Every Day is a Great Day

This morning the buzzzzzzzz sang out on the lavatrice and my first thought was merde. My tea was piping hot and I haven’t finished my collezione. Why did I toss the clothes in the washer before breakfast! Now,if I didn’t take the clothes out of the washer they’d be a wrinkled mess. I went to the washing machine, plopped the clothes in the basket, hipped the door open and headed out to the line. The clothes line faces a mountain that was as green as green could be. I took a breath of clean mountain air, started hanging the clothes, looked up at the sky and said, thank you for this.

My next morning chore was to take a shirt back to the lavanderia. Jack is very particular and only wears cotton dress shirts. Yesterday, when I picked up his shirts one of them wasn’t cotton and definitely wasn’t his. What a drag. (Insert sad face.) Now… (Insert Sigh Sound.) I have to drive back to the next town. Grumbling about why couldn’t Jack speak enough Italian to take his own shirt back, I buckled up and pulled out of the driveway. A few minutes later, I took an even bigger breath – the village of Morcone was a swath of color oozing down a mountain side. The drive there was spectacular. A blue sky over the reservoir, mountains bursting with color, farmers cleaning around their olive trees – how could anyone be pissy surrounded by such amazing beauty.

The entrepreneurial young woman who opened the lavanderia was all smiles and happy to find the right shirt. As a matter of fact every shop I went into this morning was a happy place. What makes it even more special is that everyone knows my name. Living in a teeny tiny village next to a slightly bigger village – making that village just plain tiny – means that in a nano-second everyone knows everyone else. It is kind of special.

Every day, I’ve learned to say thank you to God, Goddesses and the Universe. Cause – no matter what – when you live in the Sannio Hills of Southern Italy- every day is a great day.

Ci vediamo!

Not to late to sign up for 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

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Names – Connections to our Past.

As I move from continent to continent, I often tap into my philosophical self.  Maybe the air pressure in the plane makes my head woozy doozy or maybe, just maybe, flying from New Jersey to Italy provides me with the quiet time to reflect on what is important or not.  A few years back, I lobbied to get a street in Flagtown, NJ named after my family.  Some folks looked askance at the concept and told me that sticking your name on something was pretentious.  Actually, they said it was *&^%! stupid.  I beg to differ. Who we are and what we have become is based on those who came before us.  What better way to help those who come after us to discover their heritage than with a named place and all it connotes.  It becomes a visible touchstone to the past.

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A year or so ago, my friend Dr. Adele Gentile, invited me to an event that was a link to her past and the history of Morcone – the village next door to Pontelandolfo.  We went to the dedication of a Morcone Library section named for her dad, Dr. Girolamo Gentile.  I was touched to be invited and honored to go.  Also, I had seen her dad’s and her last name on streets and buildings in both Morcone and Pontelandolfo and wondered just who this man was. Her father, as you can see by his name on the  walk-in clinic wall,  was incredibly loved and respected as a doctor by the citizens of Morcone and the area.  People tell me he was a “doctor of the past.”  The Doc who went out in a blizzard to make  house calls and took care of everyone equally.  I also discovered that night that Dr. Gentile was intuitive and did everything he could to help his patients. If that meant find them shoes to go to school or wood for their stove, he would do that too. An avid reader and perpetual student he left a huge collection of books dealing with medicine, science, fiction, non-fiction etc. Adele and her brothers donated them to the Morcone Library.  It made sense to name a section of the library after Girolamo Gentile, not only because of the wealth of information shared in the books but because he was an incredible force in a community and should be remembered.  Justifiably, the library was packed the night of the dedication. People swapped tales about Dr. Gentile. We hope that medical professionals of the future will ask who he was and take a lesson in going the extra mile for a patient.

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All over Pontelandolfo there are streets named after people.

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OK, my great grandmother’s surname was Rinaldi, but that is not why I chose this picture. The Rinaldi brothers were massacred during that heinous night, August 14, 1861, when in the name of Italian unification,  hundreds of Pontelandofese  were killed in their sleep.  We hope that when visitors see the names of the streets in Centro Storico they might ask a question or too.  Before becoming involved in my little village I had no idea that Southern Italy wasn’t enthralled with unification. The mass slaughtering could be a reason.  That sure as heck wasn’t in my American history books.

At this point you might be wondering why I felt it was important to get at minimum a street in Flagtown named after my family – Guerrera.  The specific location is particularly meaningful because my grandparent’s subsistence farm was just a spit away.  Actually, I grew up on a piece of their property across the street.

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May 4, 2015 Ribbon Cutting and Opening of Guerrera Court, Flagtown, NJ 2015

Guerrera Court is specifically named in honor of my pop, former Hillsborough Township Democratic Mayor, John F. Guerrera and Flagtown Postmistress, my life saving aunt, Catherine Guerrera.  To me that sign honors all of us Guerreras who lived, worked and contributed to our community.

I orchestrated that the ribbon be cut by former Republican Mayor, Bill Jamieson.  During the 1960’s, Jamieson and my dad served the township from different sides of the political aisle, often arguing vociferously at meetings and then heading  to Farley’s Tavern in Flagtown to share a drink and strategize for the good of the community.  According to Jamieson, “John was a progressive leader who moved boulders to bring Hillsborough into the 21st century.”

My dad was a powerful force and cut a bella figura!  A Democratic operative, he was active in county, state and national campaigns.  He is credited with starting our community police force, seeing that sewers were installed, a Municipal Utilities Commission  formed, zoning  updated and lots more.

Born in Pontelandolfo, Italy, my resilient aunt, Catherine Guerrera, had contracted polio at 2.  She, my grandparents and uncles immigrated to America. In 1926 they bought a 15-acre subsistence farm in Flagtown.  After graduating from Somerville High School in 1933, Aunt Cat discovered that jobs for the handicapped were limited. My ballsy aunt sat down and penned a letter to then First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Zap!  The letter was answered. The Roosevelt Administration assisted in her having numerous operations done by the famous Dr. Kessler himself. She was later appointed the first postmaster of Flagtown and paid only a commission. Her tenacity and work ethic built the post office to first class status.

Now as folks buy a house on that street or drive by they might just wonder who that family was.  It is a visible link to our community’s past. They might ask the who, what, where and why.  I know I would.

Ci Vediamo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cavatelli with Carmela

Mario Carmella

Walking into the house Carmela Fusco shares with her husband – ace mushroom harvestor, Mario Mancini, and her family, the first thing the one notices is a petite elderly woman sitting next to an open fire.  Zia Peppinella, Carmela’s mom, lives with the family.  This sense of family and great outpouring of love make a trip to Carmela’s a wee bit like going back in time to a place where we all felt loved and safe.  It is not unusual in Southern Italy for multiple generations of a family to live, work and share their lives together.  That is something that I remember growing up in rural New Jersey – unfortunately it seems to have ended with my generation.

Carmela Fusco is a Pontelandolfese through and through.  As passionate about her home town as she is her cooking, Carmella was willing to leave it behind and help advance her husband’s career by moving to Milan.  With a degree in primary education and an experienced teacher, she looked at the Milan assignment as a culinary adventure.  She had the opportunity to explore and embrace the fare of Northern Italy! During her 13 years there, her spontaneity, smile and neighborliness insured her a circle of friends. Through them, she cultivated her appetite for cooking and explored the secrets of Milanese cuisine.

Back now in the village she loves, Carmela takes care of her large extended family.  Every day, in a kitchen filled with great smells and laughter, Carmela cooks lunch for a minimum of eleven people!  She looks at that as an opportunity to further experiment and cultivate her devotion to cooking.

Carmela’s dishes are an interesting mixture of traditional Southern Italy cuisine, learned from her mom, and the best Milanese traditions. She shops daily for the freshest ingredients and is fortunate to have a husband who forages the mountains for truffles, mushrooms, spring asparagus and more.  You too can feel like you are invited to lunch – read her cooking hints on the Facebook page, A Pranzo Della Nonna!   Her motto is cooking with the heart is good for the soul too.

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Happy Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo Cooks & their Cicategli!

Carmella is one of the women who open their homes to those adventuresome foodies who visit our little village as part of the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo project.  Cicategli is a pasta mainstay in Pontelandolfo.  Served with a thick meat sauce and lots of freshly grated  cheese it can a make any day a happy day.  My nonna’s cicategli sauce was made with pig’s feet and I still smile when I think of it.

Cicategli -Cavatelli Ingredients

Flour 0 and 00 – Fine and Extra fine.       Water as needed.

Before the class started, Carmella showed us the Cavatelli maker she bought that allows her to spin out enough pasta for 11 -15 people in about a half an hour.  We got excited about using it.  She smiled and put it away!  You will learn to make pasta the way my grandmother taught my mother and my mother taught me!

Boil the water. Carmella never uses cold water to make cavatelli.  As her mother before her, she discovered that when you make this pasta kneading hot water into the flour insures the cavatelli, while boiling, won’t stick to each other.  Also, after working the dough a long time, if you use cold water, you would have to continually put your fingers in water or the dough will be too dry.

Put 500 grams of each type of flour on the wooden pasta/bread board.  Carmella’s board was huge and is used almost daily.  We tossed around the idea of just using our American counter tops.  Carmella and Zia Peppinella looked at us, smiled and said try it!  But I knew in their heart of hearts we should all go buy a board.

Make a well in the middle of the flour.  While kneading, slowly add hot water to the flour.  Knead on the floured board until you want to toss the board at your husband.  Keep kneading and add flour – lots of flour.

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Using the heel of your hands – fold over each side of dough, add flour and do again.  She used up both bags of flour – 1000 grams and it still felt wet.  Knead about half an hour. Seriously, I kept sneaking a peak at my watch – we kneaded about half an hour.  No one got tired or else we refused to admit that our arms didn’t have the power of an Italian home cook!  We all kept kneading, talking and of course sipping wine!

The dough will tell you when it wants to be made into pasta.

That is not the wine talking – it is the dough talking. When you touch the dough, your fingers will come away dry.  Carmela said it was like testing a cake – when you put a knife or toothpick in a cake and it comes out dry – the cake is done.  If dough still sticks to your fingers add flour and knead.

Cut about 1 inch or a two finger width of dough off the kneaded loaf. Put that dough through pasta machine on number 1 two or three times. Or get out that trusty rolling pin and roll the dough thin, thin, thin.

Cut the thin sheet into 2-finger or 2-inch long strips.  Then cut the strip into about 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices.

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Using your fingers, pull the strip towards you – saying cicategli and then flick the rolled pasta away from you.  Sounds easy right?  We laughed at our mounds of flattened dough.

Carmella made us do it again and again and again. Hey!  We got it!  Thanks Carmella!  Start the 3 fingers just on the outside of the strip of dough and then roll back. Using three fingers you are pulling the dough towards yourself while saying cicategli.  It is important to the pasta gods that you say cicategli!

Now practice the two handed technique.  You have to feed your family at 1:30 and need to get these four million cavatelli done.  Carmella astounded us with her two handed technique.  She whipped that pasta out using both hands to roll and flick.  Who needs a machine!!

Put the finished cavatelli in one layer on a wooden board or cotton sheet to dry a little.

The dough will keep for 3 days in refrigerator or you can freeze it.  Making it with hot water allows you to freeze it for 3 months.  It is important to remember to defrost the cavatelli for two hours before you use it.

Carmella reminded us to never clean wooden boards with water.  Scrape the goop off the board with the flat back of knife.  Water gets in the wood and the board hates that. Make sure you wipe the board with dry rag.

Zia Giuseppina, Carmella’s mom looked at us all firmly and said, when you go back,you must continue to make pasta this way  or the traditions of our village will be lost.

She also noted, You have learned how to make cicategli now you must learn how to eat it! Cavatelli amano tante formaggio e sugo!   This type of pasta loves a lot of thick sauce and tons of grated cheese.

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After boiling the pasta we covered it with a hearty meat sauce and used the local hard sheep cheese.  Because you will love the sauce do not foget the Scarpetta – little shoe – a piece of crusted local bread used to clean your plate!  Let me tell you, each and every one of us cleaned our plates.

You too can Eat, Cook and Laugh in Carmela’s Kitchen!  There is one spot available for the September 2018 and 4 spots available for the May 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  Or you and a group of pals can contact me to set up your own dates.  Just e-mail info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

Visit us on FaceBook or our Web-Site.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge

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Presepe Vivente Morcone 2018

When I first heard about the Presepe Vivente presentation in Morcone – the town that clings to the mountain just down the road from Pontelandolfo.  I thought – a theatre or film crew couldn’t find a more perfect location to stage the Christmas story.  This ancient village dominated by the Rocca  (ancient rock fortress) has all the elements of a characteristic Neapolitan nativity scene.

My theatre brain imagined a 21st Century Location Scout: I’m tellin’ you this place is freakin’ perfect.  It could be Bethlehem. Sits on a high mountain ridge.  Surrounding hills terraced, covered with grape vines, fig trees, olives.  Cave and grotto waiting to host the couple. The buildings – man they are so old we would barely have to spend a shekel on set construction.  Settled 5th or 6th century BC – way before the big day.  (Pause – he is listening.)  I’m not lying!  Morcone – a hill top town in Compania –  is the perfect place to stage a reenactment of  the birth of Jesus!

This year, I was blessed to be able to see the 34th Annual Presepe Vivente Morcone.  Every January close to Epiphany, the entire community comes together to create a site specific theatre piece in two acts.   Hundreds of volunteers donned period costumes, dressed the sets staged in ancient buildings, hung lights, wired the city for sound and  produced an incredible living history theatrical work.

The well organized event begins in centro storico, the historic center.  We climbed ancient stone steps, crossed small alleys, stopped in the tiniest of piazzas and witnessed daily life as it may have been lived thousands of years ago. Ancient crafters, washerwomen, children racing through lanes, merchants, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, housewives, fishermen in the stream – all in period dress go on with their lives as we wend our way on the guided path.

The second act is staged in a huge field outside Porta San Marco.  At the far end was the illuminated grotto serving as a stable.  Not knowing what to expect, I only had my iPhone – next year telephoto lens and binoculars. A great sound system kicked into high gear with music and a narrator.  Suddenly lights came up far off  in the woods to our right. In a small room, Gabriele talks to Mary. Each segment of the Christmas story is staged in a different part of the woods – perfectly lit for its brief moment.  On donkey, Mary and Joseph begin their journey to Bethlehem.  Shepherds arrive illuminated by hundreds of torches. Of course the spectacle ends in the manager with a blinding pyrotechnic flash that is the star leading the Magi on horseback to Jesus.  It was incredible!  I have the attention span of a gnat and there wasn’t one moment when I wasn’t engaged.

For next year’s details visit their website – Presepe Nel Presepe.   For a glimpse of what I enjoyed this year, click on the video!

I hope to see you in Pontelandolfo!  Visit us this May – we still have a few spots left in our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.  Or contact me and set up your January adventure and visit Morcone!

Ci Vediamo.

Italian Public Holidays

Keep the questions coming!  I will try to answer then!   When should we visit Italy?  As soon and as often as you can.  What are the holidays?  Many of you have asked about Italian Holidays – well, here is what I have discovered –

It takes government action to declare a public holiday. Workers – I’m guessing full time not contract or part time – are entitled to a day off with full pay.  If they have to work – like there is a giant sale at the mall – they must be paid 2.5 times their normal rate. Do not get sick, have your car breakdown or any other emergency on a public holiday.  Very little is open and hospitals are understaffed.  No really – do not get sick in August either.

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Here is the list of  Italian Public Holidays –

January 01 Capodanno New Year’s Day
January o6 Epifania (La Befana!) Epiphany
Monday After Easter  Pasquetta Easer Monday
April 25 Festa Della Liberazione Liberation Day
May 01 Festa del Lavoro Labor Day – May Day
June 02 Festa della Repubblica Republic Day
August 15 Ferragosto Assumption Day
November 01 Ognissanti All Saints Day
December o8 Immacolata Concezione (This is the beginning of the Christmas season.) Immaculate Conception Day
December 25 Natale Christmas Day
December 26 Santo Stefano St Stephens Day

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Religious and – as Jack call’s them – 

Greeting Card and Flower Shop Holidays –

March 19 Festa di San Giuseppe St. Joseph’s / Father’s Day
February 14 Festa degli Innamorati St. Valentine’s Day
February Carnevale Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday
Variable Pasqua Easter
Second Sunday in May Festa Della Mamma Mother’s Day
November 2 I giorno dei Morti Day of the Dead

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   Pontelandolfo Holidays

September 19 San Gennaro Naple’s Patron Saint
May 21 San Rita Procession & Blessing of Cars
June 13 San Antonio Procession
1st Week in August San Salvatore 7 day festa, film festival, venders, rides, entertainment
August 16 San Rocco Procession

All of the small villages in our province take their holidays seriously.  There is an incredible communal feeling to be part of a procession, share a panini on the street, listen to the music and know that you are part of a larger family.

If you would like to feel like you really are living in an Italian Village – even if just for a week, take a peek at this web-site and let us create a holiday just for you.

Ci Vediamo!

Carols Set the Tone for Christmas

Casa di Babbo Natale (He is waving in the upper left window)

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the lights festooned on our village’s streets, the house of Babbo Natale created by the talented Nicola Ciarlo, the presents wrapped under the tree and I love most of all the music. Christmas without carols is like a night without stars. From the time I was in the children’s choir to today, I cry whenever Silent Night is sung, cheer on Joy to the World and feel the bells of Ring the Christmas Bells.  Carols personify, the spiritual side of what unfortunately has become a very commercial time of year.

Last night, in Pontelandolfo,  voices filled the theatre of Sala Giovanni Paolo II with joy and the power of the messages of Christmas. Student vocalists from the music and dance high school, Liceo Musicale G. Guacci, under the direction of Maestro Daniela Polito, put their hearts and talents into last night’s concert.

Selene Pedicini opened the concert with a plaintive violin solo.  Singers entered carrying candles and joined solemn voices on the stage.  It was the appropriate way to gather the attention of a talkative audience.  Ms. Pedicini also acted as the program’s narrator, not only announcing the song but sharing the back stories.  Saverio Coletta accompanied on the piano.  Both Pedicini and Coletta are teachers at Liceo Musicale.

Having heard the Westminster Choir, I’m spoiled.  That said, these fourteen to eighteen year olds knocked my Santa Claus socks off.  Tight harmonies that blended into one melodic message. The Maestra, Daniela Polito, had them perform Silent Night in a variety of languages.  It was stellar. Great articulation in not one, not two, but four languages.  These kids are fortunate.  Their Performing Arts High School is on a campus that includes the magnet school for languages.  They get to study languages under teachers who are native speakers.

Two other pieces that not only moved me but had me embarrass my husband by shouting during the applause were a gospel piece – complete with clapping and choreography – and Can You Hear Me not only sung but done in sign language.

Ms. Polito needs to be complimented.  Having been the director of a Performing Arts High School, I know how tough it is to encourage students in a variety of grades to work together as a cohesive performance unit.  There are thirty students in the music track and all thirty are in the chorus.

Students audition for acceptance to Il Liceo Musicale and  – Westminster peeps can relate to this – if the students do not cut it they will be asked to leave.  Most of these kids go on to University level conservatories and their passion and drive is evident.

After the concert, I interviewed the faculty and of course my first question was – are there any students from Pontelandolfo?  Of Course – Annalaua Tranchini!

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Maestra Polito, Annalaura Tranchini of Pontelandolfo and I

There is something about young voices sharing the historic songs of praise, happiness and love that brings the spirit of Christmas to everyone in the room.  I must admit, that I was saddened by how few people were in the room.  It was such a fabulous concert that everyone in town should have heard it.  But then, what do I care – I heard it and it made my Christmas bright.

Buon Natale.

Ci vediamo.

Christmas Lessons

Christmas Ponte

Buon Natale a Tutti! 

May the Christmas Spirit be with you all year long.

Tonight, Pontelandolfo is hosting Concerto di Natale by the chorus from Liceo Musicale G. Guacci.  When I saw the poster of young singers in their tuxedos and black dresses, I flashed back to my teaching time at Westminster Choir College and my first evening of “Lessons and Carols.” Teaching at Westminster was one of the most rewarding and special times of my life.  Surrounded by music and students who were accepted because they had great musical talent, academic ability and drive, I formed relationships that mean a lot to me today.  As my brain twirled, racing from those young musicians singing their hearts out during a Christmas Lessons and Carols to our life today, I realized there was a lesson that I should have learned then but really hit me now.

This year, Jack and I decided to to try on a different holiday experience and spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Italy.  The Christmas lessons began in Milano, continued in Vienna and seeing the lights in Piazza Roma were reinforced in Pontelandolfo.

Thanks to Stefania, Nina, Kristie and Silvia, Non importa dove vai, importa chi incontri, became so evident to me.  It is not important where you go but who you meet along the way.  Strangers become reflections of who we are and where we are going. That first night, tired and hungry we walked a scant few blocks from our favorite B&B – Il Girasole – to Tony’s, a jam packed local eatery. We were given a deuce next to a woman eating alone.  When I say next to, I mean our elbows touched.  What could I do but say, buona sera.  Stefania, was no longer eating alone, and we had a great conversation about her early life as a dancer with the Royal Ballet in England and now in a government office here in Milano.  Politics, political appointments, the problems facing Milano and the rush from hearing the sound of applause wafted from table to table. The back story that stayed with me is one we have all known – a young woman with a promising career as a dancer comes home to attend to the elders in her family.  Family is so central to the soul of Italy and central to me.  Eating and connecting with a local woman who was as interested in us as we were in her made the night magical.

One morning, our eyes finally no longer glued shut, we wended our way to breakfast.  There were only three of us in the room.  What else could I do but say buon giorno?  Nina replied in perfect English, Good Morning.  A German international political science Ph.D who had spent a year working for a major California university, Nina provided a European view of world events and the plight of academics.  Munching our corentti and sipping our cappuccini, I found interesting her perspective of the rise of fascism in the United States. What really smacked me was just how spot on the old men in Pontelandolfo’s bars where when they warned us that candidate Trump would lead the USA in a goose step toward a fascist regime.  Too bad they didn’t get a chance to manipulate FaceBook! When Nina explained the hiring process in German and other European universities, I responded on how I had been F*&!ed by an institute of higher learning. We were sisters under the adjunct banner. While we did not agree on all global issues, we had a robust discussion that helped me understand even more clearly european perspectives.  If you never leave your hometown you miss the opportunity.

The universe always provides – even sweets and prosecco after a day of exploring.  Arriving back at the hotel and wanting to anty up our bill, we went into the breakfast room to find our hosts.  There we met Silvia Pitoni whose goal in life is to open a pasticceria in her home town of Rieti (suburb of Rome.)

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I’ve been graced with impeccable timing.  Silvia had just gotten back to the hotel from a master class with a famous Milanese pastry maker and was laden with samples of the delights she created.  While munching away, we listened to Silvia talk about the Roma Academia Italiana. She is  studying for a professional diploma as a chef.  More importantly, we listened to Silvia’s dreams of having a pastry shop that features both sweet and apertivo style treats.  Silvia’s enthusiasm for baking and her love of local, natural ingredients gave me an “Ah Ha” moment.  Maybe the universe sent her to add a Roman dimension to Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo?  (Check out our groovy new web-site.)  Perhaps the adventuresome foodies that come to cook in Pontelandolfo homes could do a pastry add on in Rieti!

Jack and I headed off to Vienna – I really wanted to hear the music and see the Christmas bling.  We did do that but coming full circle – we ate dinner in a crowded local restaurant and were fortunate to be squished next to a couple from North Carolina.  Kristie, a realtor, and her husband were great dinner companions.  We talked about politics, living abroad, places one should visit, lack of travel leading to limited vision, life in a red state when you have blue politics, the state of the nation and the world.  None of us wanted to relinquish our tables to waiting diners.  We enjoyed the company and the conversation.

When we finally, got home to Pontelandolfo and became immersed in conversations in the bars, library, restaurant, I knew the the journey we’ve taken to become part of a different community has been a blessed one.

These encounters may not seem like much.  However, hearing, listening, responding and understanding the places that people come from and the journeys they have taken enhances our journey.  As our pal Nicola from Il Girasole Hotel said, Non è importante la destinazione ma il viaggio.  The destination is not important – it is the journey.

 

Buon Natale, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year.  May 2018 bring you joy, laughter, health and incredible journeys.

Ci Vediamo.

Have An Expressive Holiday

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Crying, laughing, talking with voices, hands and faces.

Buon Natale! Buone Feste!  During this magical time of year, all of our senses will be zanily energized. Normally, Italians are incredibly expressive people.  Our hands, faces, and bodies, all become one with our voices to help us relay our feelings and tales.  Now, communications will be foisted into high holiday gear. From the moment families kiss each other hello, laughter will burst out of homes. The volume will go up a notch as we engage in fuel enhanced political rants, chase the giggling wee ones around rooms and swear that our calcio team is the best.  We will be expressive until the moment the last digestivo is sipped and goodbye hugs are given at the door.

Or, da, da, da da – BOOM –

Has everyone become a cell phone zombie????

I am frightened!  Scared of the cell phone phenomena that has reached into the very essence of people and turned them into automatons – robots fixed on mini screens. Faces blank, lips held together, eyes vacant – ZOMBIES!!!!  STOP THE MADNESS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

My dear expressive countrymen, while you are with family and friends this holiday season leave your telefonini in the car.   Also, turn the bloody thing off while you drive, walk around the piazza, go out to dinner, visit the sea… I get apoplectic when I’m on the autostrada and see a truck driver holding his phone in one hand and gesturing with the other hand. Just what body part are they steering the truck with? You jerks driving on A14 toward Milano who almost crushed us know who you are.

Blank stare zombie texting is even worse than talking. Especially if you are the driver of the yellow fiat who was aiming for me on the curvy narrow road out side of Morcone!  I honked – the male driver looked up – note I said looked up – his eyes were filled with texting madness and his hands – WEREN’T ON THE STEERING WHEEL.  I am sure that drivers do this all over the world, however, on skinny, scary mountain roads it is totally inappropriate.  The cretins could kill me!  I wanted to block the bloke’s path down the hill and stomp on his phone.  I didn’t.  Instead, I bellowed a very American explative out the widow.

Imagine a world of scantily clad people milling through waist high water eyes staring blankly ahead clutching something to their ears.  The cast of the latest horror apocalyptic film – or worse PHONE ZOMBIES AT SEA?  Blah, blah, blah – why the hell does anyone have to actually walk in the Adriatic Sea blah, blah, blahhing on their phones? No one who is actually enjoying the sea wants to hear a phone zombie bellow in a variety of languages Can you hear me now?

However, the cultural phenomena that really bothers me is one that may dampen my holiday spirits. Whole families – mom, dad and 2.5 kids – sitting in a restaurant ignoring each other and scrolling through their phones. Jack and I may not have riotous conversation every time we dine out but we do acknowledge there is another person at the table. I want to scream at families, Watch the pizza bubbling in the wood burning oven. Or, sit back and smell the scents of great dishes being brought to other tables.  Stop looking at your fahkackata phones.

What ever happened to conversation?  Where are the frantic hand gestures and facial dances that make us unique?  I see more and more families sitting silently. That silence is not communal – all are in their own little FaceBook bleary eyed world.  I’ll take little tykes running around restaurants any day to a total lack of personal interaction. If I were the communications czar, cell phones would be left in purses and pockets at the dinner, lunch and breakfast tables.

May Auntie Midge gently suggest a phone moratorium until February? Let us not loose the spirit of communications that makes us who we are.  Defeat the telephone zombie invasion. Think of it as La Befana’s holiday gift to you and yours.

Sorry for the phone rant, but we just got off a train and were surrounded by business people sharing work related information that I should have recorded and sold.  I have to vent somewhere.  Thanks for listening.

Ci vediamo.