So I am on my own. It has been hard so far, I've only been back for two weeks, but it feels like much longer. I decided that I would start this blog up again - I know that it won't be widely read, but without having someone here to talk to at night, it's either this or watching Season 2 of Mad Men over and over and over (that wouldn't be so terrible - that show is pretty amazing). Plus I am rededicating myself to learning Italian - I've set a goal to practice at least for 45 minutes a day, I'm writing down words that I don't know and generally just trying harder to listen. It has been more difficult than I imagined; my vocabulary could be a lot better, but every now and then, when I'm not really thinking about it, I'll just start having a conversation in Italian. They are usually pretty short and I'm sure grammatically incorrect, but I'm able to get my point across, understand the response and not get flustered. If I can grasp on to those moments, hopefully they can power me through the tediousness of learning the basics of a language from a textbook.
I've been doing some cooking as well. It may come as a surprise, since my profession is food, to learn that I am not the world's greatest chef. Hell, let's knock me down a peg or 10. I just learned how to dice an onion the other day. But I do love to eat, and for the past 4+ years I've been completely spoiled by the love of my life, who also happens to be a damn amazing chef.
It's been so amazing to be here in Sicily with Angela and see what she can do with the local ingredients available to her. I'll never forget, after we had been here only for a couple of months, when we invited two of our friends from Balestrate over for dinner. I have a photo of them from that night, but what I wish is that I had taken a picture of their faces when this American girl served them caponata - a dish that originated centuries ago several kilometers from here and that they had grown up eating. I could see the skepticism in their eyes - then they tasted it and their faces changed - and they went back for seconds.
Angela left me a couple of quick and easy recipes to start with, one for pastina, which is just pasta cooked in chicken stock, with an egg mixed in at the end and another for cous cous with steamed veggies, cumin and soy sauce. I've made both twice and tonight I made a soffritto (simply onions, celery, carrots and garlic sauteed in olive oil until golden) and then tossed in some canned tomatoes, tomato paste and anchovy paste. I tossed the sauce with some bucatini, grated some Parm (I was desperate for parm last Wednesday, all of the other stores were closed and for some reason the banco di salume only had preportioned cuts of parm in shrink wrap. I'm trying to use this stuff up so I can get another hunk of the real stuff. Bleech...) and drizzled some of our friend Nunzio's olive oil on top. With some bread from the 2nd best panificio in Balestrate - it's closer to the office than the best - it made for a pretty nice meal. The way I see it, I'm using these three months as a test period, kind of like America's Test Kitchen. I'm going to figure out what I can and can't do well in la cucina and then knock my lady's socks off with my skills when she gets back. That and my funky dance moves.