I began thinking about Italians and their food at 9:00 this morning. A friend's Facebook status was about men; about finding one. If one were to travel all over the world man-hunting, where should one go? This got me thinking about The Italians.
I would go to Italy.
Now, of course, I must preface this by stating that all of the Italian men I have known have been rather swarthy, womanizing individuals (one of whom I dated). That being said, to just look at and listen to them, is amusement perfected; the heart though, should remain entirely detached.
With Lorenzo Micheli, began my admiration of the Italian Male. He, an amazing classical guitarist (listen to his Tansman), for whom I was playing in a masterclass. An Iowan tom-boy is not easily impressed; especially, with men. But first thing, he winked at me. How's that for helping with concentration? Italian men wink at everyone, as now I know, but that day, the Sugarplum Fairies of Tchaikovsky which I was supposed to be musically depicting, were unusually coquettish. Silly girls.
I adore serendipity. I am amazed by it. My mind, sprung from a friend's musings of a "man-tour", naturally lead to Italians, then to a guitarist, and finally linked that guitarist with Denver. Yes, I now have a date on my calendar saved to attend a concert by this Winking Italian and his duo partner on October 15.
All these thoughts of Italians though, led me to food. Which, is a rather sore subject with me presently. Italian food...is there any nationality which makes Celiacs wince with fright and run in terror more than This Tri-Colored Boot? Pasta, pizza, garlic bread, and then more pasta. However, most Italian food has been bastardized. Much like Chinese and other ethnic food, homogenization and palatability by new tongues have taken precedence over authenticity. That to say, most Italians do not consider DiGiorno's Rising Crusts or Olive Garden's endless pasta bowls to be what their grandma would make.
I discovered that the Italians actually eat a lot of rice: Arborio Rice. Italian food I can eat it! I had some arborio at home, and my mind started working...Italian style.
When my marriage was falling apart, I spent countless hours at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. We lived only a few blocks away, and I would walk there on the days I wasn't working, and would lose myself in cookbooks and foodie magazines. It didn't matter to me that I couldn't make or eat over half the recipes they contained. I just liked looking. I liked pretending. In that world, I could eat and I had someone who wanted to eat with me.
Pretty shortly after engrossing myself in this Foodie World, I decided that I was going to cook and try to enjoy food, even if it was alone.
I started reading Gluten-Free Girl. She said yes to discovering food she could eat. I would too. I would say yes. I bought walnut and truffle oils, I tried new vegetables, I began obsessing over Le Creseaut, and I found beauty in slowly popping individual pomegranate seeds into my mouth -- one, by one, by one, by one...
I began sniffing each apple in the produce section before choosing it as one of my own. The kale section made me grin: Lacinato? Green Curly? Red Curly? Would I like to try a persimmon? Yes...
A produce man once saw me smiling at the wall of leafy greens and said "you are really serious about your vegetables, aren't you?" I felt that as a compliment.
I discovered that there is immense joy to be found in eating alone. But, one must be mindful of the food as a partner, as the drama of preparation and the marriage of flavors play and unfold; as the rice sits, lid closed, patiently waiting for the steamer to finish its task and catch-up....such are relationships.
I developed odd little habits for making myself feel "special." Looking back, that is much what this was about, these Foodie endeavors. I even picked flowers for myself. Then, I would settle myself down and slowly eat, usually reading in repast with flavors that were mine and which I enjoyed.
Cooking for One. It is much different the the similar adage of "eating for two."
In my bookstore sanctuary, I discovered Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrarri-Adler. Other people cooked for themselves, and only themselves, too! Even never making any of the recipes, I was now accompanied Alone in my Kitchen.
And so this afternoon, as I paced the aisles of the market, gathering my ingredients for my designer Italian dinner for One, I smiled as I meticulously picked out mushrooms, placing them carefully in a paper bag, and then fresh rosemary and thyme, followed by long green stalks of spring. This was going to be special.
Tonight, I was Alone with Asparagus.
- Mushroom Risotto -
"The truth is that at the end of a well-savored meal, both soul and body enjoy especial well-being."
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin