Not Another Fava Bean Favorite!

Tis the season to enjoy the fava beans that miraculously appear at my door. Didn’t I just write about fava beans – anybody remember? Here in Pontelandolfo spring has more than sprung fresh produce. Gardens are lush and fava beans are growing everywhere. In two days they will disappear. That means peel them, cook them and eat them while you can. Yawn, sigh – again. I hate to yawn over free food that is full of vitamins, minerals and protein. More importantly, I’m told by local fava lovers, regularly eating fava beans may boost your immune system.

As I sat down to free the beans from a hundred pods, my cousin Carmela texted and announced that at 3:00 PM she was coming for an Aperol Spritz. She wouldn’t come alone. Yikes, aperitivo time is snack time. What do I have that could pass as a snack? Fava beans? I googled fava and found that people make spreads out of them. After reading a few recipes, I tossed my iPad aside and started experimenting. Here is my latest creation.

  1. Peel a bunch of beans.
  2. Toss them in water and boil them until the outer skin looks wrinkled. (About 5 minutes.)
  3. Burn my fingers peeling off the wrinkled outer skin. You would probably wait until they cooled.
  4. Look around for stuff to toss in the blender with them.
Notice the RED fingers.

I had a beautiful “sweet onion”, garlic and tons of spices. First thing tossed in the food processor – what you thought I’d use a mortar and pestle – was half an onion. VVVVVVVRRRRRooom, my eyes were tearing but the onion was squished. How much garlic? Jack and I believe a head of garlic is the perfect amount for any dish. Since I was only making about a cup or two of dip, I tossed in two cloves. VVVVRRRRRooom. Done. Next the fava. VVVVVRRRRRooom – what the heck? It looked like some yucky chopped up yuck. Olive oil! Of course! I added some fresh local olive oil and looked around for herbs. Salt, pepper and – I had saffron! Saffron.

It smells OK but needed something. Something? Hot pepper? No, I hate super hot stuff. Then I saw the bowl of fresh lemons on the counter. Boing – of course – that would punch it up. I squeezed in half a large lemon and gave the food processor another spin.

Did I ever admit that I am a cook who never remembers to taste what I am cooking? Well, I won’t admit it now. I put the mush in a pretty bowl, surrounded it with taralli and crostini. Divine. Hmm, I wonder what it tastes like?

Cousins Carmella, Annarita and pal Maryann showed up for Aperol Spritz and lady language. “Midge, tu hai fatto vellutata!” Vellutata? Would it be crass to look the word up before I made the drinks? My green mush was apparently something quite chic! Vellutata!

After everyone had a sip of their Spritz – or was it a glass – we dipped into the vellutate di fava. OMG – it hinted of guacamole! Maryann, who is also American, said we needed Doritos or tortilla chips. There are no tortilla chips to be found but San Carlo makes a spicy little corn horn. My green mush was delicious! What a discovery. We drank, laughed and ate all the green mush – I mean vellutate di fava.

Oh, on a practical note. Carmella told me I didn’t have to peel and cook all the fava. I should freeze some for later. No, no, I said. On line it said you had to blanch them, toss them in an ice bath and generally spend too much time in the kitchen. She shrieked with laughter. Here in Pontelandolfo, women just toss the beans still in the pods in a zip lock bag. Work out all the air and toss them in the freezer! Damn! Who knew! Just another Monday in Pontelandolfo.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Enjoying my blog – you will laugh out loud at my book!

Click Here To Visit My Publication Page.

PS: Here comes a begagraph – that is a paragraph where I beg you to do something. Something so easy it is definitely peasy. This November I would like to fill my calendar with readings of my funny memoir meets travel guide book about living in Pontelandolfo and driving. A reading of Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos would be fun for all of us. Please pitch me to your bookclub, social club, Italian American club, local bar, library or bring me in as a guest to a class. When I am in New Jersey I love being busy. I also love acting out my work. So PLEASE FIND ME GIGS!

GRAZIE MILLE

Shopping is Social

We have only been back for a few days and the larder was more than bare. Thursdays the shops are only open half a day so I was up at dawn – well, 8:00 – to start foraging. Not being totally insane my first stop was Bar Elimar for a cappuccino and brioche.

Dov’è Jack? Where’s Jack? Repeated the chorus at the bar.

Let us get the “where’s Jack” part of the story over. Cripes, without Jack at my side I am chopped liver. After my coffee, I went to the hardware store. “Where’s Jack?”. Next I stopped at Conad, our little local supermarket. “You’re solo today? Where’s Jack?” The fruits and vegetable store, the place to buy agricultural stuff, the butcher. “Dov’è Jack!” I have that phrase memorized. Thank you merry questioners for today’s basic lesson in how important Jack is to the village. Well, I always knew that, but it was kind of cool to have it reinforced. He is the smiling part of this couple. Actually, the queries about Jack reinforce today’s theme. Shopping is social.

The check out people at the super supermarkets where I shop in New Jersey smile and are courteous but never ask me “where’s Jack?” No one leans over the counter or comes around the counter just to gossip about the weather, life or what is happening in the world.

Today’s foraging had me socially interacting, entertained and paying prices that were so low that I had a hard time not saying they were a mistake. At the Ferramenta, hardware store, the owner and I had a nice chat while he spent time adjusting, cleaning and putting a battery in the remote control for our giant electric gate. We talked about a friends cruise, laughed at the electrical tape that held my remote together, and spent time as neighbors. Repaired remote plus battery – €1.50.

Next stop, Fresh Fruits, for incredible Italian oranges, lettuce, cucumbers, red onions, peppers and I don’t know what else I spent €5.50. Nicola, The young woman who owns the store is always working alone, spends time chatting with each customer and puts a smile on my face.

Jack calls Conad, “the supermarket that time forgot.” Actually, if you didn’t know it was hidden down an alley you wouldn’t know it was there. No sign, not a flag, nothing, niente to let you know it exists. Trucks are constantly unloading supplies for this tiny full service grocery store. It may not have a sign but the three women who work there, make the experience so pleasant that people visit once a day. Imagine, the manager today asked me if I wanted “un buon caffè.” She was going to make me a coffee. I spent about €50 but bought three bottles of Prosecco, a bottle of Jack Daniels, butter, eggs, tuna, canned tomatoes – three bags full of stuff. After dragging the stuff to the car, I was off to the baker, agricultural store and butcher. Each place made me feel like family.

My last stop was a tiny little wooden building in neighboring Morcone. Pecorino Del Sannio only makes and sells cheeses made with sheep’s milk. I had only been there twice four months ago and yet the owner asked,”How did my cheese carry to New Jersey?” We tasted her latest creation, lemon flavored sheep’s milk aged cheese soaked in Aglianico ( a red local wine.) Delish. I bought a hunk. I wanted my cousin Carmella to try the cheese so I bought her a pound. Then I bought a lot more. Before I got the bill she asked if I wanted to taste her sweets. Who could say no? She then proceeded to gift me a huge pecora ricotta and pistachio dessert. This enjoyable outing cost me €31.

Pecorino Del Sannio in Morcone

To some, shopping in small shops on a daily basis may seem like a throwback to 1950. It may be, or it may be that a life style that rewards conversation, personal service and inclusion is worth keeping.

Ci Vediamo.

Midge

To read more about my life in Pontelandolfo buy my book, Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos.

Published by Read Furiously

Masks Unmasked

Jack and I came home to Pontelandolfo to find a bag of scrumptious fava beans on our door step. Our neighbor, Lina, had left them for us. (You’ve heard me talk about the ever growing and traveling fava bean before. Click if you haven’t.) The beans themselves are nestled in a furry lined pod. I sat down to clean them and realized I was “unmasking” the hidden delights.

As I unmasked the raw beans, I saw each little bean as a person who had been safely ensconced and came home to me unharmed. On May 4th, we arrived in Italy from the unmasked state of New Jersey. Frankly, since Covid was still active, I never felt particularly safe with the unmasking edict. Prior to boarding our flight to Rome, I was thrilled to read that Italy still had some stringent masking travel rules in place. The FFP2 masks remain mandatory on airplanes – as well as other methods of travel. (FFP2 is similar to N95 or KN95 masks.). Every passenger on our United Flight should have read all the Covid rules and regulations.

Of course, there is always someone who doesn’t read, doesn’t care or obviously knows better and can be a pain in the butt about it. “Why do I have to put on a mask?” shrieked the woman boarding the plane a few people behind me. The United employee at the gate was very calm and tried to explain that it was a rule. The loud mouth continued screaming, “we don’t have to wear masks anymore – didn’t you get the message?”

You who know me, know what is coming. I couldn’t bear it another nanosecond and pulling my school administrator stop the riot voice of authority out of my ass turned and bellowed – “It is an Italian law. We are taking a plane to Italy and Italian law supersedes whatever it is you are talking about.” Jack grabbed my arm and pulled me forward.

I mean what is the big deal about a mask? Since we arrived in Pontelandolfo, we have been surrounded by masks. The day we got here, after a short nap – OK from noon until 7:30 PM – we tossed on some clothes and went to dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant, Sesto Senso. Everyone working there was wearing a mask. Patrons wore masks until they got beverages. Tables were more that ten feet apart. No one complained. Masks in the grocery store, masks in the pharmacy, masks at the butchers, masks anywhere groups of people were congregating and no one was bitching.

Back to the fava beans. The little pods protect the beans until they are big, strong and scrumptious. I enjoy being protected by my mask and look forward to the end of Covid and being strong and scrumptious too.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Laugh at my antics in Pontelandolfo and Southern Italy. Get a copy of my book, wherever books are sold.

Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos

Published by Read Furiously

Tales of Pontelandolfo to Hit Bookstores

For the past ten years, many of you have been with me on my journey as a Jersey girl living in Pontelandolfo. My second – or is it third – act as a quasi expat in a small Southern Italian village has been filled with unexpected life detours. Your support of my blog was the kick in the keister I needed to write a book about these Italian adventures. Gulp – the book is being published by independent press, Read Furiously! It even has an ISBN number – it is the freakin’ real deal. Wowza!

I cried when I saw this. Alex said it is like preparing for a Broadway opening – we are in previews!

In these most unpredictable times, a fantastic get away is just at your finger tips! Sip a prosecco, sit in a cozy chair and read about places that you are not only visiting through my book, but can someday experience yourself. Giggle at the illustrations drawn by my best bud Janet Cantore Watson.

Pre-ording the book insures a copy lands in your mailbox at the same time it hits the book stores. All of you have always been here with me. As I think about you now reading my book, my heart fills with emotion. Thank you.

Pre-order from my great publisher – Read Furiously!

Pre-order a book at your local bookstore. Say hi for me. I would be happy to do a zoom reading for them too. You can also use Bookshop.org.

Barnes & Nobel now has it available for pre-order. So does Amazon.it! Amazon.com will have it someday.

Grazie mille! Abbracione a tutti!

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Check out my plays on Next Stage Press and the New Play Exchange.

Award winning actor hails from Pontelandolfo

Maybe it is something in the water or the mountain air that has made our small Southern Italian village, Pontelandolfo, a breeding ground for talented artists, musicians, writers and actors. Michele Albini, a successful actor is a case in point. Pontelandolfese have cheered their native son as he appeared in numerous films, television shows and on professional stages.

Pontelandolfo’s Michele Albini

Albini was born to be a performer. At the age of six, he was playing the piano. By seventeen he was acting. He even served as a young artistic director of Gruppo Teatrale Folk Ri Ualanegli. (Our folkloric dance and theatre company.) Yes, it is true, for decades we have had an incredible folkloric dance company in Pontelandolfo.

In 2001, after a three-year stint as an Air Force  Officer, Albini decided  to move to Rome and study theatre and music. Soon we were seeing him on posters, playbills and of course in theaters.  2012 found him accepting “Il Premio Massimo Troisi” award in the New Generation category. (This is a huge deal.) He has been on stage in such theaters in  Rome as the Elysée, Teatro dell’Opera, Cometa Off, Teatro Due, as well as, at the Teatro Massimo in Benevento and at the Cimarosa in Aversa.  Flicking around the television dial, we have caught him acting in shows like  Gente di mare, Don Matteo, Il mostro di Firenze, Donna Detective 2, I Cesaroni, and La vita che corre. Instead of me prattling on about his talent – check out his Showreel!

Sadly, I’m in New Jersey this month so I couldn’t dash over to Rome and see Albini in his latest professional production, “L’Amico Ritrovato.”

Featuring Michele Albini

Based on the internationally successful book, L’ Amico Ritrovato shares the story of two boyhood friends, Hans (played by Michele Albini) and Konradin whose friendship, was suddenly interrupted in 1935 by Hitler’s racial laws. The bond between a Jewish boy and a German boy is broken by episodes that will forever divide their lives. Many years after his separation from Konradin, Hans receives a letter that unexpectedly rewrites a part of their history.

Director, Alessandro Sena, using an adaptation written in collaboration with Marco Tassotti has created a moving work where the word, the movement and the music, create a strong scenic impact. The characters move in different historical moments from the 70s to the 30s recounting the horrors caused by Nazism and friendships that will always unite us.

When he is not acting, Albini is a writer and a musician. This past August, Jack and I were lucky to see him perform with his talented brother, Romeo in a musical biography of the Beatles, “In Spite of All The Danger”. Michele Albini wrote, performed and directed the piece. The production, produced by Egeria, was held in the village’s mini amphitheater. It was a perfect summer night filled with music, wine and the talented Albini family.

I am sure there will be more creative projects in store for Michele Albini and I hope we are on the right side of the Atlantic to see the next one.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge Guerrera

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Keep checking the Buy a Book page and be one of the first to read my new collection of short Italian tales – Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos.

Rocked by Culture Shock

Every time we leave our little hilltop Italian village and head back to New Jersey I get slammed with culture shock. Usually, it hits me in the wallet. I turn purple when I buy a cappuccino that sucks and costs me $3.00 or more. In Pontelandolfo, a fabulous morning cappuccino is only ninety cents. This year the culture shock surrounded the attitudes and regulations about Covid. For the past seven months we were living in a Southern Italian village that was Covid free and followed all the rules. (Yes, I know that Italy does have high Covid numbers – we live in a magical part of the country.) We had a “green pass” app on our phones that provided stores, restaurants, bars etc. with our personal QR code. That code let the business know that we had been vaccinated and had a booster shot. It also would be used for contact tracing if we had it recorded in a place where Covid was later unearthed.

Great roasted calamari but no over-heard conversations.

We went to the same fabulous seafood restaurant – Sesto Senso – once a week. Once a week the waiters, who all know our names, asked to scan our green pass. The family that owns the restaurant also tossed into storage half of their tables and chairs. Even when the place was fully booked, we were seated so far away from another table that I couldn’t eaves drop.

Without a green pass, or evidence of vaccination and/or a recent negative Covid test, one cannot eat in a restaurant, enter a bar, go to work, ride the train, take a bus or enter the airport. To get into the terminal at Rome Fiumincino Airport we had to show our green pass and wear an N95, FFP2 or KN95 mask. Made sense to me. As we approached the United counter, we had to again show the green pass and the certification of a negative Covid test taken in the last 24 hours. We showed that green pass again at security and at the gate. Jack tells me I am forgetting a few places. It was about six times that we had to have proof of vaccination and/or covid test.

Accidentally one day, I raced into the Mini Market – where I know everyone – and was asked to turn around, go out to my car and get my forgotten mask. Ooops. Masks rock! People wore masks taking a stroll around the piazza. They wore masks shopping, giggling, chatting, learning and living. To me their masks represented their concern for other people. My mask will protect you from me. Mask wearing is a commitment to the society we live and work in. Masked, my sneeze isn’t going to shoot villainous virus thingies over to you.

Masked up at an outdoor art show. Every time the octogenarian artist’s mask slipped,
someone reminded him to yank it up!

Then we landed in New Jersey. BOOM! There is no mask mandate. Once we left the airport we saw maskless faces. BOOM, BOOM! I went into an empty TD bank, wearing my N95 mask, and used the ATM. The bank branch was closed due to Covid. The ATM is in an enclosed space. Two unmasked men walked into to use the adjacent machine. I wanted to scream “put on a %$#&! mask!” Instead, I left. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

I was horrified that the receptionist in my dermatologists office wasn’t wearing a mask. Was I rude when I refused to go to her station? Everyone else in the doctor’s office wore a mask. BOOOOOOOM!

Is mask wearing such an onerous thing? I am quite used to wearing them.

Culture shock.

Ci vediamo

Midge

Buon Natale!

Pontelandolfo Wishes you a Merry Christmas and so do we!

May this holiday season find you and your loved ones healthy, happy and secure. Since we are still masking up and social distancing, I thought I’d share some scenes from pre covid holidays. Hmm, I think I did the same thing last year…

2019 Flash back!

2018, 2019 – great years sigh… Actually, all the years leading up to today have been great years. Today is part of a great year. We are alive, traveling, laughing and creating. Our holiday seasons have been quiet and contemplative but is that such a bad thing? This Christmas Eve, Jack and I may be eating seven fishes alone but I learned how to make a great baccala mantecato! Did you know you could buy mussels in the shells frozen? Damn, this year I learned a lot about frozen fish.

2022 shall soon be here. We will all be another year bolder and better. I shall raise a glass to each and everyone of you as I sincerely wish you all a great New Year.

Ci vediamo,

Midge

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.