My brother and I returned from a very mediocre movie last night, in which the only thing that caught my eye, had nothing to do with the plot, or anything else whatsoever: it had to do with how one of the main characters drank champagne from her glass in big beautiful mouthfuls. She reminded me that there was a glass of prosecco left in the bottle from dinner, and I couldn’t wait to get home to devour it!
dinner plans underway (stay tuned, after my little prelude)
I planned a visit with my brother on this specific Friday because his family was out of town and I thought it would be nice to have some time alone with him. It is very rare that opportunities like this come up and when I tried to think back to the last time we did this, nothing came to mind, (at least nothing in the last 30 years!). He also owns an Auto repair shop and he told me that he would take care of all the things on my car that needed attention while visiting: what a lovely brother.
Why a photo of the leaning tower of Pisa? You’ll see.
On the way out the door yesterday afternoon I snagged some fresh oregano and thyme from my garden, and in that moment decided that I would make a lovely dinner for the two of us. Cooking is an automatic impulse I have when I want to let someone know I care about them. For me, Food and Love go hand in hand, and what better way to tell someone you love them than through the language of food. About halfway to his house I spotted a good quality supermarket and so popped in and bought some very fresh cod fish, lots of greens, and a lemon to go with my herbs.
When I arrived at Pascal’s business he was very busy doing a million things at once. I thought I would drop off my car and then wander back to his house to do a little reading in the luxury of a quiet house, and perhaps afterwards get started on dinner. He said to wait because he wouldn’t be long. I knew what this meant: “it may be a while, but it would be nice if you were here all the same” I stayed.
more Italy (Cathedral in Pisa)
The office had a window looking into the shop and I watched the mechanics putting cars on lifts and doing whatever needed to be done. Pascal would pop his head in every now and then to tell me a quick stories about some of the characters walking in and out. He seemed to know everybody, and constantly beckoned me outside to introduce me to his customers, all of whom were quick to praise him while also teasing him for being the ugly one in the family.
At one point I heard one of his mechanics speaking and I was sure I detected an Italian accent. When I inquired about this, Pascal said that he was indeed Italian and was from Pisa. I immediately wanted to know more. I had spent three months in Italy this year (read previous blogs if you are curious to know more) and I had never in my life been in a more extraordinary place, or a place that had a more profound effect on my psyche, both conscious and unconscious.
His name was Aldo and he had been living in the United States for 5 years now. I had to wonder how he could leave, but then I remember being asked the same question “how could you leave Ireland for here?” I know, it is a difficult question to answer, and gets harder and harder for me to understand why I left. There are all sorts of reasons to leave one’s country: persecution of one kind or another, lack of work, adventure, artistic opportunities etc. I do know that people need to experience other places, if only to give one perspective.
Aldo left because of the economy, and while it is true that he found a good job, it was apparent that he missed the familiar. His mother was from Sicily and his father from Tuscany. We talked about what we missed, and I probably sounded overly romantic when waxing on about my stint in Tuscany, the rich art history, the food, the coffee, and the truly lovely people I had encountered along the way. When he left for the day, this handsome young Italian man shook my hand warmly, and it made my day.
Venice in the Spring
Now Italy was again stuck in my head, and this wasn’t helped by the next fella my brother introduced me to. Chuck was a car tools salesman and stopped by to see Pascal, but ended up doing what I had been doing for nearly 3 hours now: waiting for him. It turned out he had just been to Italy, and Venice was has favorite place. We talked about it’s magical quality, and how the place gave him the urge to buy a scarf (which he did!). I then told him he should read a book called Watermark by Joseph Brodsky who was fully convinced that Venice was a version of Paradise and it had a powerful effect on people: like make them feel they needed to compliment the beauty of their surroundings by becoming more beautiful themselves, hence the scarf! He liked the theory, and left to see his next customer mouthing the title of the book so as he wouldn’t forget.
San Michele Cemetary, Venice (were Joseph Brodsky is happily interred)
Finally we got to leave, not before nipping over to the wine shop where there were more introductions and an entertaining banter between the owners and my brother. He doesn’t even drink, but apparently must be the errant boy for other people’s habits. Of course I choose a bottle of Italian wine, and a bottle of prosecco for good measure. As we drove away, Pascal said he was starving, making me happy I had chosen fish, which I knew I could get ready in 20 minutes.
The metal motif (Ferro) on the prow of every gondola has significance. The seven tines are said to represent the seven districts and the large elegant curve mimics the Doge’s cap or the Grand Canal (depending on who you talk to)
With a glass of prosecco to keep me company I managed to have dinner on the table in a speedy 22 minutes. It was fresh, light, and so very good. After dinner we decided to go to a movie which is something we both love to do but again, rarely find an opportunity. However, I do not suggest you do it the way we did. I wanted to look on the computer to see what was playing and possibly read a bit about what might be of interest, but Pascal wanted to just hop in the car and drive from one movie theatre to the next and see what was playing? Okay, I decided to do it his way as it sounded more like a mini-adventure.
Prosecco: my favorite aperitif
Because of movie times and what was available we ended up in a movie theatre with 4 other people watching a movie on ultimately how the vibrator was invented in the late 19th century. I didn’t really care that the movie itself was bad, what was uncomfortable was the fact that I was sitting in the dark, next to my big brother watching a movie about a sex-toy. As we left I told him that perhaps it was a good thing after all, as now we would always remember the time I came to visit!
* This is also a Blood Type A Diet Dish*
You will need: 2 lbs cod fish, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, diced, 8 cups broccoli florets (about 3 crowns), 3 sprigs fresh oregano, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 3/4 cup white wine (I used prosecco), 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or 1 small veggie bouillon cube and water), sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional).
1 – Wash and dry the fish and cut in smaller pieces (figure on about 4 to 6 pieces per lb). Set aside.
2 – Put large shallow saute pan (that has a lid) on medium heat and add the oil. Saute the diced onions for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3 – Add the herbs to the onions and cook for another 2 minutes before adding the white wine. Turn the heat up and gently bubble for 2 minutes. Add the broth and turn the heat down to medium when the liquid comes to a simmer.
4 – While wine and broth are heating up, put 1 cup of water in a pot to cook the broccoli. When it comes to a boil, add the florets, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
5 – When broth has come to a simmer, add the fish in even layers. Cover and simmer gently for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until fish flakes apart when touched with a knife. Taste the broth and add salt and/or pepper if you choose.
6 – Add the broccoli to the pan. Serve immediately.
The final dish (the lighting in my brother’s kitchen was not the best, hence the yellow hue)
Divide between plates, remembering to spoon some of the flavorful broth over each dish.