The Traffic Stop

We were driving through a neighboring town on our way to buy a new refrigerator, .  It was a glorious day.  Blue sky, the sun was shining down on us.

“Jack that light is red.”

“I can’t see the light. The sun…”

“You just went through that red light.”

“Maybe it doesn’t work – those cars stopped too.”

“They stopped so they wouldn’t broadside us.  Shit.”

We headed down the street when at the next intersection who should appear but un carabiniere – policeman – holding up a paletta, the very small yet very scary circle on a stick that means pull over or we shoot.  They do carry guns.  Sometimes they carry very big automatic guns.

Damn, we went through a stop light and got caught.  My stomach dropped to my toes.  Jack sat up straighter and assumed his remembered State Police posture.  I rolled down my window and smiled – cripes I am seventy-two years old, flirting ain’t gonna work – maybe dimwitted old lady?  

“Buon Giorno,” I say with a smile.

Jack followed my lead, “Buon Giorno.”

The police officer does not crack a smile, “Patente e libretto.”

I open the glove box and tons of scontrini – reciepts – fall out.  I find not one but two plastic folders holding documents.  I drop the blue one.  I feel the police officer staring at me.  I open the black folder but haven’t a clue what I am looking for.  What is il libretto – is that the registration?  He touches my hand – I freeze.  He points.  I give him the grey thing he points at.  It must be il libretto.

The carabinieri always seem to work in twos.  The rear of the police car was open and a computer appeared.  The second officer grabbed il libretto, which when I read it later was the registration,  and started typing away.  Rats, I think there goes another ticket to the car.  The car that is in my name driven by Jack who couldn’t see the freakin’ red light.

By now I have the insurance and our international drivers licenses ready for him.

“I documenti per favore.”

I try to give him the international drivers licenses – he pushes them aside.  He doesn’t care about the insurance either.

“I vostri passaporti!”  He says a bit severely.

We are so screwed.  Here we go on a slow boat back to the United States.  Or worse, the computer-generated phone hell of the American Consulate.  I realize he needs to know we are Italian citizens and live in Pontelandolfo half the year.  The problem is I need to get out of the car.  All those car stops we have seen on the USA news demonstrate how dangerous it is to get out of the car.  But my purse is on the back seat.  What to do? My grandmother leaps into my body and suddenly my Italian improved two hundred percent.  

“Siamo cittadini italiani.  Residenza a Pontelandolfo.  Potrei uscire dalla macchina.  La mia borsa è sul sedile dietro.”  I get out of the car, look directly into his handsome brown eyes and wish I was twenty-five.  Then I go to the back seat and get my purse.  Opening my wallet to get my residence card demonstrates that I happen to have a wee bit of cash too.  I quickly take out my carta d’identità and gesture to Jack to take out his.  While Jack arches up in the seat to get his wallet, I say.  “Viviamo a Pontelandolfo sei mesi all’ anno e in New Jersey altri sei mesi.”

“I speak a little inglese.  Where in New Jersey.”

“Tu parli bene l’inglese,” I say.  “Siamo a Ewing vicino Philadelphia.”  

He nods.  I smile.  He speaks English about as well as I speak Italian but hey compliments go a long way.  He takes our identification cards back to the computer.  Somehow, I don’t feel as frightened.  Jack is still staring straight ahead.

He comes back and doesn’t look happy.  “To drive in Italy avete bisogno della patente internazionale.”  

He throws Jack’s New Jersey license back at him.  What the #@%&!, I think.  Why did Jack give him his license – all he wanted was his residence card.  I leap into my “Ms Fixit” role.

Mi scusi signore, abbiamo le patenti internazionali.  Sono queste.  I hand him the same two grey international drivers licenses that I tried to give him earlier. We get them every year from Tripple A and have never shown them to anyone in ten years.  Are these acceptable or do we end up in the cop car?  He doesn’t even open them – just hands them back and goes back to the computer.  I get back in the car.  I am planning to go into my 1960’s dead weight protest mode.  If they want to arrest us it will take a crane to pull me out of the car. 

He slowly walks back.  I slowly slump lower into the car.  Jack sits up even taller.  The policeman looks at me and pauses.  I cringe.  

“Buon fine settimana segnori,” he says with a smile.

I smile.  He turns and walks away.  Jack starts the car.  I wave at the policemen.  Thank you we will have a good weekend. But first, lets go buy that refrigerator.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

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It is not too early to start planning your 2022 trip to Pontelandolfo! We are organizing, cooking, writer’s retreats and farm to table weeklong adventures. Check out Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

Bentornati! Welcome Back!

Pontelandolfo – our favorite place.

The hills were alive with the sounds of music!  Just not the song you are thinking of.  For the past few days, our village has serenaded us with the sounds of welcome, love and joy featuring that musical word that means so much – bentornati!  Bentornati is the melodious way to say welcome back – but really more than just welcome back.  I am so happy to see you!  We are glad you are back!

We are glad to be back in pontelandolfo!

After our quarantine period was over, Jack and I donned our masks and made our way down to Pontelandolfo’s village center.  It was the first time we had been to the piazza since covid shut us down and trapped us so very far away.  Wow!  So many changes!  The weekly market wasn’t in Piazza Roma – but we could see the vendors trucks behind the school in Piazza Its Been So Long I don’t Remember the Name.  Look, I shouted, a new outdoor bar is open on the promenade.  What a great place for a quick pick me up during the pre-dinner passegiata or after dinner night out.  All of the bars have a much bigger outdoor presence. Newer tables, umbrellas – wow – so urbane!  Those changes were brought about because outdoor seating was the only way the bars could eke out a living during the height of the pandemic.

We continued to drive around and noted that everyone was wearing a mask.  Shoppers were carrying their bags of goodies and wearing masks.  Venders were wearing masks. Bar staff were all masked up.  We parked the car, put on our masks and got hit with the welcoming sounds of Bentornati!   

Bentornati from the owner and customers at Bar Elimar.  Bentornati and conversation with a man we barely know who told us to sit in the shade with him.  Bentornati and fist bumps from people we knew and passed in the streets.  Bentornati and invitations to come over for coffee from folks we haven’t seen in pandemic ages.  Bentornati and tell us everything you have been doing – from the pharmacists.  Bentornati, from the staff at the grocery store.  Bentornati and what vaccines did you get – from the florist. People knocked on our car window to say Bentornati!  Bentornati and come for dinner – an invitation we promptly accepted.

This simple welcome back phrase made us feel immediately right at home.  We felt surrounded by the affection and friendship that one is blessed to feel in a small town.  Bentornati, ci siete mancato.  Welcome back we missed you.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo is organizing adventures for 2022! Cook, explore, taste, create and live like a Southern Italian

Quarantine Angst

Quarantine day 8 – I didn’t kill Jack yet.

At least I’m not wearing an ankle monitor! How do Jack and I manage not to kill each other during our latest quarantine in Pontelandolfo? He reads, feeds the chickens and stares at the mountain. I ramble up and down the stairs of our chilly stone house, cook, stare at the mountain and remind myself it is only for ten days. Lets back up a wee bit. How did we get here? Why are we quarantining when tourists from the USA can take quarantine free flights?

After dealing with health issues and the Covid Crisis for what seemed like an eternity in New Jersey, we finally felt secure enough to travel back to our Pontelandolfo home. I knew I didn’t want to visit more than one airport and risk seething at wackadoos who refuse to wear masks in crowded spaces. That meant finding a flight directly to Rome and ordering a car service to drive us from one region to another. Finding the flight was easy. We bought tickets on United from Newark to Rome. Their website was incredibly helpful as were the reminder emails to do everything on the pre-boarding list. Besides the usual chaos promulgated by the TSA, everything at Newark Airport went smoothly. The mask mandate was followed by our fellow travelers. This brought joy to Jack since he wouldn’t be embarrassed by me giving the evil eye and a tongue lashing to anyone who was non-compliant. People were courteous and spatially conscious. Here is a look at that pre-boarding list –

Vaccines? Check – we both had our two doses of Moderna. They didn’t ask to see them but we had our cards ready. Actually, we provided the data in advance to United and the EU-PLF.

EU-PLF? Check – sounds like peeeyyuuuu stinky feet but it is the Passenger Locator Form that you have to keep on you. Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) are digital and will help public health authorities do contact tracing. That means if someone on my flight had some infectious disease, the European Union/Italy could find me. The idea is to prevent the spread of disease. In Newark they just wanted to see the piece of paper with the bar code but no one scanned it. When we got to Rome no one scanned it either. I’ll keep the bar code in my wallet with the vaccine card.

Covid-19 Test 48 Hours Before Landing Check – for $85 each we got our noses swabbed the afternoon before we left. I carried our negative test results and a United representative barely glanced at them.

Digital Health Pass ReservationCheck – we made appointments to get our noses tickled again by a doctor administrating a covid swab test in Rome. In Rome’s Fiumincino Airport this was really well organized and it only cost € 20 each. Why did it cost so much more in New Jersey? We were swabbed, waited about twenty minutes and given a certificate of a negative test. Hmm – what happens if the test is positive? I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

Self-Declaration Form for Travel to Italy From Abroad Check. Double Check and Tripple Check. I completed this form in English and in Italian. It states that I am not a denier – I get that there is Covid -19 and haven’t tested positive, took the swab test, will take a swab test in Rome, will self isolate and where you can find me climbing the walls during self isolation. NO ONE took the form! United staff glanced at it. On the plane they gave us another one to fill out. NO ONE took that form either. I tried to give it to the car service driver. He didn’t want it. I thought maybe Pontelandolfo wanted it. They wanted something different…

After going through Border Control, we went out front and found our driver. He waived a sign with our names on it, helped lug the luggage and made us comfortable in his clean Mercedes sedan. Anybody need a lift from Rome – www.autonoleggiocerrato.it! In a three hour super highway and winding hill road journey, we made it back to Pontelandolfo. Our masked family and friends who are like family, were waving at us from the other side of the street. Think parade of one car with social distancing. When we got in the house, our cupboard and refrigerator were both jammed packed with fresh vegetables, meat and the cheeses you can only get in the Sannio hills. Wine from the local vintner was peeking at us from a shelf. Thank you! Grazie a tutti!

We settled in, I couldn’t wait to go see the piazza! What, we can’t go see the piazza? Jack looked at me – “quarantine remember.” But we took the covid quarantine free plane? “Tough – the village expects it.”

It has been eight days. Only eight days. Soon it will be ten days. Quarantining is the right thing to do. We care too much about this village to be the bearers of evil infectious yuck. Besides, quarantining isn’t so bad when you have a view like this.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

Midge Guerrera

Pontelandolfo’s Movie Makers

Ever notice that in some communities the arts just flourish? Kids enjoy not only sports but making art too. Towns comes together and theatrical/musical magic happens. Pontelandolfo, a teeny tiny Southern Italian village, is one of those artistic Petri dishes spawning talented artists, dancers, writers, musicians and filmmakers. Older posts have talked about our dance company, the visual artists, village wide theatrical productions etc. Is something in the air? Is it in the nature or nurturing of our young people? Or an enchanted coupling of both? I think it is a combination.

During the holiday season, I discovered yet another group of young people making art – filmmakers under the moniker Nonna Anna Film Group. Spearheaded by Gianluca De Michele, the bourgeoning company is committed to not only telling original tales but shooting their films in Pontelandolfo. According to De Michele, “The short films we shoot are set in Pontelandolfo, because I believe that there is a reality to be re-examined here, not only from a historical and traditional perspective, but also from a visual point of view.

Meet Igor Rinaldi, Francesco Mancini, Gianluca De Michele,
Federico Mancini and Nicola Colesanti

De Michele studied directing and screenwriting in Bologna at the Accademia Nazionale del Cinema. (Check out the website, I think Gianluca is in the cover photo!). He has always been in love with using media to tell a story but is quick to say that Nonna Anna Film Group was not something that he created alone. The company was developed with his friends Igor Rinaldi, Nicola Colesanti and Federico Mancini. I asked him – why call it Nonna Anna – you are all in your twenties. This brings us back to the nature and nurture question. When the company was producing their first film Oro nel Torrente – Gold in the Stream – his grandmother, Anna, who provided the locations and support was instrumental. As was his father and brother who provided all of the video equipment. It was their second film, Il Regalo di Natale – The Christmas Gift, that I saw.

According to De Michele, ” In The Christmas Gift,” I emphasized the inner conflict of a father who knows that he will disappoint his son by not being able to buy him the gift he wants, precisely during the period when children dream the most. Pirandello believes that comedy works with tragedy. The message of our short film lies in the fact that, paradoxical as some situations are, the seriousness of a topic is developed on the basis of a comic intention. The film is the mirror of a dream that must not be broken and of the deep love that inspires every parent…” Take a peak and let’s discuss it –

The setting will make you all want to visit Pontelandolfo.

It took the film crew one full work week to shoot what we just watched in a few minutes. I am delighted to have discovered yet another group of dedicated artists living and working in Pontelandolfo.

Ci vediamo!

MIDGE

Join us – Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

Arrivederci 2020

the joy of out with the old and in with the new!

Weeeeeeoooo! 2020 will soon be OUT and a new decade zooms in.

Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – www.freepik.com

Who won’t be sorry to see 2020 hit the highway. Pandemics, thousands dying, food shortages, toilet paper wars, weird weather, floods, political mayhem and… Basta! Enough looking at what was horrible, atrocious, disastrous, horrific, terrible and inconvenient this past year. Time to move forward with the hope for all mankind that this holiday season brings. To help us remember ’tis the season to be jolly’ and ‘goodwill to all,’ I thought I would play the part of the ghost of Christmas past and share some wonderful older moments.

One of the most joyous activities of the Christmas season is Morcone’s Presepe Vivente. This is the best community theatre production is the world. The entire Southern Italian village of Morcone – which is just around the hill from Pontelandolfo – would come together and turn their normally quasi abandoned, historic center into Bethlehem. WOW! In 2018, Jack and I spent hours immersed in the story of Christmas. It is the story of poverty, intolerance, a gentle soul providing shelter to a couple who had no where to go and love. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. 

Enjoy the camaraderie of the story tellers.

I will admit it, over the years I have over indulged – often nightly. My eyes never close, sounds just fall out of my mouth and my heart explodes. I am a Christmas Light junkie. Put me in a car after dark, drive me around and I will fill the car with Ooooooos and AAhhhhhhhhs that will rock your socks. The next night I will do it again – in a different part of the Sannio Hills – but I am attracted to those lights. Perhaps it has something to do with that big star over Bethlehem. This is one holiday event that we all can do and still keep that ugly virus at bay. The car is a super social distancing bubble and I intend to drag Jack kicking and screaming out to our car to drive around and Ooooo at holiday lights – tonight, tomorrow and dopo domani.

Benevento has a wonderful pedestrian street that in years past was a holiday joy to walk.

Food glorious food. We are still doing our traditional seven fishes this year with our foodie friends and family. Sharing a meal is a heartwarming holiday ritual. (Did you ever check out this blogs recipe page?) Everyone makes a fish dish and we start eating early and finish pretty close to midnight. Laughter, swapping tales, toasting and burping fill the room. It is a tradition that we will not miss. No, we are not risking our aged bodies in maskless revelry. I set up a FaceBook Messenger Group and we will be eating together but apart. That means we can swig the Prosecco and won’t have far to go when we are done. That also means we can still raise a glass to each other in love, friendship and food.

Memories of a meal shared long ago can still put a smile on my face.

This holiday season we won’t be gathering in the piazza, wandering the Christmas Market, or going to Sesto Senso for an incredible New Year’s Eve feast and musical event. We will be sending our love to you and yours from our home to your home over wi-fi, phone lines and cell towers. This is the time for gathering up the steam to forge ahead for a new year, a new season and a happy, healthy love filled life. Buon Natale.

2019 wasn’t a bad year and 2021 will be even better.

Ci vediamo prossimo anno!

Midge

PS: Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo will be organizing for 2021.

COVID Italian Rapid Response

Listen up!  Italy has a nation wide policy on Covid that includes a Rapid Response Team. Wouldn’t it be cool if the USA did too?  The health care system, under the Ministero della Salute – Ministry of Health – remember, Italy has national health care – Il Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – is administered by each region. What follows is a true tale of fast contact tracing and testing in Southern Italy.  The country and regions are working together for the greater good –

It all started in the Sannio Hills with the renovation of the medieval castle below.  Man the battlements!  

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On a Saturday at the end of August, the village of Reino in the province of Benevento held an event to celebrate the grand opening of their restored medieval castle.  They got great press and hoped the castle would become a tourism anchor.  (That link has a video of this grand edifice designed to ward off all war mongering enemies.) The sun was shining and people, including Pontelandolfo’s own mayor, Gianfranco Rinaldi, enjoyed exploring the space. The following Monday, the warm memories turned cold with fear.  The mayor of Reino tested positive for Covid 19. Immediately the town and the Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) – the local health agency leaped into action.  

  1. The town immediately activated it notification system. Masks were made mandatory everywhere in the town of Reino.  With outdoor social distancing they had previously eased up on the wearing of masks.
  2. Everyone who was at the grand opening was contacted.  Those contacted helped spread  the word.  Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and local media all were full of the news.  

For example, our Mayor quickly posted his possible Covid contact on Facebook and went into isolation quarantine. Facebook in Pontelandolfo is read by the majority of the citizens.  The town uses it to let people know about everything from new laws to weather alerts.  The Mayor is a Facebook Friend with just about everyone.

Just how did the town of Reino know who was at the event?  How were people contacted so rapidly?  How did the Ministry of Health do something that we haven’t been able to do In the USA?  One answer is that the majority of citizens in our little corner of Italy have loaded the App Immuni on their smart phones.  The idea is simple and doesn’t sacrifice privacy. Immuni doesn’t collect names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers or email addresses.  It cannot determine someone’s identity or the identity of those that they come in contact with.  It doesn’t save  GPS or geolocation data.  The data is saved on your smartphone and the connections to the server are encrypted.  

 

Simply put – the App notes where you are, the date and time of the day.  That information is saved to your smart phone.  If someone else who was in that same place at that same time is tested positive for Covid, you will immediately be contacted through the app.  Yeah, yeah all you folks who are afraid of them knowing where you are need to remember that if you have a smart phone, use social media and don’t have an spy quality encrypted phone they probably already do.  I realize that not all Italians have a a smart phone and that not all Italians have downloaded the App.  What I do know is purely anecdotal from my very politically active sources in the Region of Campania that tell me everyone they know has the App and shares information with elder family members who may not have a phone.

3. Besides the alarm on the App sounding, phones ringing, town websites putting up notices and social media being loaded with information, the province’s Rapid Response Team left the bat cave. The ASL Rapid Response Testing Team  set up a mobile voluntary testing site across the piazza from Reino’s castle.  Folks got quick blood tests to see if they had Covid antibodies hard at work in their systems.  Everyone cooperated.  Out of the 746 people in this tiny village who took this quick test 15 people tested positive for the antibodies and went to take the yucky nasal-pharyngeal Covid test.  In reality anyone who wanted to could also make an appointment for the full Covid test.  Happily Pontelandolfo’s mayor tested negative but remained in quarantine for fourteen days.

4. To control the pandemic, people entering Italy register with the town they are going to and remain in isolation quarantine for two weeks. The police will stop by and check on you.  We  know that because my cousin, returning from New Jersey to Pontelandolfo,  made the mistake of sitting outside on her veranda during her isolation.  The police arrived and sent her back inside.   We are so blessed in Pontelandolfo that everyone working together for the greater good has kept us Covid free.

Obviously it is much easier with National Health Care and a national plan.  I wondered about App use in the USA.  Jack insisted he read about Apps were available in the USA but that people were hesitant to use them.  Are any connected to government Departments of Health?   I wondered if New Jersey’s Department of Health recommended an App. Just for fun, I searched at NJ.gov and then called the General Covid Questions hot line to find out.  The gentleman who answered the phone was very nice and put me on hold to investigate.  Nope, nada, niente.  Unlike Italy, New Jersey residents don’t have access to a tracing application that is coordinated by a government health agency.  I asked the call center person to please forward my suggestion that New Jersey needs an App – we can’t wait for the Federal Government – and  if there were to be an App it should be mandated.  The states I found that have asked citizens to voluntarily use Apps haven’t been successful. North Dakota was the first state.  At the end of August, Nevada launched an App. Let us hope that Nevadians sign up.  I haven’t been successful in finding many more.  Wooo Wooo fear of Big Brother watching seems to be the problem.  I’m a theatre kid – I don’t care who watches me, where, doing what or when. Seriously, I don’t care.  If tracking where I go can help stem the pandemic, I am all for it.  The New York Times just had an article about Apple and Google creating software.  Click Here to read the article.  If it is coordinated by our home states, I hope we are encouraged to use the software.

As those who follow this blog know,  I am not afraid to point out things that don’t work in Italy.  We hate to admit it but not everything in Southern Italy is absolutely amazing.  This commitment to keeping the population safe, however, is incredible and something that one would hope other bigger countries would copy.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

 

You too can make fresh pasta.  Consider Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo in 2021.

 

 

August Flashbacks

How did September get here?  What happened to August?  The pandemic – duh – no wonder I have no stories to tell of the annual August festa. Remember the year I tried to write about each of the seven events and slept through the last two? August in Pontelandolfo is usually jam-packed with concerts, art exhibits, processions, remembrance celebrations, Feragosto picnics and house parties. Pontelandolfesi from all over the world return home to eat, drink and reminisce with family seen only once every few years. This year, thanks to the pandemic, the monthlong whirlwind didn’t happen.

No stage was set up in Piazza Roma. 

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Performing artists weren’t  contracted or were cancelled.

Ri Ualanegli, our internationally acclaimed folk dance company, didn’t host a 2020 dance festival.

What did happen in August?  Gardens were tended.  Crops harvested.  Produce canned. Bars opened. Cards were shuffled. People strolled the piazza. Families ate, drank and enjoyed each other.  Trekking, forest foraging and picnics took place in the mountain.  Beaches were visited.  Kids started thinking about school starting on September 14th. Some folks did the usual August thing and went on vacations. Returning vacationers caused a surge in Covid-19 cases.  

Not again…

Pontelandolfo is a microcosm of good health.  During the pandemic, there has only been one case of Covid.  Perhaps it is the mountain air and great wine.  I will start thinking about next August and what a joy the annual festa will be.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.  Booking 2021.

 

Flour Wars, Mask Shortages – Improvising During a Pandemic

It was about 9:30 PM on a blustery early March night – a time when the Hillsborough Shop Rite was usually quiet – that the impact of the Corona Virus hit me.  This literally dark and stormy night the megastores’s parking lot was full. Crazed shoppers raced through the building. Shopping carts were piled high. People were wrenching paper towel rolls away from each other.  What the hell?  

Over the last few months, I bet all of us have seen long vacant toilet paper shelves and a sad empty paper towel aisle.  We have also seen resilience and creativity.  I found our cloth napkins – we use them for a few days before washing.  Why buy paper napkins? A cloth rag works well – who needs paper towels?  But flour and yeast – now that is another story.

You all know that my amazing cousin, Annarita, was trapped in our Condo.   What did we lust for?  Food Pontelandolfo Style.  I sobbed over the lack of good crusty bread – like those one kilo loaves made at Diglio Forno.  Annarita FaceTimed with her mom, Carmella, and groaned when she saw mamma’s fresh pasta.  Jack was aching for pizza from Sesto Senso.   Not, a problem, I thought.  If we can’t go to the village, let’s bring the village to us.

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Our Little Village in the Sannio Hills.  It was virus free!!!

With flour and yeast, Annarita would  replicate those gorgeous gluten powered treats.  So I thought.  Imagine my tears, when my end of March shop yielded not one wee bit of flour.  Yeast – who bought all the yeast? Not one packet of yeast was left on a shelf.  Did I look in more than one store – who are you asking?  Of course.  When did the entire population of Central Jersey start baking? This was not an isolated scene.  It may have been a global farina, mouka, mel, harina, flour shortage. My family in Pontelandolfo, who really do know how to bake, roast and toast, also said there was a run on yeast.  Obviously for the last few months, around the world, some folks were hoarding toilet paper – others – flour and yeast.  It took until April, but I did score flour.  Did I say score?  Sounds like I was jonesing for flour.  Obviously, I travelled far and wide in my quest for flour.

Now that we had flour, it was time for Annarita to do her magic.  She wanted to start with pasta and asked me where my pasta machine was.  Hmm, I thought where is that machine?  Oh yeah, when we moved to Italy I gave my New Jersey machine to my nephew, Christopher.  Rolling pin, she asked.  Hmmm, where did that go?  No problem, we are exceptional women and know how to improvise.  A quick search of our condo yielded –

You might think it is a closet rod but we saw a matterello, The long wooden dowel all the women in Pontelandolfo use to roll out dough.  Annarita asked if I had a pasta board.  Pasta board – you know that huge hunk of wood you knead and then roll dough on.  Years ago, when we sold our house in Flagtown, we sold everything and headed for Italy.  Who knew that we would buy a condo in New Jersey and be quarantined without furniture, dishes and things like a rolling pin. We were determined.  I bleached the counter, tossed down some flour and she was set.  We improvised.

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Need a place to dry pasta?  Improvise – go back to the closet and toss the clothes on the bed.

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Yeast?  Just ask my sister, Susan!  She sent me a link to a YouTube video  done by a cute Italian chef – “cuoredicioccolato” is the name of his channel.  The video explained how to make sourdough starter from stuff you have in the house!  Of course you do need flour.  Who knew honey, yogurt or raisons percolating in flour long enough started things growing!  Of course, this requires commitment – you have to keep feeding the sour beast flour daily!  My niece, Alex,  was committed –

Our family improvised it’s way around the crusty bread crisis. Others used their creativity problem solving.

My number one buddy, Janet, works at Somerset County Vocational Technical High School and was part of the team that made thousands of  plastic full face masks for medical workers.  Everyone knew there was a shortage of Personal Protection Equipment.  Faculty and students in the Mechatronics program fired up 3-D printers and voila 3-D printed plastic headbands popped out. Janet said the team scrounged the school to uncover every box of unused plastic transparencies.  They gave away thousands of completed masks to local hospitals.   Janet showed me one she made–

janetmask

I am no where near that creative.  But, I did solve our lack of masks problem. Masks had to be worn even on the short dash from our condo door to the mail room. Jack pointed out that he had tons of really old t-shirt material boxer shorts and asked if they would work.   I didn’t think we could walk around with under-gochies on our heads but hmmm.  One leg equals two layers of cotton.  Snip, snip – I cut off a leg. Found a stapler and stapled in pleats.  I do have a child’s sewing machine and was able to  toss a quick stitch or two down the outer edge to keep the pleats in.  Took out the staples and added panty streamers for ties.

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Yes, that is a vodka bottle.  Yes, it was full when I started.

I know that each and everyone of you has been creative and resilient. Under comments share your improvisation!  I want to know what creative solutions you all came up with to survive the pandemic. PULEEZE – inquiring minds want to know!

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Midge Guerrera

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo