SCARFING DOWN ITALIAN NIBBLES

Milan, 20 October 2016

I was with an old colleague in Turin at the beginning of last week, and he was telling me that he had visited the city several times over the last few years to attend the annual Slow Food festival. I made a mental note to attend the next one with my wife. It must have been that thought which made me accept with alacrity my wife’s proposal to go to an exhibition of Italian small-scale food producers, which was taking place in Milan over the weekend. Its title was “Milano Golosa”, which can be translated either as Greedy Milan or as Gourmand Milan. I prefer to think that we were gourmands, although I can understand it if, after reading this post, readers conclude that we were greedy.

The exhibition was being held in the Palazzo del Ghiaccio, the Ice Palace, a rather grand name for what used to be the city’s premier ice rink. Just visiting the building was a trip down memory lane for my wife. She told me with a reminiscent smile that she had been taken there many a time by her grandfather. While she skated around the rink, he sat on the bleachers reading his newspaper – no doubt the universal pastime of grandfathers supervising grandchildren in parks and other public spaces. At some point in the last forty years, its use as an ice rink was abandoned. The bleachers were removed along with the rink proper, and the building was turned into an exhibition space. It is actually quite a nice building, of the 19th Century train station type, and the empty space looks gorgeous in that typically Italian good design style.
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When we entered the space, though, it was bisected by four or five rows of little booths, each taken by an Italian food or wine producer (there was one food producer from the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, off the west coast of Africa, but that was a definite outlier). They came from all over Italy, from Sicily in the south all the way up into the high alpine valleys in the north, and from Sardinia in the west to the Marches in the east.
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For the vulgar weekend visitors like us, who were not there for professional reasons, the deal was this. You paid 10 euros to get in (5 more if you wanted to drink wine, which we didn’t), and then you tried to eat as many nibbles as possible at all of the booths to cover your initial investment. You could do your eating quite shamelessly, just grabbing the nibbles being made available and heading off to the next booth, or you could pretend to be knowledgeable and stand there trying to make intelligent comments about the nibbles you were scarfing down with enthusiasm. I started with the latter strategy, pretending to write notes on my phone (of the type “good cake!”, “good cheese!”), but eventually abandoned all pretense of knowledge and just wolfed down the nibbles. I was rather reminded of the trailer which my wife and I have been seeing of an upcoming French film, “Saint Amour”, which as far as I can make out is the story of a large pub crawl from one French wine festival to another.
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For all of this rank amateurism on my part, I could still appreciate that the nibbles were delicious. Many of the classical Italian products were present: raw ham, cooked ham, salamis of various types, bologna, cooked meats in aspic; hard cheeses like parmesan, soft cheeses like stracchino or crescenza, middling soft and middling hard cheeses whose names now escape me; olive oils of all descriptions, as well as the olives themselves, balsamic vinegars; tomatoes, of course, of all shapes and sizes, beans of all shapes and sizes; pastas of varying lengths and geometries, breads made from a variety of grains, but also bread sticks, fat and short and long and thin; numerous spreads to put on the bread (one in particular, from Sicily and based on sea urchin and a fish whose name meant nothing to me, remains in my taste memory bank); sweet dishes in profusion: panettone, panforte, amaretti dolci, chocolates containing varying levels of coca. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. A veritable smorgasbord! Or perhaps the Italian equivalent to a Chinese banquet, where one picks at a little bit of this and at a little bit of that as the Lazy Mary slowly turns before you. I think we got our ten euros’ worth, staggering out after a couple of hours of busy nibbling. We shelled out some more cash to buy a small bottle of olive oil from the province of Bari and a mozzarella from the province of Naples, both of which we picked up as we wended our way from booth to booth. I can report that at dinner that night the oil went very nicely with the mozzarella, as well as with the salad of green beans I had on the side.

Ah, Italian food!
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Palazzo del Ghiaccio: http://www.meetingecongressi.com/it/struttura/milano/451/palazzo_del_ghiaccio.htm
Milano Golosa: http://www.ansa.it/canale_terraegusto/notizie/fiere_eventi/2015/09/23/torna-milano-golosa-dal-3-al-5-ottobre-al-palaghiaccio_0867b0e5-db5c-4477-b80a-3e372b3979c1.html
Saint Amour poster: http://www.allocine.fr/film/fichefilm_gen_cfilm=235769.html
Italian food: https://www.magicmurals.com/italian-food-collage.html

RETIREMENT HERE WE COME!

New York, 1 January 2016

2016 is upon us! My wife and I did not stay up to ring in the new year, we let the younger folk do that.
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No need to make any new year resolutions, this year will be one of momentous change! (for me, anyway) I retire in August and finally become a free man again! Yippee!
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What I need to do over the next eight months (apart from ensuring as smooth a handover as possible to my eventual successor) is to figure out what my wife and I will do with all this wonderful spare time given to me. Travel is high on the list. For instance, we are planning to drive across the US, something I’ve dreamed of doing since my student days in the US 35 years ago, visiting the natural wonders of the West
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as well as the man-made wonders along the way.
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Or there’s a little trip I’ve had in mind for a while, visiting stained glass windows across Europe, from the Medieval glories of la Sainte Chapelle in Paris
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or Chartres cathedral
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to the modern take on this art form in Cologne Cathedral.
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Further afield, I have emitted the desire in a previous post to visit Easter Island.

AH2B07 Chili

Or how about Belize? My wife is currently searching the web for places there where our daughter and her beau could go and spend a short vacation. I’m thinking we should go there too and do some snorkeling

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as well as go and visit some of the country’s Mayan ruins
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My wife and I have also talked of spending several months in a number of our favourite cities, cities which we’ve only been able to visit briefly because of our work schedules but which we would like to get to know better. And on and on … There’s so much of the world we’ve not seen! But we cannot spend our whole time just traveling. For one thing, it gets rather expensive and I’m not sure how far my pension will stretch. For another, it greatly increases our carbon footprint, which is currently a big problem.

Which brings me to more serious things that my wife and I need to do in this latest phase of our lives. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that we are going to have to do something to drastically reduce our environmental footprint.
imageI’m thinking in a confused way of turning these efforts into a blog and/or a website and/or an app to help others do the same. That will definitely keep me busy, especially since the workings of websites, apps, and the like are black holes to me. Time to learn and keep the old brain working!

And then there’s the exercise! We have to continue the good work we’ve started. Joining a gym near our apartment in Milan is a definite possibility (we’ve already looked into the options). But we’ll surely supplement that with trekking in the Ligurian hills behind our apartment near Genova.
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And here we can give back for all the years we’ve been using the trails, volunteering to help maintain them in our spare time (of which we will now have plenty).

And then, hopefully not in contradiction with the last two thoughts, I would like to turn my hand to some cooking. Not common-or-garden cooking but rather out-of-the-way things. For instance, I’ve always wanted to make tomato ketchup from scratch

and I want to try (again) to make my own vinegar.
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Vinegar makes me think that I would like to try pickling my own vegetables.
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I know this culinary impulse of mine is strange. I suppose it’s my way of rebelling against all the processed food that has swamped our lives. Maybe I can make this a subset of my website on reducing our environmental footprints, since our current food habits are such a big part of them.

I’m thinking that I could also do a bit of teaching, linked to my professional specialties. One university has reached out to me, let’s see if we can come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement.
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I’m sure there’s a thousand other things we could set our hand to. But of course it could be that amongst all this busyness we’ll be called to do our duty as grandparents. The children are not yet at the point of having their own children, but the moment could come. Have no fear, children, we’ll drop everything and be there in a jiffy!
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What better way is there to spend one’s waning years than in imparting some of one’s experience (I won’t say wisdom) to the little ones in our society?

Happy New Year!
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________________

New Year’s eve: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/11-thoughts-had-this-new-years-morning
Happy Snoopy: https://johnrberkowitz.wordpress.com/2015/03/
Monument Valley: http://anguerde.com/TTF-412276-zidane.html
Gateway Arch: https://cityofstlouis.com/events/day?date=2018-01-20
Sainte-Chapelle: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/517280707186310674/
Chartres Cathedral: http://art1arquitectura.blogspot.it/2011/07/rilke-la-catedral-el-roston-el-caiptel.html
Cologne Cathedral: https://anushkaenalemania.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/ciudades-koln/
Easter Island: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/824581012997275195/
Snorkeling Belize: https://blog.tripreviewer.com/2017/08/21/top-water-activities-to-do-in-the-usa/
Belize ruins: http://lushpalm.com/10-places-to-see-before-its-too-late/
Environmental footprints: http://ingienous.com/the-challenge/economics/consumption/
Monte di Portofino: https://www.caisezionedirho.it/sito/images.asp?cat=25&id=146
Tomato ketchup: http://cjoloughlin.ie/product/tomato-ketchup-brown-sauce/
Wine vinegar: https://www.vomfassusa.com/shop/vinegars/bordeaux-red-wine-vinegar/
Pickled vegetables: http://www.recipesbnb.com/small-batch-pickles/86358
Blackboard: http://www.enjoymyanmarholiday.com/index.php/essay/11149/
Grandparents: https://sweetsouthernhome.net/2018/02/26/5-things-older-citizens-should-do-to-protect-their-homes/
Old year and new year: http://mzayat.com/cliparts/old-clipart-man-and-boy.html