Humor me, will ya?

The whole scope of the thing is beyond the boundaries of this here blog entry but let's just say that my ever moving Laughin' Place is now vacationing in Italy. I'll give you the Cliffs Notes of the thing before I skip to the punch line.

I'm rummaging on eBay for Alfa Romeo bits to finish the restoration of my amazingly silly and impractical cars* when one auction in particular caught my eye and it was for a 2-week vacation in Italy for two (minus airfare which is fine because I have eleventy gazillion miles on Delta) in a vintage Alfa Romeo Duetto. You get two weeks in a cottage in the region of Lazio, about an hour's drive from Rome, amid lush vineyards, "yadda-yadda-yadda...Starring Diane Lane." While the starting bid ($1800) is more than renting the car and cottage separately it got me started.

So I rummaged around to find charming townhouses in medieval hill towns, cottages in the various wine regions, villas in the mountains...all that. And the prices, even with the ghastly dollar** were quite reasonable. Y'know...4 bedroom condo in the Piazza di Spagna area of Rome going for a piddly €1100/week. One of these places we found (a 3/1 townhouse in a gorgeous hill town in the Montepulciano wine country) was for sale and for a mere €79,000 exclusive of bribery and the required payment for the services of the "notaio," the "geometro" and an additional 187 arcane professionals.

So we sat down and half-looked and half-fantasized at the whole "vacation home in Italy thing" and agreed that:

1- We could go to Italy next summer (2006 for those of you reading this via the screen of your time travel pods) and see what's what. We figure Numbah Two Son should be ready for a transatlantic hop by then.

2- Upon our return, if everything else seems pretty good we could start nosing around and see if any Outright Steals pop up. The notion of paying €5M for a collection of rubble where one of the Borgias had an attack of gout in 1344 is not something for which we are hoping.

3- We'd like something relatively close to my relatives in Italy*** but we're willing to be reasonable about this. TFBIM also has some long-distant cousins somewhere in Lazio or Abruzzo, but that'd take a bit of sleuthing to suss out.

Anyway all this Italy on the brain, especially in the summer has the bunch of us going at a fever pitch. It was kicked into hyperdrive when our friends (and Certified For Real Italian Citizens) Roberto & Chiara were talking to us about going back to visit family in Palermo. Chiara was explaining to TFBIM how life is lived in Italy in summer. TFBIM's eyes were glazed over in rapture, looking like a Madonna sitting down on a particularly comfy chair.

So that brings us to last night. NOS decided we all needed to "start practicing" the Italy thing, and he had read in some book he'd bought at the school's book fair how Italians eat. Anyway, Next thing I know, NOS was cranking the pasta machine (he is quite well-suited for this operation) and a bottle of Valpolicella**** was coming out. I "food processor-ed" some eye o' round (not a whole lot), with a bit of onion and celery and garlic until everything was the size of an aspirin. Browned off (the beef is pretty lean stuff) with a spot of EVOO, I added a bit of dried oregano***** and sea salt and black pepper and then the vegetable matter and when that was soft, some tomatoes from the garden previously crushed and milled--and jarred & refrigerated!. If you must, like normal people, make do with store-bought crushed tomatoes, you MUST get the aseptically packed "Pomi" brand. Anyway...Bolognese...done.

I had some stale ciabatta, so that was toasted and rubbed with garlic and topped with crushed olives (with a bit of caper) or grilled eggplant & hotish pepper or leftover sauteed porcini that was chopped pretty fine. Antipasti...done.

But my fave thing was going to the garden and grabbing dead-ripe miniature plum tomatoes from the vine and tossing them with fresh teeny mozzarella balls (called "ciliengine" or cherry...sometimes you can find them by "bocconcini" or little mouthfuls) and fresh basil snipped from our shrub, all dressed with a bit of sea salt and EVOO.

The fettuccine took no time to crank and cut and they cook in, literally, nanoseconds. Toss with the bolognese, shred some parmigiano atop and serve. Dessert: Cantuccini and amaretti with capuccino (made according to Poppy's most excellent "cheat") .

Therefore, expect much Italo-foodie rambling from me for the foreseeable future. Probably to worsen when the car gets here.

La vita e dolce.


* You often find gigabuck stuff for pennies because the seller was dumb enough to let his spell-checker change "Alfa" to "Alpha" and the auction got no traffic.

** Although it IS getting a bit better.

*** The relatives in SPain might howl, though.

**** Tommaso Bussola 2003 Valpolicella Classico BG...a STEAL for $15.

***** For sauteeing/browning, dried is better than fresh. Order it from Penzey's.


blackbird said…
You'd be bankrupt and fat -- with me that is.

K and I have found international travel with offspring to be not only delightful, when renting a house/villa/mas -- but inexpensive as well. And we are happy to shop wherever we are and cook. Or hire a cook as we did in May.
Joke said…
My hiring a cook is like hiring someone to engage in marital congress with my wife.

We're fortunate to have a smattering of relatives scattered about the lower Mediterranean so--and I'm guesstimatin' here--we'll grace them with our presence on or about Summer 2006. I figure by then the transatlantic jaunt will prove Not A Bloody Nightmare.

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