Tuesday, November 22, 2011

what I ate & learned

lardo di Colonnata on pane calabresebistecca panzanese (from the infamous & crazy Dario Cecchini) – leftover steak sandwich – what to do when you think you have nothing left and want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.

(compliments to Laura for the photos. But seriously, stop taking pictures of me stuffing my face.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

thieves & thanks

On Friday night, my bike was stolen.

I was devastated. We had been through a lot, Tealk* and I. By “a lot” I mostly mean the hill from Pollenzo to Bra. But there was that one time I biked to Barolo, and then another when I biked to Roddi to steal figs for a pie. Aahh, the good old days.

But it was more than just a bike, and more than a means to escape the clusterfuck of the claustrophobic bus ride to school. From June until last Friday I biked every day to school through the farmlands of the Langhe. Though the clear mornings when you could see every ridge of the Alps were rare, every day you could see what was just sprouting or ripening or at its peak. Eating seasonally became that much easier and enjoyable with such potent visual cues.

And as long as I’m waxing nostalgic and hyperbolic…

It’s like the film The Bicycle Thief. Except that instead of representing the ability to support my family in war-torn Rome, my bike was the only the means by which I could hope to fit into my jeans again. So yea, perfect analogy.

I suppose I am to blame, at least in part. I did lock my bike outside a rowdy** bar late at night. And I know, I know: Who bikes to a bar? The thing is, I was just planning on staying for a little, and then one thing led to another and suddenly I was in no condition to bike home. (I actually had every intention to bike home, but I couldn’t find the key to my lock.) So I left Tealk behind, knowing that it would still be there in the morning. Because I live in Bra, and you can do that.

Fast forward to the following afternoon, when I find the key to the lock…easily visible in my purse - oh! cruel, cruel irony! - and head back to town…to find a broken lock, and nothing more. I walked dejectedly à la Charlie Brown all the way home, fighting the tears and thinking, does this mean I’ll have to take up running?

Before I could convince anyone to go on a Tarantino-esque search for Tealk and the doucher who stole it (and left the lock!), my generous roommate offered me her bike. A sigh of relief.

Thankfully my biking capabilities have been restored just in time for my perfected Tartine bread and olio nuovo - which I’ve been consuming in obscene quantities – and a trip to the land of foie gras…France! (Toulouse, to be more specific.)

Bummed by the lack of enthusiasm for Thanksgiving in Bra, five friends and I have planned a long weekend in southwestern France. Our agenda includes: Armagnac tastings, visiting a foie gras producer***, playing in my friend’s castle, French wine, our own Thanksgiving feast, and more French wine (it’s my birthday!)

As expected, one week after stage and I’ve already forgotten my breakdown (as featured in my last post.)

So bust out the spanx, it’s time to give thanks!

* The maker of my bike was “Stargate.” If you understand the reference you should take a long, hard look in the mirror. And then move out of your mom’s basement.

** As rowdy as bars can get in Bra, which is to say not rowdy at all. Actually quite tame and sad.

*** Good idea? Bad idea? Ignorance is bliss…? Maybe it’s better to not eat foie gras?****

**** Did I really just write that?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.

Ok. I’ll bite.

Tortelli di zucca. Pappa al pomodoro. Bread (sans salt.) Crostini con: cavolo nero + lardo; burristo + quail egg; pomodoro + aglio. Pork loin. Lamb shank. Capon. Chestnuts in ricotta, pasta, dessert, beer. Olio nuovo on anything and everything. More bread (still no salt.) Pecorino (fresco e stagionato.) Salumi. Acqua cotta.* Shall I continue? (All washed down with sangiovese as its meant to be: gulpable and never-ending.)

Dis-donc, Jean. What does that make me? Foodie? Hedonist? Gastronome? Glutton? Fat-ass? Which is the least obnoxious of these terms?

Gastronomic blasphemy be damned. I have some choice words for you, Mr. B-S:

Fuck you.

What if I want to be more than just the sum of all my (squishy body) parts?

The purpose of this program is to give students an understanding of food in all its facets. Food is everywhere and all-encompassing and all-important, an idea which has been regularly drilled into our heads. (Ironically, by coming to this school you are almost definitely already drinking that kool-aid from the start.)

But what if food is too all-encompassing? What if it’s all I do/think about/talk about/rhyme and dance about? (Yes, we made a “sausage-making” and “lardo production” dance. Do you get the severity of the situation?)

But without food, what am I? Surely I must have other interests…?

Clothes are cool. Too bad mine don’t fit anymore.

I used to play sports. As a kid I played piano. I enjoy movies and long walks on the beach?

…So what are the kids talking about these days? What do “normal” people do?

Do I just need new friends? People who are more familiar with this concept of “moderation” that I keep hearing about?

Is lardo di Julia just an occupational hazard of this program? Or an indication of being good at life? If everything I’m putting into my body is so good, how can this be bad?**

My mind reeled with these questions while my stomach churned from the multiple multi-course meals on our latest stage in Tuscany. I didn’t want to post this. Nobody wants to hear about (fat) white people problems. But I felt the need to write something - however hyperbolic and whiny - if only to get it out of my system. Take a deep breath. Move on.

…to the next meal.

*Am I about to be haunted by ghosts of Tuscan peasants past? Isn’t it an oxymoron to have decadent meals based on the quintessential cucina povera? It means ‘cooked water,’ for fuck’s sake!

** Compliments are in order: Katie, Kathryn, Johan.