Posts tagged ‘Small Talk’

June 21, 2012

The smell of curry leaves

Stir -fried Chettinad Chicken

It’s been utterly quiet around here lately.  At some point, I just stopped thinking about food all the time. My mind was somewhere else.

Five – no wait! six? –  years ago I made a career choice. I moved away from what I wanted to do when I was a child, because it was not quite how I thought it was going to be, and I could not cope with the differences. Besides, pursuing that career would mean no decent job for a few years at least. I took up another job, a job that was any job but that, because I didn’t want to have to deal with it ever again. It felt too painful.

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October 19, 2011


Herbs at the market

September was an orgy of a month: for a change, we did not miss the Italian sun. It feels weird to have such a hot sun for so many days outside Italy and other equally blessed countries. To get that feeling when you go out at night – that you want to stay outside for hours and hours because you are not cold at all, and you are just enjoying being outside, a feeling that to me is the trademark of la dolce vita and makes the holidays I take in Italy always special, even in winter.

Germany felt almost like another place with that weather, giving more solidity to the theory – shared by all Mediterranean expats I have met so far – of the huge impact climate has on each population’s attitude and the development of its economy. I went out with friends, ate food, tried new places, walked the streets of Cologne and Düsseldorf one more time. And now it is time to go. Time to make one last trip to the market, where everyone recognizes me. Remembering early day conversations, going there with the cold and ice, a German I could barely express myself in. Now I’m more confident, or maybe just less scared, I know how these people have been nice to me,  the guy who sells yoghurt whose wife is half Italian, and the guy who sells dried fruit from Morocco and has the best almonds this side of the Alps, the vegetable seller who taught me half of the vegetables’ names, and the poultry man who’d always recommend I say hallo to my partner when he does not come along.

Remembering other sellers, my butcher in Wales, who was always intrigued when I showed up with some weird request (the boy would literally run to the back of the shop as soon as I showed up); the Sicilian woman selling purple and white aubergines in Milan, eight months pregnant; the noisy, rose cheeked and beautiful ladies selling filled breads in a little shop in Trieste; the knowledgeable but approachable cheese seller at the Marché d’Aligre in Paris… I tend to feel quite strongly for my food suppliers. I’ll never really be happy with supermarkets or online orders, although they do make some sense.

Anyway. This was it, for Germany. I’ve just been a few days in Plymouth and I already love my new home. I woke up loving every bit of it, a big smile on my face every moment. Happiness is such an unexpected gift, and so difficult to explain. The next weeks I will be in Italy, with my parents: my cats cannot enter the UK yet and I’m staying behind with them. I will see the most amazing views of the lake every morning, and I already know I’ll be spoiled with the very best cheese and wine. It is not something I would have done freely, but I do rejoyce the opportunity of spending time with my parents. I’ve always been fiercely independent. I could not wait to go out and live on my own when I was a teenager. Now I am probably old enough to come to terms with it, it will do me good. I also need to come to term with the possibility of doing very little for a while. I’ll have time to think and read and very limited possibility of ‘doing’, which goes totally against my inclination, but will probably also do me good.

The black and white picture takes part to Black and White Wednesday, the popular event launched by Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook.

September 1, 2011

Ten things I hate when moving

1. The impression I will never ever settle.

2. The horrible houses we saw when house hunting. I don’t mean to judge other people’s lifestyle, but I wonder how some people can survive with so much clutter around.

3. I can’t find anything of the things I have brought with me.

4. Maybe point 3 is  because some of the things I did bring with me are not useful, while what I actually needed is packed in one of my hundred (a bit more actually) boxes, which at the moment are sitting more than a thousand kilometers away. And then I judge other people’s clutter.

5. I brought no spices. I don’t want to buy rubbish, stale supermarket ones,  just to find myself with doubles. The ones I have missed the most? Chili. Cumin. Paprika. I have given up and bought chili today.

6. I have no natural light to photograph dishes. But this does not matter because my big, awesome DSRL is sitting at more than a thousand kilometers away. Anyway, this does not matter. I am cooking survival food, and it already feels like an ordeal. Anybody needs a recipe for pasta al pomodoro with tasteless tinned tomatoes?

7. Why oh why do British people have to be surrounded by carpet, of all things?

8. I have no coffee machine. This could be included in number 4, but hey, my blog is called La caffettiera rosa, in case you have not noticed. No caffettiera!

9. I have six mobile phones at the moment lined up on the desk close to me. Six. I wonder how on Earth this became my life. And I even know most of their numbers by heart. And they all need to be charged and working, in case there is some emergency in one of the corners of the world we’re related to.

10. I had to leave my cats behind for the moment and even though I’m going to see them soon, I really miss having them around. They break tension so much when you need it.

Ok, I admit it. I am moaning. Here are ten things I am very happy about/ deeply grateful for:

1. The sea. And the number of sailing boats in it.

2. Sunshine in the UK. You can’t help loving it.

3. Working internet connection on the temporary accommodation. A million problems solved in one go.

4. Being able to speak English, instead of having to make do with my stuttering German. I don’t mind my accent on English. At least I can express what I want to say. And the people here have probably the clearest accent in history.

5. The English countryside.

6. When driving here we passed yet another hill and Stonehenge appeared. Breathtaking.

7. I already have a job, which I’ve kept all the time through the moves. It does makes things more tiring because I have to worry about work now, but at least there is no added pressure from not having an income in this moment.  I should never forget how lucky I am.

8. I did bring my German knife. And a chopping board. And my pressure cooker. And my olive oil and dried tomatoes. They make cooking bearable.

9. The place we moved to, Plymouth, is actually very nice. Tons of things to do, places to discover… If only we had a little time. And people are so friendly, you could make friends with anyone. The guy on one of the houses we saw yesterday spent ten minutes showing off his home-made wine, 26% volume. Eek. Thankfully he did not offer a taste.

10. And of course, the person I’m sharing this adventure with. I would and could not do it without him.

Disclaimer: random order here. I’m too tired to think of ordering, but I already feel much better by writing it all down. I still have  a couple of positive or at least ‘not negative’ to add ( I really don’t mind driving on the other side of the road, after the initial panic; garden peas, how sweet can they be?). And now that I think about it, maybe another negative or two – the bread, how chemical can it taste?

I will survive. I hope.

August 16, 2011

Ode to objects

Shallots and knife

I don’t think of myself as a particularly material person. I know money is important to make life easier, and to provide security, but I don’t like possession per se. I find objects burden me: move a couple of times and you’ll understand how literal this phrase is meant to be. I deeply dislike the process of ‘going shopping’. I do, on the other hand, develop an affection to some objects, a bit insane sometimes. (Let us agree that books, and especially cookbooks, don’t count as objects, right?). We have fixed our vacuum cleaner more times than I can remember. It is an old model and it is easy to dismantle, which means there are fewer parts that can break and  we are able to fix it by ourselves. I actually cried when we eventually had to give up our first, beloved car, a trustworthy companion of so many adventures throughout Europe and the first car I ever seriously drove.

Good objects, working objects, can make life so much easier: they can be trusted to be there for you when you need them. And when you think about it, there is such a high degree of intelligence in an object performing the purpose it was built for, and performing it gloriously.

When I moved to Germany I wanted to buy a knife. I was moving close to Solingen, where some of the best knifes in the world are forged.  It took me two years to win my shopping laziness and actually buy one. I regret each and every single day of me not possessing this knife. Before that, I owned a set of small serrated knives that were on my grandfather’s house, used by my parents as a spare set for the summer holidays. An Ikea bread knife, awful. A big white-handled cheap supermarket knife, bought on a hot day together with too big a slice of watermelon, in Trieste; light and unbalanced. A small, decent knife, not very expensive but still bought in a shop selling knives only, that fell and broke its tip after two days of using it. Not bad, but too small and without its most useful part.

Now I have this gorgeous, sharp, perfectly balanced piece of German steel. I have to recognize that Germans can make great products, an ability I find totally fascinating. I have a soft spot for the idea of manufacturing objects, putting research and passion and care in it. It is somehow opposed to the not-so-solid marketing babble we are constantly exposed to, dressing up most of the items we can actually buy. These are products so good, that they’d sell themselves: no need for advertisement.

Anyway, I did spend a relative high amount of money in this knife. Money well spent, every cent of it – and still cheap compared to some of the Japanese knives I’ve seen on sale in Düsseldorf . If I manage not to make it fall, I know this knife will last me a lifetime and then some more. I actually find myself looking forward to the opportunity to go and chop something. The first time I cut a tomato with it, I understood that so far I’ve just been smashing tomatoes, not cutting them.

No recipe today, but please, go and buy a good knife if you don’t have one. I wish I had given myself this piece of advice years ago. By the way, the shallots and mushrooms in the pictures were for a filling of cannelloni, together with some ricotta and spinach. Yummy!

The pictures are in black and white – still a total beginner with it, but Black and White Wednesdays is  tempting me week after week, and some of the work there is just amazing.
New knife, mushrooms

August 4, 2011

100th post: scones, and the next move

Brown butter scones

All this time I’ve been missing the sea, its smell, the way it reflects light. Some people tell you that if you are born by the sea, you can’t do without it. I wasn’t born by it, but I belong to the sea anyway, never had a doubt about it. I am a different person when I am close to the sea.

One of my last days in Wales I took a break from packing and went to a yoga class with my bike. As I was cycling back home, I stopped. I took that ride almost every day, apart from the darkest part of winter, to go to work. It went from my house down the hill, then  it ran through the heart of the forest. I’d check for mushrooms in autumn and bluebells in spring. The path then continued by the sea, between the city centre and the beach, until the office, some 3-4 miles further down. I had gorgeous summer days on that path. I had harsh days as well: when there had been a tempest the night before it would be covered with a thick layer of sand. With high tide some sprays would hit me. By the time I came to the office my heart was beating fast and I felt alive. I developed an addiction to weather forecast – I checked the excellent met office ones trying to guess if I was to have half an hour window without too much rain, or whether the wind gusts would just be too strong. Wind is the worst enemy when cycling by the sea, it can literally stop you if you are going against it. I learned not to mind rain that much, on the other hand. Like my landlord once said, while trying to unblock a pipe in our garden under a torrential rain: “It’s just water”. It is.

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March 8, 2011

Otto Marzo

Rhubarb Clafoutis

Today it is International Women’s Day. I have always found it very depressing that we need to be remembered and protected and honored on a special occasion. But it is a fact that many women  do not have the respect and recognition they deserve as human beings, and we need all the attention we can get, also from ourselves, to start with.

I have not seen my grandmother in a long while, and since then, she has been very ill. The two things are not strictly related, of course, but I cannot help thinking how much my life is different from my mother and grandmother’s life.

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December 23, 2010




Locally grown kiwi, in season now

I am so deeply into cooking that I don’t even have the time to think about blogging, and I am sure I am not the only one. I am a lucky girl: I feel well enough to cook up my usual storm and I can’t wait.

This year everything will be different from my usual celebrations. We are spending some time far away from Germany and its snow. We are in Reggio Calabria, the tip of the Italian boot, and we are going to spend some time there. Temperatures are up to  15-20 degrees but when the sun is shining, it feels warmer. Healing. I felt as if I spent the last two months (since Palermo) in total darkness. And the smell of the sea is everywhere, the wind and the occasional rain smell of it, and they are warm.

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November 15, 2010


A few nights ago a weird thing happened. Tens of butterflies decided that they wanted to die looking into my living room. The window glasses were covered with them for hours. My cat seemed to be very happy with it but I found it spooky.

Things are changing.

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August 7, 2010

What’s in a name?

My caffettieraThis blog has recently turned one. I had decided to give in to a tacky celebration, just because this is something I traditionally don’t do in ‘real’ life, and a tiny side of myself is still the 13-years old girl wanting to throw the hottest party in the whole school, and I am here to voice my secret wishes and aspirations, in the end. Unfortunately I am late.

Anyway I am going to celebrate somehow, and my celebration is to allow for a lengthy and probably meaningless explanation of this blog’s name.

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June 30, 2010


Chia beach

“I’d like to have half a kilo of cherries, please”

“You know” said the old lady on the other side of the counter “I just had them for lunch, they are really sweet. But don’t buy more, or you’ll get problems with your belly!”

“You are right. And what about the prunes? Which ones should I buy?”

“Try the yellow ones – you see, they don’t look like much. They are small and irregular. But do taste one. You don’t need to wash them, they are unsprayed”

“hmm… delicious”

“They are an old variety, ripening right now in the fields. Our producers sell them at quite a high price, but I think they are worth it.”

Sardinia boasts  great landscapes, lots of historical sights, fresh mediterranean food with a unique and interesting twist, and the most beautiful and clean sea. But above all, what really won my heart was how nice the people were. The other thing that filled my eyes with tears as soon as I arrived there was the smell, and that is really difficult to describe. I tend to forget it as soon as I leave. It is the distinctive  smell the Mediterranean Sea has, and that has become the signature of homesickness to me: warm and salty water, completely different from the way the ocean smells, and all the typical bushes that grow by it,  rosemary, sage, helichrysum, myrtus, wild fennel. The thirsty, dry land. Dried grass. Olive trees.

The way Sardegna smells

Trying to capture a smell

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