Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sick of heat, sick of pasta 4/09/09

One of our elderly mad neighbours came over for a chat while I was setting out the table on the terrace. He told me he and his family were from Rome and they were down here just for the summer. This is the man who threatened my father-in-law and told him he would ruin him! Because he didn’t like the fact that my in-laws had opened the first trattoria in the old part of town. But a few years later he cashed in on the new affluence that the burgeoning of new restaurants and bars brought to the borgo and now he rents out the bar next door to ours! He is trying to make amends I think, through me, the foreign daughter-in-law. ‘It’s not you who play the loud music, it’s that bar down the road that keeps us all awake,’ he said, nodding his head in that direction. I said yes, apparently the police have been calling in on them and telling them to stop around 2am. The other neighbour complains about them too, I said, Malvasia, who appears in his white string vest and raises his fists in the air at them when they blast at 1am and 2am disco music from their Olympic-size speakers. This guy used to throw bread and tomatoes at guests dining in our terrace in the days when my in-laws had it! ‘Hmmpf, have you noticed how he always scratches his balls?’ asked Alfreddo before wandering off.

I am sick of pasta and risotto. I want all those tasty earthy soups I usually make in the autumn, but September here is still full summer. We are reviewing the menu again for winter now, adapting to the fish and vegetables available in the changing of the seasons. I would like to put some hearty soups on the menu, but they tell me that soups are something you have at home here, not in restaurants. But I bet they just have vegetable soup and minestrone and plain lentil soup. They don’t know the wonders of wild mushroom soup, root vegetable soup, spiced lentil soup, butternut squash and spiced apple mmm. In the end, I fear we will become a halfbaked Sicilian trattoria, just trying to lure some locals in who want local kind of food. This summer there quite a few customers who wanted Spanish stuff, but in the end I thought the tapas were a joke because they were all Sicilian - we had to replace things that weren’t selling with local alternatives: Like the Mediterranean sfizi of marinated olives and salted almonds etc, the aiuto cuoco never got them right – he microwaved the olives when the olive oil coagulated in the fridge sending them out hot and the salted almonds were always soft and soggy with oil. The crostini with salsiccia looked awful, supposed to be chorizo. The broad bean salad never was any good. The skewers of prawns in breadcrumbs were too soggy and frozen so they became marinated prawn salad and the polpo alla gallega became octopus salad Sicilian style because the Galician style didn’t suit the local palate, the octopus being cooked in a way they weren’t used to. The only Spanish things left were the tortilla and the salmorejo. So disheartening.

I have lived in 35 degrees for a year now apart from March and April and my body is wrecked; my legs are like lead, my eyes halfclosed all the time in the heat. I am so sick of it, I hate anything to do with heat. I can’t think straight. I can’t do anything. My brain is cotton wool. God I hate this heat. I hate what it does to me, I am going mad. And this heat explains why the Sicilians are the way they are, the volcanic energy.

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