Thanksgiving Dinosaur

It all started quite simply. Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, is not an Italian holiday. We had doctor appointments that day and a dinner reservation at Sesto Senso. Sure, I love my USA family and friends but did I need a Thanksgiving dinner to speak to them? Nope. That is what FaceTime is for. The day moved smoothly along until we were sitting down at Sesto Senso. We always make a reservation for 8:00 PM and are usually one of the first couples in the place but something felt wrong. It was Thanksgiving and we are surrounded by …

Empty tables made this a sad Thanksgiving.

Chaos! That is what one has on Thanksgiving! Too much food, screams of laughter, sighs of stuffed tummies and general mayhem. I had tuna tartare and no bloat. This night just felt wrong. I had to do something in a hurry. Without thinking it through I contacted my cousin Carmella and invited her and my extended Italian family for a real American taste of Thanksgiving. Since it was going to be on Sunday, I stole a moniker from my friend Janet. Same food, same chaos, different date equals Fakesgiving.

Friday Morning. Fifteen people are coming on Sunday. Where do I find a turkey? Do they sell stuffing in a bag? The mayhem I craved roared into my life. Take a breath Jack intoned. Grabbing a piece of paper I made a menu – my mom’s 1960s menu. Appetizers and cocktails – deviled eggs, doctored cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, cute pitted olives and cheese cube on a toothpick. Main – turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, green vegetable, three bean salad and succotash. Dessert – pumpkin pie, apple pie and whipped cream. Feeling so much calmer now that I had a plan, I leaped in the car. First stop the Marcelleria. Butcher, Stefano, said sure he could order a turkey breast and a turkey leg/thigh for Saturday. It would be enough for 15 people. Whew. One check on my list. Knowing I wouldn’t find canned broth for the stuffing or gravy, I bought about 3 pounds of chicken wings. Next, on to the vegetable store. Nicole found me apples, celery, onions, potatoes and joy of joy – broccoli. Lima beans, fava beans – any small green bean for succotash was out of the question. I grabbed a bag of dried white beans. At Diglio Forno I bought two loaves of bread. Next stop – Conad – pumpkin puree in a can – WHAT this is the land of homemade. My mind flashed to our veranda. My landlord had decorated with giant pumpkins. I could roast one and make my own puree. I decided to cheat and buy refrigerated pasta sfoglia for pie crusts. Heavy cream came in these little boxes on the shelf and required no refrigeration – hmmm. Cream cheese, of course they had Philadelphia. I loaded my cart with everything else I could think of. We had tons of olives processed after the harvest, so I didn’t need those. My last stop was a quick run to the cheese store. Check, check and check. Did I mention it has been raining for five days. Every time I went into a store I got drenched. Drenched and more drenched. The very dry Jack and I unloaded the car and I grabbed a pumpkin. The stock pot was loaded with the chicken wings and what ever vegetables were turning in my refrigerator. The chicken stock would slow cook over night. Sigh… What was I thinking.

Friday Afternoon. Desserts. Today, I will simply focus on making dessert. “Jack,” I bellowed, “Can you cut his fahkackatah pumpkin in half?” Jack ambled into the kitchen and pulled out a big knife. He looked at me. I looked at him. I left the room. A few hacks and curses later the pumpkin was halved and seeded. It was so large, I put the oven tray on the lowest rack and only roasted one half at a time. While the roasting was happening I commandeered Jack to start peeling apples for the apple pie. I was madly toasting bread – two cuts at a time – to get dried bread for stuffing. Other cuts of bread were stuffed in the oven around the pumpkin.

Ok. Now I have roasted pumpkin. What I do not have in Pontelandolfo is a food processor to turn the roasted pumpkin into puree. I call Carmella. She has something called a Vorwerk Bimby – food processor, cooker and fairy godmother. We dumped in the still warm pumpkin and out poured puree. So much puree. I mean buckets of puree. Soup! I’ll add pumpkin soup to the menu! Yeah, Midge why not just make more work for yourself. Chaos! I craved the chaos. Apple and pumpkin pies were made. The chicken stock was simmering. The ugly white dried beans I would use for the succotash were soaking. The table cloth and napkins were on the table. Broccoli was prepped. Vodka was poured.

Saturday. Rats. It is raining – AGAIN. Another drenched to the skin trip to the butcher. Mancini Marcelleria was packed. What are all these people doing standing outside in the rain waiting to buy meat? Covid rules – only two at a time in the store. From under my umbrella and with wet feet, I texted Jack. “This sucks.” Stefano knew I was there for the turkey parts. He went in the back and groaned under the weight of the package. The thigh and leg was so freakin’ large I started laughing. Is that from a dinosaur I asked? No, I was told a “tacchino maschio.” Man those Toms sure grow up here in the hills. If I were a hen turkey I’d be running the other way. The breast had to be ten pounds. I figured I had twenty pounds of turkey pieces. I lugged them home, hand rubbed them with herbs. Since they were sadly skinless, I layered pancetta over all of the pieces and squished them in the fridge. Saturday was a blur. My eyes were tearing from all the onions chopped. Eggs were cooked, three bean salad tossed, stuffing made, potatoes peeled, celery sliced, cheese cubed, beans cooked, pumpkin soup recipes searched, table partially set. Vodka poured.

Sunday – Fakesgiving. Like everyone who makes a turkey that weighs more than most cars here, I was up early. The turkey was weighing down the counter and the oven was preheating. I figured it would take five hours. I was wrong. I have a great convection oven and the turkey was in parts! It only took 2.5 hours and was done in advance. NOOOOOO! That wasn’t the only drama.

“Jack,” I queried, “where are the rest of the wine glasses?”

“Broken.”

“Why didn’t I know that?”

“You didn’t break them.”

Breathe. Not everyone drinks wine and a little mix and match is charming. I found a great recipe for pumpkin soup. Since I made the incredible chicken broth for the stuffing and I had puree all I needed was heavy cream. Plop. Yes, plop. The heavy cream that comes in the little boxes and don’t require refrigeration literally plop out of the box in one big disgusting white plop. Making the pumpkin pies, I had experienced this the day before, but it seemed grosser plopping into the orange soup. Tons of sage later, the soup was bubbling away. To add color to the cooked white bean and corn succotash, I diced jarred roasted pepper and tossed in some red. Potatoes were mashed. Broccoli started to steam. People arrived. We ate every bit of that menu. Giggles turned into guffaws over the 1960-esq appetizers – but I noticed all the stuffed celery was eaten.

Roasted walnuts and Parmesan – to make up for the lack of sour cream to drizzle.

My pumpkin soup was a smash. They adored the stuffing, vegetables and turkey. Antonio said, “Do this again next year.”

I looked around the table at the smiling faces. Remembered I had missed the chaos and said, “Certo.”

Vodka was poured.

Ci vedaimo!

Midge

Give the gift of theatre and order my play “E-mail: 9/12” for the book lover in your family. Find it at Next Stage Press.

Keep on the lookout for ” Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” my book of short stories about life in Italy.

It comes out in March from publisher Read Furiously.

Thank you!

Mi Voglio Bene – I Love Myself

Sitting in the piazza on November 1st, my heart was full and tears slowly slid down my face. Across from my table, parked in Piazza Roma was a portable – fully operational – medical unit. They were here not because there was an earthquake or flood or any other tragedy. They were here to prevent the tragedy of families loosing wives, mothers, sisters and daughters to cancer. Cancers that can be cured or held in remission with adequate warning. This was a portable screening center for female centered cancers. Pap tests, mammograms and colon screening tests were available. The set up was in the piazza all day, from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The posters and social media posts all touted “ Campagna di Prevenzione Oncologica Gratuita.” This was a free health project of the Region of Campania. The medical unit was stopping in small towns all over the region. It was so simple for people to access this service. Women only had to call Pontelandolfo’s city hall to make an appointment for Pap tests or mammograms. The colon test kit was available by simply walking up and asking for it.

The sun was shining on the outdoor waiting area. From my seat, sipping my cappuccino I could hear “numero 25 mammografia.”The medical team welcomed people as they ventured near the area. I noticed that men have also gone in to pick up the colon cancer test.

 

The set up was slick. The front had video projections “Mi Voglio Bene” talking about each of the available tests. This campaign urging women to love themselves and get screening is fabulous. Imagine, something like this pulling into small towns all over America! Actually, I would love to imagine it but sadly I don’t know if it would ever happen. I mean, politicians don’t seem to give a tinker about women’s health issues and too many voters don’t understand the validity of universal healthcare.

Ima

I first found out about the testing center on FaceBook – which is the major news vehicle here. Later, the posters in stores, on walls and in the newspapers reminded me to find out what I was eligible for. At first, the snarky Midge giggled at the thought of joining a line of woman, without underpants, waiting for their internal exams and pap smears. Crude of me, I know. Then I started to think about my mom dying of breast cancer because the diagnosis was too late and I stopped giggling. I started appreciating what was happening not only in Pontelandolfo but all over Campania.

The – has to be invented by a mean man- mammogram machine has its own room.

 

When I first got to the piazza at 9:00 AM, there weren’t any people waiting for services. I was one of the first women up the steps. Everyone was warm and friendly. I stoped at the reception desk and jokingly said I knew I was too old for everything but a colon test. Why did they limit mammography to women between the ages of 50 to 69, I asked. Younger women get ultrasounds. Both tests are given if something is found on one. I always wondered why we don’t use ultrasounds more in the USA. Believing on earring on the side of caution, I have been know to tell a tale to get an ultrasound. My breasts are dense and since my mom died of breast cancer, I often come up with some strange complaint to get one.

Then, I asked about the other age restrictions. Just like the USA’s medicare and other insurances, the national health care system restricts tests based on some data or another. For a Pap test the age range is 25 to 64. Every year a I beg for a pap-test. Medicare doesn’t cover them for old ladies either. Don’t old women get utero cancer??? A mammography is available for women between the ages of 50 and 69. I was obviously too old for that too. Though, when I talked about my mother dying of breast cancer, I discovered that they of course make exceptions. The Colon Cancer Screening kit was for folks between 50 and 74. It was the only test I hadn’t aged out of. The receptionist, who was charming and answered all my questions, asked for my health card and phone number. She then, just like at the deli, she gave me a number. I’ve noticed that in Italy, numbers are given out in medical waiting rooms. As part of their privacy laws, the nurses can’t bellow “Guerrera.”

Is it my imagination or is the signage upside down?

My test — – Since I was the only one there, I didn’t really need the number. I was immediately ushered into a private room and asked for my particulars – name, address, phone number, my health insurance card had pulled up my residency and date of birth information. A second nurse came into the room and explained the test. Simple – take sample from – no I will not describe how to take a stool sample. The important thing was after the sample is in the glass holder, I had to take it to the analysis center in Morcone. I wondered why people couldn’t just run home, do what they had to do and bring the sample back to the portable center. Morcone is only five minutes away so it will be no big deal. If I don’t hear anything in ten days, the test was negative. I wish they would tell you either way. I think I’ll ask. 

Sadly, for the three hours I sat at Bar Elimar I didn’t see hordes of women going to the center. November 1st, Festa di Tutti i Santi – All Saints Day, and a national holiday so it should have been easy for people to come. They are constantly coming but there is not a surge or a long line. Gulp, I just remembered women made appointments! Perhaps they are staggered appropriately.

 For fun, when I got home I googled the ranking of the United States on health care issues. Every list I found from the World Health Organization to independent foundations ranked the USA – well not well. Never in the top 20. Just another reason to rethink the system of providing health care for not only women but all Americans.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge

 

My play, “E-mail: 9/12” is available at Next Stage Press

The 9/11 based play is perfect for a Book Club and a History Class.

In March “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be available from Read Furiously.

Thank you in advance for buying my play
and in March my book of short Italian stories.

 

Will My Vote Count?

I am proud to say that, since I was twenty-one, I have voted in every election. Correct, I haven’t missed one. Voting is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a political family. When fall came around, I was licking stamps and stuffing envelopes. Phone banks are part of my DNA.

Now, sister Susan and I may have posed for this press kit shot BUT, I learned to work the phones when I was old enough to talk. Other kids went to football games, I went to political fundraisers. I must admit, when election time comes around I still miss the electric charge of working on a campaign. The after parties were pretty charged too. Of course, spending the summer and fall in Italy does put a little damper on electioneering activity.

Democrats Abroad is a great organization and I have phone banked through my computer to help with voting from outside of the country. They also hold events, classes and get togethers.

Voting from outside the United States should be a simple process. I usually go through the Democrats Abroad website to https://www.votefromabroad.org/ and get an absentee ballot emailed to me. Vote from Abroad is a non-partisan service. You can also go to New Jersey’s home page and search for the documents. I found it easier to use Vote from Abroad. For New Jersey residents here is the process –

  1. Fill out the on-line information.
  2. Wait for an absentee ballot to be sent to you via email.
  3. Print out the ballot and all the forms that come with it.
  4. Complete the ballot.
  5. Sign the electronic transmission sheet.
  6. Sign the Waiver of Rights to a secret ballot. Obviously, if you email your ballot back people will know who you voted for. I voted for Governor Phil Murphy! Doesn’t bother me if you know that.
  7. Scan all the documents and email the package back to the email address you received for the County Board of Elections. I did all that on October 7, 2021.

The only thing that is squirrely is that legislation from 1995 that was amended in 2008 declares that I “pledge to place the original voted ballot in a secure envelope, together with another required certification, and send the documents immediately by airmail to the appropriate County Board of Elections”

Sending mail from Italy guarantees that no one will get it. Or if they do get it, it will be a year or so later. I can attest to this since I have sent birthday cards from Italy that no one got. Forget postcards – they get eaten in transit. When we voted in Somerset County my ballot was always approved. I would call and be told not to worry. This year I called Mercer County and was told if they didn’t get the very slow snail mail copy by the week after the election my ballot would be tossed.

Panic set in. On October 8, I googled FEDEX and found an office in Campobasso. With our packet in hand we raced to the city, found the place and I ran in. Gasping for breath, in my only passable Italian, I told the clerk I wanted to get my ballot to New Jersey quickly.

Where is the label, the clerk asked.

Can’t I complete a label here?

No you have to pay from your computer, print out the label and complete the package.

This is a print shop. You have three computers. May I use one, print out the label, pay you and you FEDEX this ballot to New Jersey?

No. You must do it at home.

Why.

Bo.

I got back to the car about ready to explode. Hmm, I might have exploded. We raced back to Pontelandolfo and hoped the Ufficio Postale would still be open. I mailed the package and paid extra for tracking. Ha Ha.

Then I did what any good politicians daughter would do. I contacted my Assemblymen and Senator. My vote is important and I wanted to know what could be done to insure it would be counted. Senator Shirley Turner called Mercer County and was told the ballots would be counted. I love Senator Turner! Yeah! But I’m still worried.

As of today, my ballot was received but not accepted. I’ll check the day after the election. You are probably thinking it is only one vote. One vote can change more than we realize…

Ci Vediamo.

Midge – midgeguerrera.com


My play, “E-mail: 9/12” is available at Next Stage Press

In March “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be available from Read Furiously.

Blatant Midge Promotion!

Blatant pitch – my play E-mail: 9/12 joins the roster of Next Stage Press! (Go on – click on it!)

That’s mine – circled in yellow! Oh My Goddesses!

Since I have been typing away in Italy, I have gotten some publishing contracts. I am so excited that I have been jumping up and down. They can feel the vibrations in Switzerland. Today is a super duper big day for me – Today, October 1, 2021, Next Stage Press is launching the publication of my 20 year old play E-mail: 9/12. This play had a lot of performances during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Now it is the 20th anniversary and it is getting published. Weeeeooooooo!

Everyone has that special place and maybe even time when creative juices bubble up to the top and magic happens. Pontelandolfo is that place for me. Perhaps, this is my time. Since we arrived in May, I have been a writing and pitching maniac. Maybe it was the Covid-19 reality that death could come knocking when you least expect it that put me in hyper creative and marketing mode. Maybe if is the cappuccinos at Bar Elimar. Whatever it was, I am thankful and feel blessed.

E-Mail: 9/12, takes place on September 12, 2001 – the day after the 9/11 tragedy. The work demonstrates how sharing, caring, grieving and even allowing a spark of humor to fly through cyberspace helped our nation get through the painful aftermath of 9/11. During and after one of the most horrific tragedies our nation has ever faced, our keyboards kept us connected. The play, written as a series of e-mail responses, provides a picture that probes into the hearts of the people that were there, had someone there and those of us who will always be able to tell you where we were when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 AM in New York City.

Have I mentioned, the launch is today? E-mail; 9/12, besides being an easily producible play, would make great auxiliary reading for history, social studies or sociology classes. At the end of the play, there are questions developed in conjunction with social worker, Cindy Quick to help spur on discussion.

Of course, I would love to see the play produced by College, Community, Professional or any type of theater. That said, I think you would also find the play an interesting read. Blatant Pitch – why not buy a copy? Share a copy! Thank you so much for letting me fill my blog with a Blatant Pitch. Hugs to you all.

Here are the other works being published today by Next Stage Press:

Ben Franklin and Baron von Steuben vs. The Paine County School Board – https://nextstagepress.net/ben-franklin-baron-von-steuben-vs-the-paine-county-school-board/
Cranium Fandango- https://nextstagepress.net/cranium-fandango/
Dark Twist – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
Email: 9/12 – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
The Hound and The Yellow Wallpaper – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Miss Julie En Hollywood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Parish Dunkeld – https://nextstagepress.net/parish-dunkeld/
Sally, Hank and Their Son Harry – https://nextstagepress.net/sally-hank-and-their-son-harry/
Setting the Moon – https://nextstagepress.net/setting-the-moon-2/
Short and Scary – https://nextstagepress.net/short-and-scary-2/
The Spirit, The Body & The Blood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-spirit-the-body-and-the-blood/
Trash Day – https://nextstagepress.net/trash-day-2/

Ci vediamo!

Midge

My First Big Italian Wedding!

Hmm, is Midge telling a big bugia? Her “First” big Italian Wedding – doesn’t her sister’s wedding – replete with major politicians – count? How about nephew Joey’s – taking place in a New Jersey palace? If we are concerned about the truth here – how about her “simple wedding” to Jack. The ceremony featured ballerinas and a harpist? Stop! It is absolutely the truth – Midge and Jack went to their First Big Italian Wedding in Italy! For tradition, glamour and length, being at an Italian family wedding in Italy tops all those others.

I thought it would be fun to glide over those things that are the same and talk about the differences between the weddings I’ve witnessed before and this one. Let’s start with the invitations. In today’s frenetic USA world, save the date notices are often sent out a year before the wedding. Here in Pontelandolfo, no one is notified until one month before the wedding – after Il Promesso – I told you about that a month ago. That “Promise” is the contract to really truly get married. A few days after it, the bride and groom hand carry the invitations to everyone within driving distance. Giusy did e-mail invitations a wee bit in advance to the United States. I bet Antonio did the same thing for relatives who live far away. How incredibly personal! The invitations were printed on a natural fiber that was imbedded with wild flower seeds. After the wedding, invitees were encouraged to plant the invitations. They had witnessed the love between Giusy and Antonio bloom and next spring would watch the flowers blossom.

About two weeks before the big day, I couldn’t understand why my cousin Carmella was frantically calling a caterer, cleaning and perking up her house. I figured an incredible venue had been booked why stock food for the masses at the house? Tradition. The morning of the wedding the bride’s family – which included me – was expected to show up at the bride’s home, eat a bit and celebrate la sposa. Ladies, imagine, the day of your wedding a bunch of family members happily visiting you as you tweaked your make up?

A week before the wedding – we ladies did what women around the world do. We dragged the giggling Giusy away for a day with the ladies. We went to a fabulous spa, Fonte del Bennesere Resort in Castelpetroso.

Swirling water, super lunch and sex talk!
Nothing like a floating bar to keep the party happy.

That final week before the wedding, the push was on to finish all of the guest gifts. Groom, Antonio De Michele raises bees and produces some of the finest honey in the area. Giusy and Antonio – with the help of family – bottled 200 small jars of Antonio’s honey, decorated and boxed it. Seating charts always take time to figure out. The design was a no brainer – honeycombs! Each table had a name and all guests were listed in bee hives. Check. Two jobs done. Then came the work on the love phrases. Yes, love phrases – Giusy and Antonio researched and chose quotes that dealt with good relationships by famous authors. Each guest found the gentle love reminder at their place. “Salutarsi è una pena così dolce che ti direi addio fio a domani.” William Shakespeare. (Saying goodbye is such a sweet pain that I would say goodbye until tomorrow.)

Knowing that party was going to go on into the wee hours, Jack and I decided to do an advance trip to the venue and see if slightly drunk/tired we would be able to find our way home. We followed the GPS round and round hill top roads to Villa Clodia in Pago Veiano (BN). The majestic wedding palace is in the middle of nowhere on roads that this lady in her third act didn’t want to navigate at night. We booked a B&B down the road.

Wedding gifts in Pontelandolfo seem to always be in cash. There are no bridal registries. No one ships silver or crystal to the bride to be. The cash is also a set amount per person. I kept asking about this and heard the same amount and same story from numerous people. Couples use the gifts to pay for the elaborate wedding parties. Some misanthropes, I’m told, make sure the cash is in small bills in the “busta.” If they don’t feel they are getting bang for their bucks at the reception, they pull out some of the euros. I’m not making this up – really – more than one person told me. The opposite is also true. Annarita told me she and Emanuele went to a wedding that was so opulent they opened their gift envelope and stuck in an extra euros.

Wedding day was finally here. Hair dressers, make-up artists, videographers, photographers and Jack and I all paid a visit to Giusy and the Mancini family at home. This tradition of the extended family seeing the bride off from her home is very sweet. The house was festooned with flowers, tulle and camera boxes. Everyone was smiling and laughing as the video and photography team managed the show. Hmm, were we dress extras?

The house, family and of course Giusy all looked amazing.
Giusy looked like a movie star – or a princess. Beautiful.

Time for the church! The mass was scheduled for 11:00 AM. A morning event, I discovered, doesn’t necessarily mean one dresses in a tea length dress and pearls – like I did. There were women arriving at the church in bejeweled evening wear. I will admit, I felt correct in my navy blue silk. Equally sure that the gorgeous women in floor length finery felt equally correct. The exterior of the church was decorated by Nicola Ciarlo and really set the stage. Speaking of stage – there was a drone flying over head videotaping our arrivals.

Groom, Antonio, zoomed up in a red Ferrari!

Applause! This hit me as something I hadn’t seen in the USA. Led by the priest, the audience was encouraged to applaud for the bride and groom not just at the end of the service but three or four times during the service. I love it! Applause was a mainstay later at the reception too.

The church with its gold alter is always a sight to behold. Festooned with flowers and tulle it was the perfect setting for a lovely wedding.
Antonio and Giusy are ready to lead a life of love. Jack and I wore matching navy. So did my cousin Carmela and her husband Mario – Giusy’s parents. We all look yummy.

We dashed off after the mass to La Vecchia Fattoria, the B&B we booked. The rooms were clean and utilitarian – if you like youth hostels. The place was country-set beautiful and we found the parking lots packed. Turns out it an agriturismo with a stellar reputation for lunch. We landed in foodie heaven! Leaving our bags, we drove the three minutes to Villa Clodia. First step, proof of vaccine. Second step, fill out the contact form. Third step, join our “hive” of friends at a table for 8 under a giant pergola. The cocktail hour was glamorous. Uniformed waitstaff flowed between tables pouring Prosecco and tempting us with small plates of everything from seafood to rice balls. Knowing that a multi course meal was scheduled, I held off and only tasted a bite or two. Yumm.

The wedding was a moving feast. The next stage was the grand ballroom. The couple did something very clever. Each table entered the foyer to the ballroom as a group. They were then placed by the photographer around the bride and groom for a photo. That insured that every guest was in a shot with the stars of the show. A three piece combo was set up in the corner of the ballroom. We found our hive and began our 6 hour – or was it 7 hour – feast. No one was dancing. We were told due to COVID dancing was not encouraged. Applause was encouraged by the band. Applaud the grandparents. Eat a new course. Applaud the parents. Eat a new course. Applaud the sibling. Eat a new course. Thanks the goddesses for the energy expended applauding. It freed up space in our filling stomachs. Actually, the applause was heartfelt and fun. After the second or third Primi Piatti, the bride and groom did their first dance. When the parents and grandparents were encouraged to join them, Jack and I snuck in. Hell, we are old enough to be their grandparents.

There were fairly long periods of time between courses – I counted 14 courses but could be wrong. People would go outside and sit on the well appointed terrace and amble back just as waiters scurried about with the next course. After the fruit course, which – groan- we realized was probably the last, I went to the ladies room. Sadly, I was there for a while. When I got back, the grand ballroom was empty. Not a guest. Not a waiter. Not a band member. No one except Jack. He didn’t know where everyone went. I sure as heck, not having been in the room, had a clue where all the people were. We walked out of the ball room to the upper terrace and didn’t see a soul. We left. WHAT A COLOSSAL MISTAKE!

The party had apparently moved to the lower level of the property. Tables were set poolside. Waiters ported huge trays filled with glorious pastries from table to table. Prosecco was poured. After dinner drinks and coffee were available. Music filled the late night air. The couple cut the enormous wedding cake – actually it was a faux cake and they just pretended. During Covid, buffets and touching the cake are off limits. Individual tiramisus made there way to each guest. Then the scent of grilling meats filled the air. An after the party, party of more food was about to begin. WE MISSED IT ALL. The next day in the piazza, I was chastised by a friend for not saying goodbye to anyone and just leaving. That is when I discovered what we had missed. I felt incredibly stupid for not understanding or asking in advance what the usual protocol was. Sorry for leaving my First Big Italian Wedding before it was over.

Ci vediamo,

Midge

Check out what launches October 1st!

The Art of Rito Ruggiero

Living in Pontelandolfo and blogging about our life, I am often sent questions. The most often asked is, “Just what do you do all day in a small Italian village.” When I’m feeling snarky, I tell folks, I walk to the well and pull up water and then hand wash our clothes in the stream. What I really do is leap into village life with both feet and get involved on lots of levels. Since my brain was pre-wired to love the visual and performing arts, I get involved with the arts here in Pontelandolfo too. Note the poster above. (Thank you Valerio Mancini for the graphic.) In two weeks, we are producing an art exhibit at my house! Talk about an up close and personal setting. It is open to the public. Who knows how many people will show up? I hope a lot. Now I am not thinking like the a member of the Medici family. These famous patrons of the arts often shared the work of their favorites with polite society. I don’t want to share Rito Ruggiero’s art. I want people to buy it and bring the fabulous pieces home. This is an art show and sale. Hmm, I am getting ahead of myself. We need the Who, What, Why and When. Let’s start with Who.

In 2018 as part of a weeklong festival of the arts, Rossella Mancini and I produced a huge art exhibit that featured the work of Pontelandolfo artists. It was during that crazed week that I was first introduced to the art of Rito Ruggiero. I was so impressed that I immediately put a “sold” sticker on one painting and took it home. It proudly hangs in our dining room. The work represents Pontelandolfo’s past.

Ooops – my reflection in the glass. Yes, we have stone walls..

Rito tells me, that since he was a boy, he as been passionate about the arts –  especially  painting. A visit to his home confirms that. A table is set up in his studio filled with supplies designed to entice his grandchildren to share his love for painting. Hanging upstairs in his dining room are a number of incredible works in charcoal pencil. The images of children’s faces, faces of actresses, women’s  nudes and mountain landscapes defy anyone to think they were drawn years ago by teenage Ruggiero. He later worked in watercolor, tempera and oil.

He has participated in several national and international painting competitions. His work has garnered numerous awards including gold and silver medals.

Even though he was a banker for most of his adult life, he kept on painting. No matter where he was, the art supplies came along. His work encompasses scenes from all over Italy, as well as, still life and nudes. He has a huge inventory of framed finished work. Now retired, he is revisiting his work and that bring us to the What.

Before the evil pandemic set in, I promised Rito we would organize a solo show of his work. The show is September 12, 2021 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Yes, there will be wine!. The air here is fresh and clear, the exhibit will be on our covered terrance so everyone can social distance.

Now you have the what and the when. The where is on the poster. If you happen to be in my area, come and introduce yourself. Enjoy the art and the conversation.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Midgeguerrera.com

Calcio and Me

Last week Italy played England in the UEFA EURO 2020 match. Until last week, I didn’t know there was a UEFA or that it stood for the Union of European Football Associations. I also didn’t understand why this was the 2020 match – duhhhhh – the pandemic squashed last year’s. As our entire village started preparing for this event, I realized I better do some research or would be a really stupid Italian – American.

Italian Flags Fluttered in Advance of the Match

AHEM, said the professoressa with rich but boring academic tones, Italy has been in 10 major tournament finals – 6 world cup, 4 EURO.  Among the European nations, only Germany has played in more.  The not so staid English have never been in the finals of a European Championship.  This was their first try at a major tournament since winning the 1966 World cup.  Sadly, for them, but not for us THEY LOST!

The night of Italy’s win, I finally began to understand calico. Don’t be silly, I still don’t understand the rules or why a sport that is supposed to take 90 minutes takes a lot more than 90 minutes. What I finally began to understand was that the game wasn’t as important as the opportunity for neighbors, friends, soon to be friends and outright enemies to have a communal focus. Joining the majority of the village in the Piazza that night, I saw everyone from infants to people older than Jack staring at movie screens and holding their collective breaths at the same time. Cries of alarm went up when goals were missed. Chairs were knocked over as the crowd leapt to its feet when a goal was made. In-between these specific moments people were talking to not only those at their table but those around them.

All the bars in town, who had starved during lockdown, had prepared for the onslaught of customers – who were more than customers. Surrounding each bar, staring at television and movie style screens, were people who had been trapped in their homes for over a year and were now not only supporting their country’s team but supporting each other. Babies were passed from person to person, drinks and food were bought and sent to different tables, bar owners were assisted by family and friends who are like family, strangers and “the local Americans” were embraced. (There was no embracing but lots of elbow touching.)

For one night, no one was worrying about the latest designer version of Covid or what would happen when the region moved from Covid White status to yellow or worse. The angst of the past year was lost as a team of Italian men chased a ball across the pitch. (That is what they call the playing field – don’t ask me why I haven’t a clue.)

At the beginning of the match, as fireworks filed the air, all stood and sang the Italian national anthem. Italians were coming together with one focus – winning. We won the match and we in Italy will beat this pandemic.

Here is a quick peak at what I enjoyed:

Ci vediamo-

Midge

Join us in Pontelandolfo in 2022! 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