Hello, my dear friends. It’s been a while. Work, again. The usual reason for my absence. I hope you are all well and headed into a promising Spring. After weeks, nay, months of hard work, there is, in my opinion, no better way to fall back into the good life than to trot over to the open air market and see what’s on offer.
My love for the colorful, fresh and bounteous sprawl is almost obscene. It fills me up, even if I buy nothing. I become delirious, childlike, prone to loud exclamations of wonder and delight. Take these fish, for example. You could buy them and eat them. Or you could just photograph them, blow up the image 100 times and hang it on your wall, no?
And this simple four-box of organic eggs—so perfect, so beautiful—nestled as they were in checkerboard formation, with specks of chicken untidiness still clinging to them. I love it that part of the barnyard comes homes with me. I’m sure it’s good for me—microbes and what not.
But the find that caused me to rush home was the tenerume. That’s what the hand-scrawled sign read, and when I saw it I knew I had to have it, because you see
I’M ON A MISSION TO
EAT FOODS I’VE
NEVER EATEN BEFORE
So what is il tenerume? Well, it’s the tenderest part of something, and in this case it’s the actual plant—leaves, stems and sprouts—of a type of zucchini which yields long, smooth, pale green fruits. They are apparently revered in Sicily, tossed lovingly into pasta dishes from June until October, though their taste is mild and always reminiscent of zucchini. At this point, I happily refer you to the blog where I got my information: Luciano Pignataro Wine Blog.
And this is the thing that got me: we are so often asked to relate to vegetables already picked, sorted, disembodied, cleaned and bagged (particularly in some supermarkets in the US, but also here in Italy), that we no longer relate the part we are eating to the whole plant. Do we even know what the plant looks like? And here was this lovely pile of edible stems, leaves and curlicue tendrils, all ready to be plopped in a pan. No plastic. No dismembered parts. Just the plant. And all of it destined for my stomach.
I asked the vendor how to fix it, and she answered with little interest (or because to her it was so obvious), “You know, in a pan, the way you do…” Usually, when prompted with the simple question “How?”, Italians will go to great and joyous length sharing their treasured recipes and preparations, but here I was left with the notion that I should sauté it in a pan with olive oil and add a sprinkling of sea salt. So that’s what I did, and yes, they were delicious. Strange to my unfamiliar tongue and quite yummy.
But, as Luciano says in his blog, “Conzala comu vò sempre cucuzza è”—a charming Sicilian expression aimed at describing a less than intellectually thrilling individual. Roughly translated:
DRESS IT HOWEVER
IT’S STILL A ZUCCHINI.
And yet, and yet, my gentle friends. This lovely plant should not be maligned by such metaphor. The plant isn’t dull. It’s real and complete! And therein lies its beauty.
That’s it for today, but before I leave, I’ll share one more Italian-ism with you. And this one comes from my husband who may have made it up himself. Who knows. He smiles kindly at me every time I aim a forkful of something yet-to-be-discovered at my mouth and says simply:
MAKE A WISH.
EVERY FIRST BRINGS
Happily, even though I’ve lived here for fifteen years now, it still happens with astonishing frequency. Good bye, all. Have a lovely day.