Musings of the English language

Being amidst all these languages, I think I decided that the Canadian and American accents (and they are accents) of the English language are probably the most lazy sounding and unrefined: I say the word “glass” and I feel uncultured. The British have the posh thing down, the Ozzies have this fluent thing happening and even the Irish and the Scottish put their own spin on it. But we just neutralize the thing – there’s no melody, no contrast, our vowels are splayed out like flat tires and our consonants have no bite. My heart still leaps at hearing the occasional ‘non-accented’ English while walking through tourist areas in Tuscany, but truth be told I’ve started speaking like I don’t know how to speak just to liven things up. Continue reading Musings of the English language

mind. blown. again.

Last year, my uncle, newly passionate about astronomy, blew my mind. He showed me the size of the universe, the galaxies, what’s out there and it was so completely uncomprehendable I was practically rendered speechless.

Yesterday, the telescope came out again. I saw Venus reflecting so brightly that I almost had to shield my eyes, Jupiter with its rings and its four moons – brilliant, how spherical the moon really is and the craters lining its face. And that’s when I learned why we see the moon’s phases the way we do.

How are we not taught this in school?

Apparently this whole time what I thought was the cause is what’s better known as a lunar eclipse. Incorrect. It has nothing to do with the earth blocking the sun and thus casting a shadow on the moon. I feel dumb. I now have detailed scribbles in my journal outlining the different positions of the moon and the sun in relation to the earth and what effect each position has but I’ll be damned if I can explain it to anyone in turn. Mind = blown. Again.

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Want another fun fact? This one’s about stars.

Of missed connections

I love train stations. The big ones anyways, the ones that are actually central stations and not some pit stop in the middle of a field somewhere. The big ones I love: Venice, Florence, Paris, Berlin, New York. So much coming and going, the hustle and bustle, the total commotion and yet complete logic and organization. Everything laid out clearly on bulletin boards – arrivals, departures. Brightly lit up screens: this train from this place to this place at this time on this platform.

I love train stations. Their moments of connection and yet total anonymity. A blonde girl about my age sits across from me in Florence. She also has a giant backpack, a giant book with a bunch of train ticket bookmarks.  In a way, she is a mirror image of me. We make eye contact and immediately have some sort of connection. I don’t know where she’s from but I can feel she speaks English and at that point more than anything I want to make some sort of contact with her. Where is she from? Where is she going? Does she want to find the aerobus to the Bologna airport together? Maybe she feels the same because we make eye contact many times, as if trying to convey something, trying to relate, show support.

We arrive in Bologna C.Le without saying a word. I don’t know if she knows where she’s going but it’s not in the direction I need to go. I am slightly dismayed. She looks back unsure, and then heads up a set of stairs to a Piazza. I continue on to the buses.

And just like that it’s like we never existed.

Recipe: Pasta Maria

You know what’s awesome? When the Italian guy you thought you’d be learning how to cook from calls you the “better chef of the house” and asks what you’ll be making. And then wants seconds. And then thirds. And then asks you for the recipe.

I made the best pasta last night. It wasn’t my usual favorite type of pasta (super stuffed and gooey and creamy and alfredo-ey) but for some reason we couldn’t stop eating it. We joked it must be the mushrooms. Allora, I thought I’d share the recipe.

Now, in Italian cuisine, everyone expects the food they’re eating to have a name. You can’t just call it chicken and say you threw in some mushrooms, they don’t understand that. No, you need to say you made Pollo con funghi. And then it’s delicious. However, such practices are much too restricting for my cooking creativity, so the only fancy name I care to give my pasta is ‘Maria’ (“La Chiave!”) because I think the key to the whole thing was the last ingredient.

Pasta Maria

Makes: Roughly 4 servings if you’re not one to stuff your face.

Ingredients | Ingredienti

  • ~375g Pasta (eliche, fusilli, etc.)
  • 1 can Tomato pulp (polpa di pomodoro)
  • ~8-10 Mushrooms (funghi), chopped
  • 3 slices Prosciutto crudo (I prefer cotto myself), sliced and diced
  • 1/4 Red onion (cipollina), minced.
  • 2 cloves Garlic (aglio), minced (by hand, not garlic press!)
  • 1.5oz Olive oil (olio di oliva) – enough to cover the bottom of the pan, plus
  • 1/2 tsp. Regular salt (sale)
  • Coarse salt (sale grosso) – I figured out the how much salt to put in to make the past delicious even on its own. How much? Too much. Delicious.
  • Black pepper (pepe nero)
  • Basil seasoning (basilico)
  • twig Rosemary (rosemarino), fresh if possible, diced

Directions | Direzioni

1.Put water into a pot. How much water? Enough for the amount of pasta you’ll need.

2. Add sale grosso and a small blob of olive oil to the water.

3. Bring to a boil.

4. Put pasta into boiling water and lower to a simmer. You can keep boiling technically, I was just behind on my vegetable cutting and wanted to give myself more time.

Unlike the fancy cooking shows, I like to peel, cut and dice while other things are boiling and simmering. Allora,

5. Start peeling, cutting and dicing the veggies and prosciutto for the sauce.

6. Cover bottom of decently large pan (which needs to be enough for all your pasta!) with olive oil, and put on low setting.

7. Throw in minced onion and garlic and let simmer. Make sure the heat is low enough for these to cook and not burn!!

8. When onions and garlic start smelling delicious and are cooking but haven’t started to bronze too much yet, add all mushrooms into pan. Stir so that they are all at least somewhat covered in oil, but don’t worry about adding more if they’re not. Mushrooms eventually release their own water so they shouldn’t burn.

9. When nearly bronzed, sprinkle a dash of basil seasoning and a teaspoon of salt on top.

10. Add in prosciutto. Let simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

11. Add tomato pulp. Stir so everything is mixed. Let cook for a couple minutes.

At this point, I gave the sauce a try. Everything was great but it tasted too tomatoey. So I racked my brain for what counterbalanced tomato and added in another pinch of basil and then a larger dash of rosemary and stirred. And let me tell you, the rosemary did it. So good.

12. Taste sauce, add in large dash of fresh rosemary and stir.

13. Assuming the pasta is cooked by now, add pasta. Mix everything together.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

the first month: a little bit of honesty [various, italy]

Today marks the end of my first month living in Italy.

A month ago, I left with the expectation of traveling for a year, the hope of continuing for five and the dream of doing this forever.

Within a week I wanted it to be over, wanted the lessons to be learnt so I could be back in the comfort of something familiar.

Except of course I never want it to be over

So far Italy’s been marvellous.

mailbox in veniceMouth watering pastas and pizzas with ingredients that roll on and off the tongue – fiori di latte, erba cipollina, pomodori, aglio, pepe nero…

Architecture and monuments that actually take my breath away – the grandiose duomo in Florence, the barricaded old town of Lucca, the surreal leaning tower in Pisa, the luxurious Venice, the quaint riviera…

And the little moments that make me feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be – walking around at night delighting in cioccolato-stracciatella gelato, jogging through Tuscan olive groves while “buon giorno”-ing everyone I pass, enjoying real homemade Italian meals cooked for me in little Italian towns… absolutely marvellous.

But it’s also been hard.

I’m not quite where I want to be just yet. I’ve made some progress (like living with some Italian guy in a little Tuscan town), and I suppose a month out of forever isn’t even that long, but being the magical thinker and type A personality that I am, well, trying not to fail at my own expectations for myself – that’s the hardest.

But today marks the beginning of my second month living in Italy. AND, as a totally amazing sidebar, I feel like my big picture is coming together and that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever known: I always knew what I wanted, but now I can see it happening and know who I want it to happen with.

I can handle a bit of discomfort for enlightenment like this.  Off I go.