Category Archives: Essay

Primary Sources


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


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


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

Last Food

Over the next few weeks my wife and I will be traveling with friends from Italy. We’re doing a tour of the canyon country in the American Southwest. The night before she and her husband left Italy for the U.S., Adele posted this photo of her last pizza.

“Whenever I take a trip,” she says, “I always go out for pizza the night before.” She wants a good pizza because wherever she’s going, it’s a safe bet the pizza will not be as good as the ones at home.

“That’s not all,” she says. She holds up a hermetically sealed foil lunch bag. “I always bring Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Her cheese man at the market in Rimini vacuum-packs slices of cheese for her. “If the food is terrible where I’m going,” she says, “I can always eat some Parmigiano. It’s my salvation.” Continue reading

On Wine Tasting and the Limits of Winespeak


How do you quantify a qualitative judgment?

“You taste wine the same way I do,” the guy pouring says.  “We all have the same equipment: nose, mouth, tongue, palate.”

Technically, yes.  And it’s nice of him to say that.

It’s my last day in Sonoma. I’ve had a head cold all week, so none of my “equipment” has been working very well.  Thus far I’ve had only a few sips of wine with lunches and dinners. This afternoon I’ve decided to visit some tasting rooms, to open my mouth and let the wine in. There are over 425 wineries in Sonoma County, 15 or so within a few miles of where I’m staying. This one is known for its chardonnays and pinots. Continue reading