Archive for July, 2008
One of the best things about summer in Da Boot is the abundance of sagre. What is a sagra, you ask? Hmm, how can I do it justice? Well, it’s sort of country fair where cheap local food is the star attraction. I love them to death! Except for the live music. Unfortunately, the music often gives me indigestion that not even massive doses of Pepto Bismol can cure. It’s usually polka with a bit of Village People thrown in for good measure. Excuse me a sec while I wretch. I was actually going to add a clip of the band but luckily for you it didn’t work.
Ok, back to business. I’ve been to two sagre recently, in two different regions of Italy: Lombardy and Liguria. It’s always a treat for me to go to these fairs because they serve scrumptious local specialities. It’s a great big party, with kids running around and old folks dressed to the nines in the hopes of picking up.
The sagre I went to were quite different in terms of cuisine and set up. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast. Here are a few pictures of the sagre and the dishes served:
San Bartolomeo al Mare, Liguria
Fancy shmancy dining area. Just like high school, non?
Tomato and sweet pepper salad
Half-eaten penne with pesto sauce, a Ligurian speciality
Moscardino in umido (braised baby octopus with peas – sounds better in Italian!)
Half-burnt sausage and fries. It tasted better than it looks.
Bettola, Lombardy (Please excuse the lack of good pics. I was being savagely attacked by a swarm of giant, bloodthirsty mosquitoes and got the heck outta that place as soon as I could.)
A yummy Lombard dish: risotto ai funghi porcini (rice with porcini mushrooms)
A slightly revolting Lombard dish: tripe soup with potatoes and beans.
Various dishes: fries, assorted coldcuts, grilled meat. Note classy paper tablecloth.
Grigliata mista (assortment of grilled meat and sausage)
So, who wins the Battle of the Sagre? San Bartolomeo or Bettola?
If you want to see even more disgusting pictures of food, check out these Weight Watchers recipe cards circa 1974. Only here will you see the magic of Fluffy Mackerel Pudding and Inspiration Soup.
Un’estate fa la storia di noi due, era un po’ come una favola…..
Have you ever had one of those summers? You’re on holiday, maybe on the beach and you happen to meet that special someone. And its like a chemical reaction. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s having too much free time on your hands or the languidness of summer. The romance soon becomes all-consuming, even dangerously so. But it’s a flickering flame and destined to burn itself out once September rolls around.
This is the story behind one of my favourite summer songs, Un’estate fa, originally written in French by Michel Fugain (title: Une Belle Histoire), with Italian lyrics by self-styled Latin lover Franco Califano. It’s been covered by many over the years, from Mina to the Homo Sapiens but I like this recent version by Delta V. The singer is American and you can sort of hear it in her accent when she sings. I also love the retro feel of the video (especially those white go-go boots!).
Whenever I go to the Riviera, where I think the video is set, it inspires thoughts of intrigue and romance, like To Catch a Thief, Two for the Road, etc. That pesto sauce sure plays some funny tricks on my mind.
Have you ever had a brief but unforgettable summer fling? What was the soundtrack to your storia estiva?
Everyone have a good weekend? Hope so. I just got back from a weekend in Liguria, a sort of cottage country for the Milanese. So with all the traffic, pit stops and toddler crises, it basically took us 5 hours to travel 200 km. But we did manage to relax a bit on the beach on Saturday and the kids had a great time. We even went to a local festival, a sagra, where they served inexpensive local food and a very cheesy band playing polka and the Village People. I’ll post more about that some other time.
To add to our culinary adventures, on our way back from Liguria we stopped for lunch at McDonald’s on the highway. It’s become a sort of family tradition. Even if I’ve lived here for over 10 years, I still need that dose of McDs once in a while. You can take a girl out of Scarborough….
Speaking of which, after we made the long, hot trek from the parking lot to the restaurant, I took a look inside and thought I was back home. The place was full of my people, i.e Indians, South Asians, etc. I have to admit I was taken aback. Despite the recent influx of immigrants to Italy, you still don’t see too many people of Indian origin around. So to find the McDonald’s full of them was odd, but in a good way. I guess they were a busload of tourists on a lunch break, sampling the local cuisine ; ) I took the opportunity to point out to my daughter the lovely salwar kameez and saris the women were wearing. She was thrilled to see all the colourful shawls and the people who looked more like Mommy.
So, to further Indian-Italian relations, I’d like to share this clip from comic Russell Peters (who happens to be Canadian). Slightly crude but all in good fun.
One of the things I love about this country is it’s reverence for the English language. It made life as a new immigrant a lot easier for me. I found a job as an English teacher almost immediately and I could have worked night and day had I wanted to. I’ve taught hundreds of people, from kids to police officers, from senior executives to actors. Yes, English lessons have become more fashionable than a pair of Louboutins. In spite of all the teaching that’s going on, somehow Italians don’t have the best grasp of the language. And the mistakes I see are always good for a cheap chuckle. Which is why I’ve decided to inaugurate a new feature: the Itanglish Korner, a sort of Engrish alla pizzaiola . Like the time last week when I went to El Brellin restaurant in the heart of Milan’s Navigli district. A beautiful, elegant place with traditional Milanese dishes like Osso Buco and Risotto. And lo and behold, the menu was in Italian and English. Perfect! Well, not exactly. I was more than a little perplexed the description of one dish, which boasted a delicious sauce of “anchovies straining”. It took a lot of wine to get the image of constipated fish out of my mind.
And just the other day while going for a walk in town, I came across this poster for a local fair, featuring a number of “international” artists, including everyone’s favourite grunge band:
Ha! I’m torn between Perl Giem and the musical stylings of Maury & Mary. Hmmm….
Anyway, the next time I see a terribly-translated menu or any other distortion of the English language, I’ll let you know. And if you have any Itanglish you’d like to share, send ‘em in. The more the merrier!
I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, which means that the only beach action I got was jumping through the sprinkler or wading in my Mr. Turtle pool. Woo hoo! To be honest, one year we did make it to legendary Wasaga Beach (aka Ontario’s Riviera). Yes, there were nice sandy beaches and cotton candy for sale. But it’s nothing like the gorgeous seaside my kids enjoy here in the Mediterranean.
Now that summer weather has finally arrived in Italy, people are heading to the nearest beaches to roast in the sun and swim in the balmy waters. The Milanese usually flock to Liguria or the Adriatic Riviera while Romans head to nearby Ostia or Fregene. Celebrities, soccer stars and their WAGS du jour always make sure the paparazzi get shots of them in Forte dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast or in Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda. And every year there is the dreaded summer song, or the tormentone d’estate. It’s usually a horrible dance song played to death on the radio, beaches and clubs that by August I’m ready to throw my stereo out the window.
But I’d like to look back to a simpler time, the 50s and 60s, during Italy’s post-war heyday. Italians made some great summer songs back then – classics like Sapore di Sale, Abbronzatissima, and Azzurro. Those are songs that still bring to mind lazy days on the beach and summer romances. Ah!
Singer Edoardo Vianello was the king of the summer song back in the 60s and I found this cute clip of his his bizarrely-named hit, Con Le Pinne, Fucile e Occhiali (literally, “With Fins, Spear Gun and Mask” ????). I like this video because it gives you a snapshot of Italian beach culture at that time. And isn’t it great to see women with curves for a change?