Sunday, October 14, 2007

Square Meals

Aunt Mil at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties

This has been an eating weekend, starting Friday night with a visit to the Texas State Fair. Corny dogs, Fried Avocado and Frito Pie, along with cold beer and even a little Texas wine. The old neighborhood near the state fair was my mom and her sister's growing up place.

Saturday we married San Marzano DOP tomatoes from Italy with a 27 inch cucuzza from my yard. Well, I married them in my mouth. After a day of preparing a Slow Food event about wine from ancient grapes, I just fell into the couch and tried to stay awake. The aroma of the slow cooked vegetable stew was enough to keep me going. Really my soul food, these squash and tomatoes, rice and more vegetables.

This morning we fashioned pecan pancakes from our state fair shopping spree. The mix was made in San Antonio. We had it with some wild bacon, from some poor little pig that never made it to the state fair. But he did make it out of the pen and able to breathe fresh air and drink clean water and not be crammed up its whole life.

Today at the Slow Food event one of the top chefs in this town, and a guy who “gets” Italian food, brought his salumi to the event. I read stuff on some of these supposed serious eating food websites, from famous chefs at that. But this guy, David Uygur, just has the incredible knack of making out of this world, cured meats. And this coming from one who would rather go out into my back yard and forage for something green. Especially intriguing was the testa he brought. Something particolare, something meravigliosi. Ottimo, Davide.

Ok so after all that, what now? Sunday night with a beaker of some distilled potion while a storm rages above.

We eat some really stupid things out. I have been looking at new menus lately and reading old books about Italian food, what a difference. If only some of the famous chefs would look into these older books, they might see something special, food that is interesting, complex, but not affected. Simple,simple...

My aunt Mil, like my second mom, she passed away this month 8 years ago. She was born on Nov 11, 1911 at 11AM. That would have been 11-11-11-11. She was a happy gal, she was my friend, she was a grand lady in the kitchen. She could boil water and make it taste good. Seems she started early on, the picture of her is from 1919; she would have been about 8. Baking a cake. Darn, do I miss her cooking, and her, a million times more.

Ladies in the kitchen. We were in a Sudanese restaurant in the neighborhood, recently. Ladies running the food there. Just like the little place in the Veneto above Valpolicella, pictures of them line the stairway up to the dining room. Pristine food, served slow, cooked as ordered, no one in a hurry to eat and go somewhere else.

Roasted meats, potatoes from the oven, wild greens tossed lightly so you could taste the place them come from. Pasta made earlier in the day, just a taste, all one needs. Why complain that we seldom see it like this in The States? Forget about it. Go there. You can.

Tasting wine today, talking about it, people sitting at tables waiting for me to say something. The wine, the way it tastes, what it does to one who tastes it, where it is taking one. Here we are in a little room with fans and pressed tile ceilings and we are space traveling to Piedmont, to Calabria, to Trentino, to Umbria, to Puglia. All together, with our fears and our hopes and our plates of testa and bufala mozzarella.

I think about these Sundays, with family, some still here and those who are just there in the dream space. My aunt and my great grandfather, my wife Lizzie and all those souls we shared a table with in this life, looking for a square meal and a full heart.


Anonymous said...


Your presentation at Jimmy's yesterday was so good. Interesting, personal and educational. I enjoyed it!

One thing you wrote in your blog rang true for me. All of us should stop complaining about what we can't get or duplicate in the U.S. If we love Italian food, French wine or German sausage, go to those countries and enjoy.

Ciao Baby!


Anonymous said...

If thats how you feel..

1) The Slow Food people appreciated your effort;

2) Try one of these..

Unknown said...

Alfonso... meat is good, Annie was better!

Also, re: your aunt's BD, did you know that 11-11 at 11AM is Remembrance Day in Canada and Remembrance Day in the UK? Both used to be called Armistice Day... to remember the "signed" end of the war of all wars, WW1. A very significant date in history.

Ciao for niao!

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