Monday, October 28, 2013

25 April 2013, Liberation Day in Italy

In Italy, today is a national holiday to commemorate Liberation Day.

This poem was posted on Facebook this morning:

Avevo due paure
La prima era quella di uccidere
La seconda era quella di morire
Avevo diciassette anni
Poi venne la notte del silenzio
In quel buio si scambiarono le vite
Incollati alle barricate alcuni di noi morivano d’attesa
Incollati alle barricate alcuni di noi vivevano d’attesa
Poi spuntò l’alba
Ed era il 25 Aprile

Giuseppe Colzani

I had two fears
The first was that of killing
The second was that of dying
I was 18 years old
Then came the night of silence
In that dark they exchanged their lives
Stuck to the barricades some of us lost our lives waiting
Stuck to the barricades some of us died waiting
Then dawn appeared
And it was the 25th of April

Giuseppe Colzani

It was cold last night. I needed to find another blanket before opening the window.  At 8.30 this morning, both Primo and Marina were dressed and ready for the day. After a breakfast of focaccia and orange juice, I also prepared to go out. Last night I did a load of laundry in Rosa's washing machine and then hung everything on her portable drying rack. It was ok to leave the clothes outside overnight. I've run out of clean clothes.
At 9.30 we took two cars to meet the developer at Marta and Mario's new home, which is under construction. It fronts on a wooded protected preserve. It's very nice with a huge terrace. Marta loves gardening and I think this is her dream terrace. While out walking one day, she noticed the construction project and when they checked further, there was a perfect unit still available. This is the second of three apartments in the development. It turns out the man who met us there this morning is also a client of Primo's company. Small world.

They can move in around August, but the final completion date for landscaping and final touches is planned for October.
Primo suggests I could find a small unit in the next phase of construction. When I win the lottery, I told him.

Their Australian 'sister' now teaches Italian. She lived with here as a young exchange student with the family for a whole year.  In recent years, they have visited her in Australia. She and her husband, along with their small children, are making plans to rent an apartment here in Cremona for six months.

I am imagining how wonderful this would be.

After the walk through, we drove off in different directions. I don't think Marina feels good. I can now pick up the meanings of conversations sometimes, even if they speak at a normal pace.

With the baby, the four of us went to SuperCoop shopping complex. It was warm today and we all eventually took off our sweaters. I have a shopping list. One saves a lot of money at this Coop. I bought pasta, tuna, chocolate spread, chocolate, soup mixes, olives, lasagne pasta and KitKat for my son, Chris. The KitKat here is made with Swiss chocolate.

I had a surprising conversation with a man on the pasta aisle. He asked me if number 5 spaghetti was the thinnest. I blurted out 'I'm not Italian' which he either could not understand or it wasn't important. He was really stressing about that spaghetti.  No one was around to help me. So I looked closer and found a see-through box of another brand of spaghetti. I showed him number 3 was definitely thinner than number 5. He was grateful for the help. Then, I ran off to find my family. SuperCoop is a huge crowded place.

We loaded up our groceries and left the parking lot, speeding down the highway, with a hungry baby on the verge, when I discovered my sunglasses and case were missing from my purse. My favorite black with rhinestones, Dolce e Gabana sunglasses. 'Oh no!! Ho perso i miei occhiali da sole!!'

With no hesitation, Marta said, we'll go right back.  Mario turned the car around and found parking close to the entrance. Rosa and I raced back in and just as we reached the register, the young cashier, held out the case towards us. Then, I remembered placing the case on the counter when I dug into my purse for some hidden money.

I thanked Mario for going back. I hate that my visit puts stress on him. His routine is changed, plus he's a new father. He's always so nice to me.  So patient and he hides that stress.

We all had lunch together: pan roasted potatoes with rosemary, roast chicken from Coop and fresh tomatoes.

Afterwards, Mario drove to work.

Mattia had to work all day and missed our activities. 

Rosa then stayed home to wash floors while Marta and I walked Baby G and groceries to her apartment.

It's such a nice pleasant dance with our family.  I pass from one person to another.  We group and regroup.  And when everyone is busy, I am free to wander off by myself.

Lots of people are out walking today and we found many shops to be open.
The piazzas were filled with people. I saw one Peace Now celebration in the park, with a younger crowd watching.  In the civic piazza, a small bandstand was setup. We missed the program.

I went back to the children's book store to buy the Italian audio book of 'The Language of Flowers' which I saw yesterday.   Tomorrow I'll search for the paperback.

We also stopped in at the Sperlari store.  I just discovered they have their manufacturing seat right here in Cremona.

I bought rum chocolates, my favorite. I had my very first rum chocolates in Strevi, many years ago. I love them!

In their window I saw Rotture uova (broken Easter eggs).  I went right back in and bought a chocolate bunny ear. The chocolate here is nothing like we can buy in the US. It's so fresh. Yumm. No need to worry about's a bunny ear. But, it is from a big bunny!
The weather continued warm all day. All the gelaterias were crowded so we decided against gelato.

Later, we made pizza in Rosa's kitchen and Mario joined us for dinner. Marta had made an apple strudel, but we ate Sacher Torta, which Mario's mother sent.  She makes the BEST desserts.

We had such a fun evening, discussing grammar. They are correcting my Italian and I appreciate that so much.

9.15 and we are done for the day. I have not seen Mattia at all today. I saw Marina and Primo for only a few moments this evening, just to say goodnight.  Marta tells me, that the winter to spring seasonal change is difficult on Marina's body. It's been this way for years.

Be grateful for good health.

The Language of Flowers, in Italian

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Italian Recipe: Baked artichoke hearts and ricotta

A contorno or vegetable side dish.

Adapted from:  The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska

Baked Artichoke Hearts with Cheese

Makes 6 servings
Bake 375 F for 30 minutes

340 g (2 C.) fresh globe artichoke hearts  (may use frozen)
28 g ( 1 oz) prosciutto cotto (nitrate free ham)
246 g (1 C.) fresh whole milk ricotta
1 large egg, well beaten
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

10 g (2 T) fresh breadcrumbs
19 g (3 T) freshly grated grana or parmagiano cheese (optional:  pecorino)

Preheat oven to 375F (190 C)

Discard outer tough leaves and scoop out the thorny choke.  Trim artichokes and cut the hearts into thin slices. Toss into lemon water to prevent oxidation while you work.

Drain from the lemon water and boil the sliced hearts in fresh water for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain.

In a small bowl, combine prosciutto, ricotta, egg and pepper.

Oil an ovenproof baking dish (9x9 or similar baking dish) with olive oil. 

Arrange artichokes in a single layer.  Cover with ricotta mixture.

In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.  Sprinkle over the ricotta.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Raise heat to broil and finish under the broiler for 5 minutes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Italian Recipe: Tortiglioni, melanzane e gamberi (Pasta with eggplant and shrimp)

From the FaceBook Page:  Ricette di Sardegna.

Pasta with Eggplant and Shrimp

400 g tortiglioni or other tube pasta
350 g of fresh or frozen shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 medium eggplant, washed but not peeled
2 tomatoes, preferably juicy organic heirloom, diced
1 dried hot red pepper, cut into pieces  (to taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Sale and pepper to taste

In sauce pan, bring some salted pasta water to boil.
Begin cooking the pasta during sauce preparation.
Wash the eggplant.  Cut into quarters and eliminate seeds. Cut eggplant into cubes.
In a large frying pan, quickly toss the eggplant with the garlic and hot pepper and saute for 5 minutes.
Wash, peel and de-vein the shrimp.  Cut shrimp into pieces and add to the eggplant mixture.
Add diced fresh tomatoes.
Simmer the sauce briefly, until the pasta is ready.  Add pasta to the sauce and toss to mix, over a low heat.
Generously, add freshly sliced basil and a little chopped fresh parsley,
Serve immediately

Ricette di sardegna 
~~~~.~~~~.~~~~.~~~~. ~~~~.~~~~.


INGREDIENTI: 400 g di tortiglioni, 350 g di gamberi, 1 melanzana, 2 pomodori rossi, 1 peperoncino, prezzemolo, basilico, 2 spicchi di aglio, sale e pepe q.b.

Lavate la melanzana in 4 spicchi, eliminate la parte centrale con i semi. Tagliatela a dadini e saltatela in padella con olio extravergine di oliva, aglio schiacciato, e il peperoncino. Lavate i gamberi , sgusciateli e tagliateli a pezzetti. Aggiungeteli in padella dopo 5 minuti. Profumate con il prezzemolo tritato e bagnate con poca acqua della pasta, portata a bollore. Salate, pepate, e aggiungete la polpa di pomodoro tagliata a dadini. Cuocete il tutto per altri 3 minuti, aggiungete le foglie di basilico, spezzettate grossolanamente. Lessate la pasta in abbondante acqua salata e scolatela al dente. Saltatela in padella con la salsa precedentemente preparata e servite subito.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

24 April, Cremona Wednesday Mercato

I slept too long this morning. It was after 9.00 when I opened my eyes. Marta had arrived with Baby G, left for school and Baby G was already napping. My focaccia was already warming in the toaster oven.

Marina and I had a nice conversation about food. I'm able to speak with her in Italian.  I'm not sure how many mistakes I'm making, but there is no language barrier between us now, which makes me so so happy.

We started talking about the piadina which Rosa and I made last night. She asked if I had ever been to Rimini.  She and Primo had the best Piadina there. It's a specialty of Emilia Romagna so it's extra good when eaten in its region of origin.  Some foods made commercially for sale in markets here, may look like piadina, but they taste not as good as the real thing.

We had a conversation about G who has a passion for spending as little as possible for bread. Marina has tried to no avail to convert G, that good flour produces good bread. Cheap, possibly imported flour, is used to make that cheap bread. Here is a man who has enough money to live comfortably, but insists on eating unhealthy bread.

Marina is a careful and watchful over the food she feeds her family. She points out the good health they have. Good eating habits and exercise contribute to this. I have observed this here first hand. One eats well in this home. We eat fully at the meal and no snacking takes place. I wish I could eat this way every day. It's difficult when one is gone from home 12 hours every work day.  Here I feel no need to snack. We came to the meal, hungry.

I told her I saw no tourists at the Mostra in Firenze and most Americans feel more comfortable eating restaurant food than trying street food. She was surprised because the laws governing food are so strict in Italy.  Meats must be labeled with place of origin, and includes precise details.

Also, by law, food must be thrown out the day after its expiration date. It cannot be given away to charities. The food might technically still be safe to eat, but the law must be followed. Food safety is important for Italians.

I've aways felt safe to eat anything here. If it looks appetizing, I will try anything (with the exception of horse meat, on moral grounds).

I still can't eat the normal foods I always avoid, such as peas and liver.

Wednesdays are always Mercato days. The entire area around two piazzas are setup with vendors' tables and in some cases, traveling fresh food stands. I started in the Piazza Stradivari.  




I walked from 10.30 to 12.45, taking pictures and looking. Yes, there is a lot of junk but occasionally one can find a bargain. I bought my son high quality Italian cotton socks. 3 for 5€

I found a cute cotton shirt, gray front, polka dots back) for 10€ and I was happy with it when I tried in on at home. Some stands do have a place one can try on with privacy. I wove my way through the market, ending up behind the Baptistry, where the cheese and salami trucks are parked. The stand which sells roasted chicken and meats was sold out of everything except French fries and calamari. I did read something I hadn't noticed. French fried olives. 1 etto for 1 €. They looked so good I bought an etto, which consisted of about a dozen pieces. Yumm. So good. I'm going to want more of these!  I cut one in half to see exactly what's inside. It's a seeded large green olive, stuffed with ground pork and dipped in batter and fried.

I reached the flower section last .  Plant and flower vendors take up the entire Piazza del Comune in front of the cathedral. I went looking for hot pepper plants, but couldn't find any. I smelled the freesia before I saw them. Huge bouquets...about the size of 20 Trader Joes freesia stems.  I bought three gigantic bouquets and took them home.  One each for Marina, Marta and Rosa. Fresh and fragrant, they will be bringing spring indoors to three different houses.

This is what has been leading the news;

'ROME (Reuters) - Italy's president held urgent talks on Tuesday aimed at naming a prime minister to head a coalition government backed by the rival parties on the center-left and center-right and end two months of post-election stalemate.

At the election the center-left narrowly won a majority in the lower house but failed to win control of the Senate.

Whether the new prime minister is Renzi, Amato or a surprise third figure, he is likely to forge a multi-party cabinet to take over from the technocrat government of Monti, who was appointed in late 2011.

Its inability since February to cut a deal with either Berlusconi's center-right or the shock new third force of Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has left the country in limbo."

For lunch today we had polenta, chicken in light tomatoes and onion sauce and salad. I'm allergic to corn so I only had a tablespoon of polenta. This region (Piemonte) is famous for eating polenta. Marina brought out some cheese, sweet gorgonzola. With part of a bread roll, delicious. I always follow the bread rule. Only pull off as much as you can eat at that moment, then out the bread back onto the table.

For dessert we had fresh strawberries.

At 2 we sat to watch their favorite soap opera from Argentina.  Now, Marta downloads the episodes to the computer and they view when they can. With a baby, flexibly keeps everyone happy.

After everyone dozed off, I continued watching TV alone. I still can't understand TV. They speak too fast. I can catch the meaning, sometimes. It seems that now I can understand Marina best. I think the family has decided I'm going to only be thinking in Italian this week. I love it, but it doesn't seem fair to not then practice their English. I'm being immersed.

Later in the afternoon, we put Baby G in the carriage and walked a long distance. We were supposed to be accompanying Marina to a doctor appointment, but she pulled out ahead of us, not wanted to be late. I never get tired walking here. I can and do walk die hours, loving every minute. 

During our walk, we stopped and got gelato.  Babies here cannot eat gelato until they are a year old. The same for honey.  I had one scoop of amarena and one of chocolate rum.  I need to get the name of it from Marta. I was too busy eating mine to notice what flavors she had.

We stopped at an appliance store to look at ovens. Marta and Mario have bought an apartment.  They have ordered an American refrigerator. But the stove will be 100% Italian. It has a pizza stone built into the oven. Amazing. I also saw an amazing washing machine.

Primo met us with the car and we all left together to visit MediaWorld. Marta needs a new phone.

The days here just seem to go on forever! For dinner, Rosa fixed Pasta with Aglio e pepperocini followed by bread with mortadella and prosciutto.

We cleaned up at 9.00 and everyone retired. Everyone except Mattia, who had a long day at work and won't be home until 11.

Tomorrow is a holiday. Liberation Day. I need to set my alarm and not sleep in! 

23 April, Cremona

I woke up to sunshine this morning, about 9.00. Marta was just arriving with the baby. He will stay here until she finishes teaching at 1. I saw the kitchen was stripped down for cleaning, so I knew Anna was nearby. After cheek kisses I went to my suitcase and retrieved  Ghiradelli chocolates I brought for her.  I can understand Marina almost all the time without trying too hard. She brought me a piece of focaccia and remembering I love cold pizza for breakfast, a piece from last night. With a large glass of orange juice, my breakfast was complete. 

Marta left for school, Marina took care of Baby G and I showered and got ready to go out. I used my new portable pink hair dryer Marta gifted me with yesterday. 

I left the house at 10.30, with a promise to be back at 1.00 for lunch. It was a bright sunny day, but it's not warm yet. I was comfortable in jeans, sweater, boots and a scarf. 

I walked to all my favorite scenic spots, taking pictures. Then I strolled the shops. I bought trofie pasta from Liguria, so I can make authentic pasta with pesto. I saw some unusual pasta I think my brother likes. I'll go back and buy him a bag. They are white flat disks, also a specialty of Liguria. Cremona is close enough, thank goodness to buy these very region specific pasta. 

I found an audio book that looked promising in a children's bookstore, which also carries some classic adult novels. I returned later to buy it, after buying the soft paper version. It's a treat to read and hear the words at the same time. 

While at the bookstore I also found a book of doable recipes for my tangine. I've been wanting to give it a try. I also bought a Japanese animated film, which my son treated me to see in English. 

At lunch, Primo, Marta, and Marina had risotto with asparagus and bits of sausage. It was yummy. For desert, a fruit cup of kiwi and bananas. 

Primo offered me chocolates. I took a picture and recorded Primo telling me the story of the chocolates and the company of Eataly. 

Yesterday on TV we watched a live broadcast of the President of Italy speaking before the Italian Senate. I would like to find an English translation of what he said. This afternoon, more political news on TV.

BBC News covers Napolitano's speech

 While Marina watched, I worked on my blog, Marta was at the computer and Baby G took a nap. 

Marta was waiting for the electricians to arrive. She will let them into Rosa and Mattia's apartment. When they arrived, I went also. There were two men. Very handsome, well dressed and efficient. Marina knocked at the door, with a lamp in hand. It was required in just a few minutes. 

The new light fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom are modern and stylish. 

Rosa returned home early today for the pedicurist, who makes a once a month visit. I've met her here before, for both weddings. She performs the pedicure thoroughly, but without the polish portion. Also, she did not give a leg massage. I sat in the kitchen with everyone, as we passed around Baby G and polished my nails. Girl bonding time. Primo walked in in the middle if our chattering. Four women in the kitchen. I know he enjoys seeing his girls happy.  

We were running about 45 minutes late so I had to miss visiting with Maria, a family friend who was first Marta's school teacher. Rosa had already planned that she and I would make piadina from scratch. They look like flour tortillas but taste totally different. They are a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna area. (See 

While the bread was rising, Rosa turned on her cleaning bot.  This wonderful device charges to a wall outlet when not in use.  It will look in every nook and cranny for dust while we are gone. Amazing!

Rosa and I started walking to COOP market to buy filling for our piadina: prosciutto, ham, speck, cheese, arugula. Just as we rounded the corner, near home, Mattia called. He was just a few feet from us. We waited, and then we three went shopping together. I carried a new shopping bag Marta had gifted me. I only bought a few items: baking chocolate and Italian yeast.

Back home we drove, then cooked and prepared our wonderful piadine, plus vegetable soup.  Mario, Marta and Baby G joined us, while Marina and Primo enjoyed an evening alone.



I love Rosa's newly remodeled kitchen.  She can organize all her supplies and access them with ease.  I am especially impressed with her array of electectrical outlets.  She can use both Italian and German appliances without the need for electrical adapters.

At 9, we were all exhausted. It's a work week night after all. 

Good night from Cremona!