Archive for May, 2009
Just got back from a girls’ weekend in Dublin and will eventually post about that but for now I have a story about my Easter holiday in April…
Picture it: Tuscany – April 2009. I’m alone, sitting on the edge of the sofa bed in the agriturismo , nervously looking at the bucolic countryside from behind the comfort of the screen door. My family are somewhere frolicking outside and I’m trying to muster up the courage to go out and join them. Like Woody Allen, I’m not a big fan of the great outdoors. I grew up in Scarberia, for crying out loud! The closest I ever got to nature was cleaning the litter box. But that was a long time ago. I’m a grown woman now. I’ve backpacked around Europe and India, been through the joys of labour and childbirth, moved halfway across the globe and, most importantly, got through all the convoluted paperwork to get my Italian citizenship without losing my mind. No small feat. So, I can open the door and take on the rolling hills of Tuscany. I CAN DO THIS! SE PO’ FA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I slowly open the screen door and what do I see? A purty little kitty cat.
Phew! It’s nice to see a familiar face. Me and cats, we’ve got a connection, see. I grew up with them and have two of my own now. But this kitty looks a bit on edge. It’s in pounce position, tail nervously flicking from side to side. All of a sudden I see a flash of fur shooting past. I lose sight of the cat for a second but then I notice it’s magically back in its original position. Something on the other side catches my eye. It’s a grey worm, twisting and writhing on the pavement. Strange. It didn’t rain last night. Why would there be worms around? Strange. I’ve never seen a grey worm before. Wait a minute! As the penny drops I look over at the cat and notice it’s chewing on something crunchy. OH MY GOD! A bony mouse foot is sticking out of kitty’s mouth. That’s it! I’m outta here!!!!!! Cut to me sitting on the sofa bed once again, looking outside the screen door, calculating how many more hours I would have to endure before escaping to the comfort of big city smog.
Well, I may be exaggerating just a tad. Nature is actually growing on me in my old age. But that cat story is all true! I did manage to get over my initial hesitancy and ended up having a wonderful time in Tuscany, in the Maremma countryside to be precise. We stayed in a comfortable apartment inside an old but recently refurbished stone villa, surrounded by hills, olive groves and vineyards. It was heaven.
This agriturismo wasn’t an all-inclusive, luxury inn. But to me, it was a taste of the real Tuscany. It’s a little gem of a place, close to Etruscan archaeological sites, medieval villages, hiking paths, Maremma’s famous horse ranches and seaside towns. It was also perfect for the kids. There was lots of space for them to run freely outside and they had a great time playing with the animals, especially the chickens and the aforementioned killer cats. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so much so that my daughter wants to live in Tuscany now. That won’t be happening any time soon but we will definitely go back to the Maremma, grey worms and all.
Well, here we are, week after my rant about Italy and I’m still peeved! This time for a problem at my daughter’s preschool. It’s a long and complicated story, too boring to explain in detail but basically they decided to close the school for three days because water was leaking from the roof. And even if my daughter’s class isn’t even in the same building as the school with the water leak, they magically found a bit of condensation in their classroom (it’s been raining non-stop here for four days straight) and the mayor declared their classroom as unsafe as well. How nice! Especially since there’s a long weekend coming up. That way the teachers can add three more days to their vacation!! The funny thing is, my son’s daycare is in the same building as my daughter’s class and they’re still open. Hmmm….
Ok, enough of my complaining! Let’s talk about something infinitely more interesting. FOOD! Since I’ve been feeling homesick of late, one evening I decided to make one of my favourite Canadian comfort foods: poutine. Quoi?? You don’t know the celestial concoction of french fries, gravy and cheese curds? It was one of my go-to meals when I was a university student in Montreal as it was cheap, filling and the perfect cure for a hangover. There’s even a so-called Italian Poutine, made of fries, shredded mozzarella and bolognese sauce that you’d never actually find in Bologna but which I didn’t disdain either.
However, the other evening I wanted the real thing. I happened to have some leftover homemade chicken gravy and decided it was the perfect time to take a walk down Canadian culinary lane. I wanted to do things right so I fried my fries instead of baking them in the oven like I usually do. The only problem was that I didn’t have cheese curds. Hmmm, what would be a good substitute for curds? Why Asiago, of course! So I carefully assembled my Desperation Poutine: first the french fry base, then the Asiago and finally the piping hot gravy. I closed my eyes and took a bite.
My first thought was, “Meh”. After all that work, all the expectations, my poutine was a bit of a disappointment. As you can see, the Asiago didn’t melt, which is what happens to curds upon contact with the hot gravy. Perhaps the cheese I used was too aged or too cold. But that stringy, cheesy goodness which is essential to the whole poutine experience was missing from my invention. But I haven’t given up hope. Now I have to try and find cheese curds here in Italy or book a flight back home asap!
Help a Canuck girl in need! What Italian cheese would be the best substitute for curds?