Category Archives: Essay

The Pizza: Simple to Complex

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For dinner one night we find our way to Casa del Sole.  It’s a country house outside of Pesaro.  We’re 15-20 miles inland, where the gentle hills rising to Urbino begin, far enough from the sea to know we’ll be eating meat.

“We haven’t been to this place before,” my wife’s cousin says.

“But my sister has,” his wife adds.  “Si mangia bene.”

That’s good enough for us. Continue reading

Spiritual Peril

One of my first recollections of grappa dates back more than thirty years. My wife and I joined a friend and her husband for dinner down in Villa Verucchio, at a place called Casa Zanni. One part butcher shop, nine parts restaurant, Zanni is known for its meats. That night, after warming up with tagliatelle al ragu, we probably had a mixed grill: castrato, which is a cut of young lamb, pork ribs, and sausage.

At the end of the meal Fiorenzo said he would like a digestivo, a “grappina,” a little grappa. The Italian diminutive makes just about anything seem attractive. I pictured a small glass, maybe the size of a thimble. Bring one for me too, I told the waiter. Continue reading

Primary Sources

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The food is good, plentiful. The wine, Sangiovese from Bertinoro, a barrel of it.

Around here there is no shortage of help if you want to find a good place to eat. One of our sources is Ricky. He has an enoteca across Ponte di Tiberio, on the San Giuliano side of Rimini. Before lunch or dinner, we stop in for a glass of wine.

The thing to do at Ricky’s is listen to the locals. What do Italians talk about? Where and what to eat. Our friend Adele jokes about Italians: Even while they’re eating, all they talk about is food. Continue reading

Once More to the Table

Food so beautiful you can’t believe your eyes, food so good you can’t believe your tastebuds.

If you grow up and come of age at the dinner table in Michigan, the way I did, it can be hard to fathom the variety of foods in Italy.

For 40 some years now I’ve been plumbing those depths, coming up for air with a smile on my face, then diving deeper.  In these next few blog posts, I’m going to try to warm up to this subject; in words and pictures, sharing some of the food fun we have when we come to Italy.   Continue reading

Grubs for Lunch

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My friend Luigi asks, “Do you think prehistoric people were happier than we are?”

We’re standing in line at an airport food vendor called the Dogpatch Bakehouse. Our flight is on time, but my stress level is high. I took a few wrong turns driving from the hotel to the airport, then left my phone in the rental car and had to run back to retrieve it, down two long flights of stairs, down two floors in a hesitant elevator, and back to the rental car parking garage, where the phone’s recovery was very gradually accomplished. Continue reading

I’ve Got the INMI in Me

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Plato, I learned in graduate school, was nervous about music. He would have excluded the flute from the Republic. His vision of an ideal world was men standing around talking (yes, of course, men), engaged in dialectic, trying to get to the truth, trying to make some wisdom. Continue reading

Where We Are Was Once a Sea

When you get to Pahrump it feels like the end of the world. It’s California desert country, on the northwest edge of Death Valley National Park. Driving into town we pass Bride Street, Gravel Pit Road, and WTF Sand and Stone. Next to the Mobil where we gas up is a storefront church. It might have been a travel agency at one time, Anywhere But Here Travel. Now, in big letters above the door, between two crosses, the church identifies itself: IT IS FINISHED. What, as in end times? Continue reading

Faces in the Stone

I’ve been having doubts about my hat. It’s a hiker’s hat, with a full brim all the way around, and a drawstring that hangs in front of my ears and can be cinched under my chin. I bought it sort of on the fly. It was a careless oh-what-the-hell purchase. I knew I would need a hat. In three weeks time we would be walking eight National parks.

Unlike my wife, who looks great in hats (and she will tell you so, and it is true), a hat on my head can look ridiculous. When I buy a hat, attention must be paid. Continue reading

Me and Velociraptor and Forrest Gump

There it is, a dinosaur footprint. How about that?

We’ve just finished the lower Antelope Slot Canyon tour, outside Page, Arizona. Along the way our guide, Ryan, has been giving us a short course in geological history, which my wife translates from English into Italian for our friends Luigi and Adele. Her translations are brilliant, embellished by her impressive knowledge of American Indian culture. Continue reading

Rock Me

I’m eating my second push-button pancake in the hotel breakfast room. On the television I can see something festive is happening. It’s a bicycle race or a foot race, or a parade.

The pancake is not a pre-cooked, warmed-up, ersatz mistake. Inside a machine the size of an old-fashioned breadbox, is a plastic bag of pre-mixed pancake batter. You push a button on the left, the box emits a quiet hum, and after three minutes, a perfectly round, medium-rare comestible gradually rolls out of the side of the machine. Think pancake fax. Continue reading