copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
No matter how big or small or elegant or simple..a house– and that is any house- from a villa to an apartment- is not a home unless it is filled with good food and friends.. and sometimes it becomes your home .. if only in your heart….even for that short period of time that you are a guest.
In Italy when you are a guest in anyone’s home the only minor ‘inconvenience’ is that you are forced to eat and eat until you can’t eat any more…and then some.. After all giving food almost equates with giving love and sharing something that is near and dear to your heart…Food
With each visit to someone’s house I always find something special to remember that visit by. Yesterday I was invited to the house of Simona and Vincenzo. They live in a very open part of Abruzzo..all fields and open spaces. Chickens running around, dogs barking..tomato and pepper plants dot the landscape. If this were a painting I would have imagined that they were put there to add vibrant color to the painting..the red of the tomatoes and the green and yellow of the peppers.
Inside, I became hypnotized by the smell of espresso brewing in it’s own little moka pot on the gas range.. “caffe e pronto” (coffee is ready) announced Simona..and we sat down to a table of biscotti and a well needed cup of espresso. Always making something as simple as a coffee break into something special… The biscotti.. just made that morning….were presented on a lace doily..the espresso served in cups that were from a place in Naples known for their ceramics and porcelain called Capodimonte.
While enjoying the break, Vincenzo entertained us with stories about the history of their house and how ..not too long ago..the parcel of land down the streeet that is being made into a gas station was just a field of wild blackberries. This time of year (August) Simona would be getting the jars and pots ready to make the jam. But not this year..the blackberries no longer there.
All of a sudden the sound of a rooster in the background..it was 5PM I said,” does he know it is 5 at night and not 5 in the morning?” Vincenzo told us that he prefers the rooster crows at that time to remind them to take a break instead of waking them up at 4 or 5 AM, so he explained to me that he somehow trained him to sound off at that time.. ( “I love this place even more”..I thought to myself).
Before I left, it was absolutely insisted that I take some fresh tomatoes and peppers..and before I knew it I was leaving with a crate full of red and yellow and green..the perfumes of the fresh vegetables filled the car. . A souvenir of our trip to a little town called Paterno.
I just about made it inside the kitchen with the crate and quickly went to the sink to wash off the reddest tomato I could find and sliced it into wedges..a piece of fresh parmigiano from the fridge..a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from the hills of Loreto-Aprutino…..but wait I have to run downtsairs to grab a fresh basil leaf or two from the garden…a dash of salt and dinner was ready. The tomato was a feast unto itself…the flavors so real and just as vibrant as the color. This was a real tomato and the kind that nature meant for us to have..not the imitatiions grown by the zillons at the large factories that are called farms and have these chemically manipulated products that are sold as tomatoes..
Monday, in The Basic Art of Italian Cooking kitchen will be a sauce using my special souvenir of yesteday…see you then for today it is off to Rome for a special event for my latest book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:Holidays & Special Occasions.
But until Monday..remember that a souvenir can be a special taste, a special memory, a special place,sentiment, food, a photo..ohh so many souvenirs here and not any to carry back in my suitcase but in my mind and my heart.