Tuesday, November 3, 2009

our italian culinary holiday ends, but the culinary journey never will...

It is our final day in Bologna and we are getting a bit of a late start.  Marcello's wife, Rafaella is meets us at the local marketplace for exploration and some foraging of our own.  We are going to have a feast at her house, bringing together some of the skills we have honed during the week...and we need supplies.  We entered the market along with very serious shoppers. making choices for the evening meal.  There is no mulling about, touching every orange, or asking to smell the fish around here. It is all business.  It is a given that the produce, bread, fish, meat is fresh. If you want to question the age of something...head to the grocery store.  The women who fill the market are skilled shoppers and cooks, and they don't mess around.

When I was living in Florence, 23 years ago, I hardly ever ate red meat. I really subsisted on pasta, pizza, risotto, and the occasional roasted chicken. I was a marathon runner and needed to carbo-load.  Okay, so maybe the only running I did was for the train, and maybe I have never run a marathon, and maybe the only reference to a marathon in my life is a marathon candy bar...but I am telling the truth about the carbs.  One of the jokes we used to have, if the pensione we lived in served meat, was that it was probably horse.
I thought it was a joke, until I happened upon this little butcher shop, smack dab in the middle of the marketplace.

It says on the sign...Macelleria Equina.  I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to know what that means...Horse Meat For Sale Here.  And it is quite popular.  Actually, I stood there for a very long time, staring down people who were going in and out of the place.  Apparently horse meat is extremely high in iron and is very good for children.  The meat was beautiful, but I just couldn't get the jingle out of my head "how much is that poney in the window?"
Thankfully, we moved on to other shops and I could get the memory of precious pets out of my head...
...but not here...

okay...enough with the fresh meat.  We eventually moved on to the yummy stuff...prosciutto.  I have always loved prosciutto. I grew up with it wrapped around bread sticks or sweet cantaloupe.  When my grandparents were alive, they would fill suitcases with wonderful cured meats from the best shops in New York and bring them to us.  Finding the good stuff in the 70's and 80's in Los Angeles was impossible, and the suitcase's arrival was as important to us as the people who packed it.  We actually had a commercial meat slicer in the kitchen...and come lunch time it would be fired up and ready for service. My mother stopped short of issuing little paper numbers...but once the whir of the steel blade filled the house, we hustled in for our afternoon meal.  What I failed to understand then, and only know now, after my visit with Rafaella, is that proper Prosciutto di Parma is diet food.

Yes, you heard me correctly, diet food.
Break out the side of pork ma, I'm going on a diet!

After our morning shopping expedition, we parted ways with Rafaella. We had some time before our evening cooking course with her and wanted to do a bit of non-food related shopping.
Which lasted all of 5 minutes when we happened upon the most delicious confection store in all of the land.

After a busy morning of food gathering and coveting, we had worked up a bit of a hunger.
Interestingly, the area of Bologna where we were didn't have a large number of eateries...but we stumbled upon this small restaurant tucked away off the main square, and settled in for a nice lunch.  The tables were quite close together which made eavesdropping  convenient.  As it is a favorite past time of mine, I instantly loved the atmosphere!
At the table next to us sat 2 women, who spoke to the waiter in Italian.  The younger of the two women lit a cigarette and began to puff away.  Now, I will tell you...smoking does not bother me. It doesn't bother me in a bar, in a restaurant, in a park or in a car.  A smoke filled room bothers me, but someone smoking...I quite like it, to be honest.
I think I murmured something of the sort out loud, which might have been mistaken for irony, and the woman said to me in a perfect British accent. Shall I put it out?
Startled, I told her I didn't have an issue with it.  We then started chatting.  The reason I am repeating this story is...after a few minutes of talking, we realized that we had lived just a block or two apart, in a small village outside of London.  She is still there, I obviously am not.  It was nice to catch up on my old stomping grounds.  Turns out she speaks several languages as she and her mother are Russian translators and were on assignment in Italy. Small world.
We ended the afternoon with a nice walk through town, happening upon an antique market in full swing.  There was plenty to look at, but I didn't find any treasures.  The afternoon passed swiftly and soon it was time to head to Marcello and Rafaella's house for the evening lesson and meal which I will tell you about in the next post....


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