Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Panini Sandwich

"Panini," in Italian, means "sandwiches." Plural form. More than one. 
Imagine how tickled I was when my mother told me she had seen menus in the US offering a: 
"Panini Sandwich"! 

A sandwiches sandwich? My favorite kind!

My husband bought three long baguettes at the bakery 
- yes, we bought French bread in Italy, we are just SO international, aren't we? - 
and decided to make sandwiches for himself and the boys.

Let's see, what do we have in the refridgerator? 
A few tomatoes, a little mayo, a layer of ham . . .

Add on some sliced provolone . . .

Some more mayo and a few pickles for a finishing touch . . .

. . . and, presto, lunch is served!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pompeii Red

Sitting at the breakfast table the other morning, my husband out of the blue said, "I want to paint the wall over the fireplace."

Oh, no, here we go again, I sighed . . . only to myself, I wouldn't want to offend the guy. It's just that every so often he gets this urge to paint something. My kitchen now has blue and yellow walls. He convinced his company to paint their interiors green and orange.

Not that he doesn't have a great sense of style and color. It's just that I don't have "the vision thing." I can never imagine what something is going to look like if you change it. I like things just the way they are, thank you very much. If it's not broken, why fix it? And so on. 

So, I have learned to close my eyes and make the leap of faith. If he thinks it'll be great, it'll probably be great, so I let him paint. The only thing I have learned to put my foot down on is the choice of color. The blue and yellow kitchen was my last act of total blind faith. Live and learn.

He magnanimously said, "You chose the color. If you're happy, I'm happy." Such a sweet guy. So, what color do I want? Hard to say, when I really kind of like the wall white, just the way it was . . .

And then it hit me, Pompeii Red, the perfect color to complement our red and brown sofas and red-brown Oriental carpet. Decision made, the man dashed off to the hardware store and immediately came back with a 
can of paint labelled "Pompeii Red." 


Until he started painting . . .

Pompeii brown maybe . . .
That is so not red, it's brown, plain old brown to my eyes.

Opinions differ on what shade Pompeii Red actually is. Check out the variety here.

And so began a day-long paint-mixing experiment. What color would we get if we added a bit of red? Or white? A touch of yellow?

Still too dark! I wanted a bright, luminous color, not a dead, flat color.

Finally, we found the perfect blend.

The maestro at work.

Well? What do you think? Does it work?

Does it say Pompeii Red to you?

Too much of a good thing is never enough when my husband is painting, so we got a bonus accent wall panel, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Italian Greens

This week's Listicle list over at The Good Life asks those who want to play this game to list 10 green things. To add an Italian twist to things I decided to list 10 things that may not be green, but that make reference to the color green . . . in Italian!

Of course, they don't say "green" in Italian, it's "verde." That sounds like the first syllable of the word "very," plus the word "day." So, repeat after me: ver-day!

1. A common Italian proverb is: "Verde, la speranza mai si perde," or "Green, never lose hope!" 
Don't ask me WHY they say this . . . I don't have all the answers!

This image strikes me as hopeful, I hope you agree.
2. Essere al verde = To be broke

An all-too-common situation in Italy these days . . . 

3. spazio verde = green area (like a park)

We need more of these in southern Italy!

4. Carlo Verdone = an Italian comic actor, his last name means "dark green"

A face only a mother could love!

5. Giuseppe Verdi = ok, this is technically cheating cause it's Verdi and not verde, but I like to think of this famous composer as Joe Green

What fine moustaches you have, Mr. Green.

6. sempreverde = evergreen, used for the trees, but also for a timeless person or thing

Love is an evergreen emotion

7. Here's another Italian proverb for you: "Tre cose rovinano la famiglia: moglie giovane, legna verde e pane caldo" = "Three things ruin a family: a young wife, green wood and hot bread"

What about a young, green wife made of wood?

8. The Italian flag is red, white and green (rosso, bianco e verde)

The Italian flag deliciously reinterpreted

9. Federazione dei Verdi = the Italian Green Party, a left-leaning party that promotes issues regarding the environment, ecology and pacifism

Pretty cutesy for a political party, but cheerful!

10. Occhi verdi dell'amore - I saved the best for last . . . this is the title of a song "Green Eyes of Love" sung by I Profeti, a 1960s Italian pop band. 
Never heard of them? I bet you recognise the song, though, if you listen closely . . .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

After the Rain

Yesterday it rained and rained all day. It was actually a nice chance to cool down. 
A break from days on end of suffocating heat and blazing sun.

In the late afternoon the sun suddenly came out.

The perfect time to go for a swim in the sea. 
At sunset, after a rainy day . . .  you are guaranteed to have the beach all to yourself.

A moment for true connoisseurs.

And connoisseurs in training . . .

Friday, July 22, 2011

'Tis the Season

I have to share a secret with you . . . shhh, don't tell anyone, it's actually quite embarrassing . . . but when I first arrived in Italy, I had no idea that vegetables had a season. I know, pretty pitiful. And, I was an adult when I moved here. Like 28. Not a clueless little child or an irresponsible teen, but a grownup who had been cooking for herself for years. 

So, what was wrong with me? Obviously, a large part of it was that I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to the natural rhythms of the earth . . . and all that. I have always been a city girl. The kind who thinks milk creates itself spontaneously in a cartoon and that eggs come from the egg factory.

Well, not really that bad, but almost.

The fact of the matter is that having grown up in the US, I was accustomed to going to the supermarket and buying just about whatever fruits or vegetables my heart desired at whatever time of the year that urge hit me. If it wasn't in season in my area, it was surely in season somewhere else in the world and had been shipped in for my convenience.

When I first arrived in this small provincial city in southern Italy some 20 years ago, there were no large supermarkets. At all. None. Oh, they had places they called "supermarkets," but there was very little "super" about them. They were tiny little claustrophobic spaces with three, maybe four, overcrowded lanes you could barely push your child's toy of a cart through . . . and a very limited selection of produce.

The place to buy your veggies here is at the fruttivendola, your greengrocer. These can range from a smallish hole in the wall to a chair outside someone's front door on which they have set the offerings from their plot of land out in the countryside.

No genetically modified food here!
When you see a set-up like this, you know that food is fresh! Fresh, yes, but it's a rather limited selection. If your heart's desire is asparagus, but asparagus season has passed, you're just out of luck, aren't you?

That's why I have learned to cook with what's in season. It makes more sense to eat what's locally available, freshly picked from the fields, anyway. Better for you, too, I'm sure.

So, what's in season here in Puglia right now? Green beans! I've got a fast and easy pasta recipe for you over on Charming Italy. All you need to do is throw some green beans, cherry tomatoes and seasoned ricotta onto your spaghetti and you'll have yourself a fresh, light and delicious Italian meal.

Try it and let me know what you think, ok?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Men at Play, 2

Day Two of my husband and younger son's road trip started bright and early, after a violently windy night during which they didn't get much sleep for fear that the tent was going to blow away - with them in it!

Is it safe to come out now?
But things started looking a lot brighter after their morning consitutional . . . and a big cappucino and cream-filled cornetto at the bar. Italian campgrounds are fully equipped set-ups with coffee bars, mini-markets, deluxe (ha!) exercise centers like the one below, restaurants, you name it.

One, two, one, two . . .

On to the serious business of the day . . . beach time! 
Getting up early has its benefits, you get the whole beach to yourself.

These stones are mine, all mine!
This beach is called Baia delle Zagare, or Orange Blossom Bay. What looks like sand is actually millions of small, smooth pebbles that lie from the sea's crystal clear waters all the way up to the sheer white cliffs that border the beach.

This paradise is located at Vignanotica, on the Gargano peninsula.

G. spent all his time face down in the water, snorkling around for hours on end. He tells me he was looking at the pebbles, but when I asked him if he saw any fish he replied indifferently, "oh yeah, there were tons of fish." Fish - how dull. Rocks - thrilling! I've obviously got my priorities all wrong . . .

All in all, two idyllic days that won't soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Men at Play

My husband and younger son just got back from a two-day father and son adventure. They took off yesterday morning on the motorcycle for a trip to the Gargano peninsula - the spur on the heel of the Italian boot.

Ready to roll!
First stop was in the small town of Zaponeta for "the best focaccia in the world," according to G.

Then a detour to the waterpark . . . G forgot his bathing suit at home. Good thing they're both guys and somebody brought an extra suit!

A stopover at Caseificio dei Pini, where they make mozzarella from buffalo milk, is an absolute must.

A man and his motorcycle
 Then finally, arrival at destination and a well-deserved dip in the sea.

See you back here tomorrow for photos of the gorgeous beach scenery and the rather less than gorgeous campsite.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Words I Could Live Without

Words are my thing. I teach writing and I translate, so basically my brain is always working in, around, with, over, under and through the world of words. I spend my day thinking about gripping issues, such as: how could I say that better? differently? in Italian? in formal English? more colloquially? more colorfully? Could I use this turn of phrase? or would another be better? I like to play with words, rhyme words, make puns, invent nonsense words. 

Basically, I love words!

So just for fun, I'm linking up with The Good Life's Monday Listicles because today's challenge is to list your 10 least favorite words. 

How can you not like a word? It's just a word, right? What you really don't like is the meaning that the word communicates . . . the concept that the word represents. Words are basically just a bunch of letters hanging out together, but there are a lot of concepts that I could live without.

In no particular order . . .

1. Narrow-minded

2. Ugly

3. Disrespect

4. Violence

5. Rudeness

6. Dictator

7. Hate

8. Fear

9. Incompetence

10. Conformity

Stop by The Good Life to check out the words other bloggers can't stand.