoop the yolks into the bowl. Stir the mixture, drizzling in the olive oil to obtain a pouring consistency. Stir in the onion and capers and season with lemon juice and salt to taste.

Service with boiled meats.

Unfortuantely I don’t like boiled meat.

20 ottobre – Santa Irena

Mi Sento Giu (Feeling Low)

San Giovanni from outside the Walls
I’ve posted this photo of the statues on top of San Giovanni in Laterano seen from outside the Walls, just to remind myself that I am living in a beautiful city.

Before coming on posting I attended an orientation day at Foreign Affairs. Much of the information was technical or old stuff but the session on adjusting to living at Post was invaluable. We talked about our fears, our concerns and a bit about the patterns that have emerged over the years. There are steps in that adjustment that I recall from my time in Warsaw.

  1. The anticipation – I’m going to (France! Italy! Burkina Faso?) fill in the blank
  2. The honeymoon – I’m in (France! Italy! Burkina Faso?)
  3. The frustration – Why am I in (France? Italy? Burkina Faso?)
  4. The depression – I’m in (France! Italy! Burkina Faso!)
  5. The decision – I’m in (France. Italy. Burkina Faso.) so might as well get use to it
  6. Numbers 2-5 can be repeated several times during a 4 year period

This week I think we both hit phase 4 with a resounding thud! As well as Reesie being ill – he couldn’t tell us what was wrong, we had trouble telling the vets what was wrong – we had our first Roman fender bender as we pulled into our own driveway – we’ve only been driving here for three weeks – and one of our neighbours was less than welcoming and frankly abusive*. Plus Laurent is at the end of a four week language course which I know from experience is a draining and frustrating experience. Put it all together with the other little things – traffic, noise, crowds, language – and you’ve hit stage 4. Sadly some people never leave that stage and either spend the next 4 years cocooned from the world around them or go home before their time is up.

We have no intention of doing either. Laurent is off tomorrow on a walking tour of the Foro Romano, I’m off to the opera on Sunday – Wozzeck, which Laurent wouldn’t go to if I paid him to – and we’re heading to Parma next weekend for the Verdi Festival. We’re in Italy (filled in the blank) and we are going to get use to and make use of it.

*Our neighbour from the second floor – Italian, 65-70ish, probably an unrepentent member of the Children of the She Wolf – has not been very friendly at the best of times. We were coming in from the vets the other evening and met him in the parking lot. He almost closed the lobby door in our face then when we went to get into the elevator with him, he push his way out and rudely told us that polite people waited outside until it was their turn to use the elevator. Wither his problem is that we are “straneri” (outsiders) “affittutario” (renters) or “omosessuale” (need I translate… thought not) or perhaps all three, we’re not really sure. But for some reason it triggered this whole depression thing in us both.

19 ottobre – Santa Laura

When Reesie Comes Marching Home Again…

Home from the ClinicWell our poor Reese didn’t exactly march home like Johnny in the song, much like the real Johnny he hobbled unsteadily home with various areas of his body shaved and bandaged. The results of a battery of tests reveal that he had, when admitted, a very high white blood cell count and extreme levels of toxin in his system. They were able to clean up the infection and did other tests that confirmed most of the health problems we knew he had – nodules on his liver, hyper-active thyroid, an irregular heart-beat and arthritis (all but the last he’s had since he was a puppy.)

I’m afraid the change of Vet and style of treatment may have precipitated several of the past week’s problems. Our current vet is very big on homeopathic treatment and previous Vets have been more likely to push the chemical solution. I may be wrong on this but perhaps it was too late in his life to make changes. If Reese were younger the natural route would be the way to go but at this stage of his life we should not be experimenting.

The treatment he received at the Clinic was exceptional and the staff incredibly good but he wasn’t eating much there. When he got home last night I gave him some chopped up chicken breast and cooked carrots – they were wolfed down in true Daschie style. The same thing this morning after a short walk.

He is sleeping a great deal but then if I had been poked, prodded and punctured in a strange place filled with smells of sickness maybe I would want to sleep it off to. We’ll see how the next few days go and take it from there. We want to make sure than any decisions are made for him not for us.

19 ottobre – Santa Laura

Rainy Day Reading

One of the frustrations of not having Internet for an extended period was that I couldn’t keep up with all my favorite blogs. With today being a rain day I’m checking archives to see what I’ve missed over the past two months. The current postings that I’ve seen so far have reminded me why I wait so impatiently for new postings:

  • Tater is in the middle of a three part posting: The Storm – Part 1 and Part 2; as always the writing is gripping – I’m waiting for the book Tater and Part 3
  • I Need More Cowbell has a powerful piece on Columbus and the myth of discovery
  • A book brings back memories of a family story of tragic times in America for Lynette at Big Assed Belle
  • Joe My God , has his usual incredible mixture of political, gay, music, Broadway, New York Street scenes and Shelley too
  • Aaron at Meanwhile has added Berlin to the places he has captured so beautifully and reminded me why its one of my favorite cities
  • Eric at Secrets of the Red Seven recalls a childhood memory and a link to today
  • And on the music scene:

  • La Cieca at Parterre Box has a great review of the Alagna Radames contributed by Gaultier Maldè – well-written and knowledgeable (a few critics should take notes)plus a pic of Bobby-Baby looking very fit
  • Opera Chic continues her quirky, wild and wonderful observations of the European music scene that got her in so much trouble with the stuff shirts at La Scala. Plus it looks like New York got a taste of Chic’s gimlet eye.

And I haven’t even started to look at Sticky Crows (except for the video of Sara), Evilganome, The Voluptuary, Here’s The Dish, We Like Sheep, What Would Jackie Wear? and My Favorite Intermissions. As I said thank god it’s a rainy day here.

*If I’ve missed anyone it isn’t intentional – I’ve got so much to get caught up on.
**Unfortunately my friend Bev has not been able to post regularly on her blog – but being in the thick of things in Afghanistan, its understandable. Enjoy the rest with Kev and my guys in Sri Lanka darling and we’ll see you here in December. God Willing.
18 Ottobre – San Luca Evangalista

Nellie’s DryerBalls

Nellie's Dryer Balls

As opposed to Nellie’s Wetter… never mind.

From an North American point of view there’s a problem here with clothes dryers – okay there are several problems here with clothes dryers.

  1. They have a small capacity (but then so do the washers)
  2. They don’t seem to get clothes completely dry
  3. You have to empty the flimsy plastic water tray after every load
  4. It can take up to 2 hours to dry (sort of) a small load
  5. Electricity costs a fortune.

So in true Diplomatic Spouse fashion some of us have been voicing our concern – okay, whining about the problem.

Voilà the answer: Nellie’s DryerBalls (I’m not making this up you know!)

An environmentally friendly alternative to fabric softeners according to the publicity on the packaging (recycled cardboard) and the website. And the website includes a slideshow of the oh-so-50s June-Cleaver-are-you-watching cartoon from the back of the package.

I can hardly wait to try them. God help me I’m turning into Laurent’s housekeeper!

17 Ottobre – San Ignazio d’Antiochia