Dad’s Arrival in Italy: Clearly a Cause for Celebration

1 Oct

I’ll begin this post by starting with a bit of background. About thirty years ago my Dad was a student at University of Florence, during his time in Italy he managed to meet many Italians, many of which he still considers his closest friends. Despite the distance (him in the U.S.) and them (in Italy), life changes, and daily commitments he has still managed to keep in contact with them over the years (in fact thanks to the ease of communication, like Skype, he practically talks to them on a daily basis). Then about three years ago we finally took a much anticipated trip to Italy, it was the first time in thirty years that he was able to reconnect with his friends again in person. For the first time I myself  realized the unbelievable hospitable manner of the Italians, I experienced living with Italians, eating in their homes, and living daily life in Italy, and of course I fell in love and swore I would return. Three years later here I am living in Italy and thanks to the connections my Dad had made when he was here I now have my Florentine family here who I can rely on for support and help and of course weekly invites for dinner.

Of course I knew that the families here in Italy were like me, anxiously awaiting my Dad’s arrival (after all it had been almost three years since they last saw each-other) but what I didn’t realize is the extreme lengths they would go though to simply welcome him back to Italy. The formal tableware, endless courses, and the exquisite food never ceased to amaze me. In fact at times during the meal I found myself looking around, wondering if maybe there would be another guest joining us, someone very important, maybe the Pope himself,  I had trouble understanding how anyone could go through such great lengths for just one person, especially when that one person was my low maintenance father, who would be equally content eating pizza as long as it meant he got to spend time with his friends.

My Dad was set to arrive Thursday in Milan, he was then planning on taking a train to Florence where he would then stay for the rest of the week. An simple enough plan, right, but of course what fun would life be without a little chaos, sure wouldn’t make for a very entertaining blog now would it?

Thursday night I received a phone call from my surprisingly calm Dad informing me that he had lost his phone somewhere in Milan, this would sure make finding him in the typically overcrowded Florence train station a fun task! The one helpful piece of advice he gave me was that his train was supposed to arrive at 12:40.

So there I was Friday morning going about my morning when I received a phone call from Roberta, a close family friend who would be housing my father for the week.

“I think your father come at 12:05 or 1:05, there is no train from Milan to Florence at 12:40”

I begin to panic as I looked at the clock and realized it was nearly 11:30 and not only was I nowhere close to being ready but I still had a 25 minute walk to the Station. Hurriedly I got ready  and ran to the station (actually that’s a lie, I didn’t run, I just walked very fast)! I Got there exactly at 12:05 as the train from Milan was arriving, I arrived at the track with a smile plastered on my face excited to see my Dad, the only problem was I did not see him, I waited until every single person got off the train and still he was nowhere to find. I went back to look at the arrival board and looked for another possible train that he could be on, it then occurred to be that he could be on any train leaving from  one of the three stations from Milan or he could be on one of the other 15 trains that happens to go through Milan. For the next hour I spent my time running from track to track anxiously searching for him at just about every track. Finally breathless and sweaty (very un italian like) I somehow managed to spot my Dad.

After a half hour spent on a crowded un air conditioned, putrid smelling bus we finally arrived at Roberta’s aromatic home. We hardly stepped into the house before Roberta was swarming us in hugs and kisses and ushering us to sit at the dining room table and eat!

Roberta brought out a huge sauce pan fill with pasta with sausage and butternut squash. A delicious and simple dish which was creatively made and absotley delicious. From my understanding she roasted the butternut squash combined the flesh with onions and olive oil and in a sauce pan and let it sit for 20 minutes before adding int he sausage and pasta

Next up was a delicious platter of Farona arrosta,  roasted wild Game hen prepared with sage, garlic, oil, salt and pepper, accompanied by a side of green beans and asparagus!

After dessert which consisted of fresh fruit, dates, nuts, and biscotti (yes we managed to somehow find room to eat a bit more despite our large primo and secondo piatto), Roberta enlisted my help in making an Apple Strudel (italian style).

For once I was present during the preparation so I can assure you that this is a very simple recipe to follow and make for yourself. We first began by skinning and chopping apples, we than placed the apples in a sauce pan with 1/3 cup of run and 2 tbsp of sugar, we covered and let sit until soft, In the mean time we rolled out a circular piece of pie dough, we also took out 2 tbsp of raisins and soaked them in water so that they would become soft. Once the apples were soft we placed the apples on top of the dough, we then sprinkled the raisins on top, followed by 2 tbsp of crushed walnuts and 2 tbsp of pignoli nuts, and cinnamon.

Fold the pie crush over the mixture and bake for twenty minutes or until the dough is flaky and slightly golden browned, cover with power sugar and serve warm!

This lo strudel di mele (apple strude) was delicious and simple to make!

Less than four hours after stuffing ourselves with Food at Roberta house we were now on our way to Lucia’s house for our second huge meal of the day. Luckily I decided to wear my stretchy pants (also known as my fat pants), which in hindsight was an excellent idea considering that I spent a majority of my day sitting at a kitchen table and eating!

Before arriving at Lucia’s house we decided to stop at a store for a bottle of wine to bring to our hospitable hosts. Twenty minutes later Dad and I were beginning to grow a bit restless, we tiredly followed Roberta around the store as she carefully inspected each bottle of wine, we begged her to select one, but she ignored our pleads and continued to search the store for another ten minutes before finally choosing one and deeming it “the best”. Exhausted and anxious to get to Lucia’s house we headed to the car, the only problem was that Roberta didn’t remember where in the parking lot she parked. Of course we also had happened to go to the store at the busiest time of day, which meant the parking lot was full of cars. Roberta proceeded to ask just about every innocent bystander we passed about where her car might possibly be parked, of course they obviously had no clue where we had parked, but that didn’t keep her from asking and it also didn’t keep them from answering by advising her about where she might have parked. After twenty minutes of walking up and down the parking lot and passing the same small black smart car five times we at last found the car. We arrived at Lucias forty minutes late, but apparently I was the only one who seemed to be bothered by our late arrival, everyone else fluffed it off, after all this is Italy!

Lucia’s husband, Antonio is the Cook of the family, and boy can he cook, the aroma of garlic and wine filled the home and I found myself growing hungry despite our big meal eaten a few hours earlier.

On the menu was seafood, prepared all different ways, a typical meal of Puglia, the area in the South of Italy which Antonio is from.

First course served was Antipasto, which included cocktail di gamberetti ( or shrimp cocktail, Italian style)

Next we had a seafood stuffing made with bread crumbs chopped clams, calamari, and shrimp.

Finally we ended antipasto with Insalata di pesce spada affumicato, a salad with sliced apples, arugula, and smoke swordfish, tossed with a creamy yogurt dressing!

Next up was primo piatto and we had spaghetti allo scoglio ( the literal translation meaning spaghetti from the reef, or a dish including all of the seafood you would find in a reef), In a simple garlic olive oil sauce, this dish was excellent.

For secondo Piatto we enjoyed Zuppa Di Pesce, served over a crispy piece of toasted bread, this dish included cut up fish, calamari, and shrimp.

For dessert we had lo strudel di mele and Schiacciata d’uva ( a pastry involving grapes, which happen to be in harvest now during the fall months)……I am sorry I took no photos of dessert, at this point I probably was too stuffed to even reach for my camera!

Often times in Italy I find myself going to bed full and walking up just as full, but still I eat, this must be a family trait because my father does that same.

Around 12:30 the next day we headed to Wanda’s house for a lunch like no other. Vanda’s husband, Luca recently returned from South Africa, so our lunch was comprised of traditional Italian food with a South African flare.

We started our meal with Pate’ di cocodrillo, can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint it’s a bit exotic, typically not something your Mother ever prepared for you, unless of course you are South African. Ok I’ll tell you, it was crocodile, yes you did hear me right! It was delicious too, as long as I didn’t think too much about what I was eating while I was eating it! However, Wanda, the mastermind behind the delicious lunch refused to eat the pate, saying she couldn’t get over the concept of eating Crocodile.

Ever since my Father had book his trip to Italy, Wanda had been anxious to prepare orecchiete for him, luckily for us it was well worth the much anticipated wait. The sauce was delicious and bold and paired nicely with the delicate pasta.

Next up was agnello al forno e patate arrosto. The lamb was delicious and roasted with South African spices giving it a bit of a kick, while the roasted potatos were flavored with rosemary salt and pepper.

I am quickly realizing here in Italy that wasting food is tabooed here. The Italians use up every scrap of food. They utilize almost the entire animal, they don’t throw out flops or mistakes instead they simply find another way to creatively use it. Even Irene, one of Wanda’s daughters and my close friend here in Italy, informed us that she would be using the flavorful ajuice from the lamb to make risotto. Yum, can I come over that meal too?

Then at last it was Dessert, now I know your most likely thinking how can anyone possibly fit another morsel of food in their body after the large meals we have been eating, but somehow we managed to do it, anyways when one doesn’t eat dessert they always run the risk of being regretful later on, and that’s simply just no way to live.

For dessert Vanda made Torta di cioccolato, a chocolate cake.

And she also had the infamous Schicciata d’uva. Schicciata is typically served as a bread which is very similar to focaccia bread, however they also make dessert schicciata which usually contains a bit more sugar and fruit. The schicciata d’uva is delicious, it’s soft, and sweet, and packed with flavor.

It is unbelievable the great lengths that these families have gone through to simply entertain my father and I. They took hours out of their busy days, prepared delicious and extravagant meals, and housed us. Thirty years ago my Dad managed to meet lifelong friends, I hope now that by forming friendships with their children that I can carry on the tradition and also make forever friends.


3 Responses to “Dad’s Arrival in Italy: Clearly a Cause for Celebration”

  1. Cynthia Hill October 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    OMG Yum!!!!

  2. sue October 1, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Great post…so glad you and your dad are having such a good time…The food looks amazing…you would think you are eating in fancy restaurants….what makes it better is you are in someone’s home and it is all done out of friendship and love…nice!!! Mangia!!!!!

  3. autoverzekering October 8, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    From a summer season associated with wearing practice and all the disturbances, at this point all of us have to go “back for you to school” and get on with the tough function.

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