Thursday, September 15, 2011

Italians and Americans at play

Italians at play may seem like an oxymoron to most Americans, but Italians don't play all the time.  It's true! Sometimes they fret.  What do they fret over?  The stock market, getting things done on time, having too much to do and too little time?  Think again.  Remember where I am.  They fret over family members, the tax man or being ripped off.  They fret about not getting to lunch on time, or traffic.  As you know, they really fret about their health.  If they aren't fretting, they are talking, and talking and talking.  It is something to behold.  Go into one of the little trattorias and they will have the t.v. on.  Why is that?  To provide a background of talking so people will be comfortable.  This tv on drives me crazy.  I have a friend who has a gizmo that will remotely turn off and block the tv.  He secretly zaps the tv when they are out of the room. He says it puts the Italians into a frenzy when it goes off.  Why don't they play music?  I'm convinced it is because there is not enough talking!

However, when Italians play, they immerse themselves into it.  In California, we say we play hard and we work hard, but this isn't the same thing.  The concept of play being hard, wouldn't make sense to Italians.  They play like children play.  They can immerse themselves into the world of make believe like first graders.  I've been told that there is no word for "self consciousness" in Italian.  My Italian teacher disputes this, and then tells me the word for it is embarrassed, or shy but as we know, that isn't the same thing.  So most Italians somehow do not develop that awkward self-consciousness. This allows them to dress up in funny clothes, play music at less than a professional recording level, and generally enjoy themselves without the inner critic playing a constant dialogue.  I think this is one of the reasons that Americans love them.

So life in the Piazza is busy.  Instead of 12 people watching one guy work, there are now only 6 guys watching one poor guy work.  The Otto Cento is their major play event of the year and it starts this evening.  Of course, like children they aren't ready.  The one thing that they have finished is the "house of pleasure" which is located beneath our back window.  No surprise there.  I guess this will be the women's time to play dress up, and god knows what else. But I am a bit ahead of myself.

We have had guests for about 90 seconds.  They arrived one day and left the next.  They are a couple that Gary, aka The Stoic One, knew in graduate school.  This was their first trip to Italy and they spent a week in Venice and Bologna with friends, and then a day with us, back to Florence and then on to Rome.  They are darling.  The waitress asked if they were our kids and we were both flattered.  Here they are

So, in their 90 second visit we did not go to museums, go to churches, explore the historical significance of the upcoming historical re-enactment.  What did we do ?  Guess?

We went to Cortona, and I actually offered to take them to the Etruscan museum but they said "let's eat first"  My kind of people.

This is the restaurant La Bucaccia (the word refers to the part of Tuscany where the restaurant is located.)  The owner Romano is pictured above, and is charming, flirtatious, and animated.  The restaurant is located in a perfectly restored XIII century building.

Christine told him she loved cheese, and was unsure what to order.  "Do you trust me?",  he asked.  With our food selection, absolutely I thought. He told us he would order for us and after our first bite we would remember him forever.  (Have I mentioned the Italians were a humble people?  I thought not.)

To our surprise and delight, he came to the table and made fresh mozzarella in front of us:

He told us we could easily make this ourselves :)  6 liters of whole milk.  Put in 20 drops of good lemon juice.  Let sit overnight.  Next morning, boil until you have curds and whey.  Then proceed to knead as shown. PS: He has only been doing this since he was a child, so I am sure there are some steps in between that he didn't mention.

All the cheese is made in house.  The cheese above the tomato is what I call "embryo" mozzarella, before it was turned into little balls.

To serve the fresh mozzarella, which is not pictured here because we gobbled it down too quickly, he put quite a bit of salt on it, a little bit of pepper and a little bit of olive oil.  If you have never had warm mozzarella made in front of you, add this to things to do before you die.

Buon Appetito!

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