In thinking about my last post about farmer’s markets here in Bra, I have been constantly thinking about the whole idea of growing your own food and to the extent that you have enough of it to sale. Some of the old guys at the Bra market on Friday are obviously retired and just have an excess that they can’t use or get rid of. I’m lucky to also be able to benefit from excess fruit and vegetables from V’s grandparents in Veneto. It’s nice that each time we go to visit we come back with bags of tomatoes, potatoes, plums, rosemary, basil, melons, etc. And as the seasons change, so do the offerings. Although there is no lack of canned tomatoes with basil or home made ragu from the shelves in the garage. These sauces come from her hands, and the years that they have seen — put into saved jam jars, I can’t help but walk away from there each time overwhelmed at their generosity to me, the unknown American who has somehow invaded this small little village. It is really, I think, the dream of many American males to have an Italian grandma who gives you good things from her kitchen. Last time we got apple strudel. During Carnival we got fritelli and as autumn and winter approach, I look forward to the new Christmas traditions that I’ll get to share with my new Italian family this year. I’m really happy that in V’s region, fish is the norm.
One of the first times I visited I was greeted at lunch by her mum, who was keeping watch over a pot in the kitchen. Asking me in mixed English and Italian if I had ever had squid ink risotto, I answered a truthful no. But I was excited and curious to give it a try. It is black a night and stains your teeth with the slightly iron tasting ink. The rice is the perfect vestibule for this dish — and it is one that I will and do still think about.
For me, the past year of thinking and studying about seasonality and regionality is just starting to sink in. It is one thing to live in Italy and study and have your afternoons free, but another to live and work here. To feel like a member of the community, to see the same people day in and day out in the streets, at the cafe, in the market. To make small inroads with these people is perhaps the hardest part for me. I still get stares in the street, maybe from my height or my blue eyes — mostly from older folks who take a second glance. I’m getting used to it.