Archive for November, 2009

Protective helmet required

I purchased Rosetta Stone Italiano language DVDs over two years ago.  As of Nov 1st, I’ve only finished a smidgen of the 5-minute learning units.  Lame.

In preparation for Christmas with Fabio’s family, I’m back on the Rosetta Stone horse.  In my geeky I-love-a-new-techo-gadget-way, I totally dig it. 

Rosetta Stone shows me 4 pictures beneath an Italian word – spoken and/or written – I get to pick my torture.  Then I must match the Italian word or phrase to the picture.  For example, match the word “gatto” to the picture of the cat – and not the picture of the camel, swan, or elephant.  According to Rosetta Stone, his method mimics learning the way a child does…complete with all the guesswork and mistakes. 

But sometimes the words seem really obscure… especially to someone who doesn’t speak Italian.  During one of my early sessions, Rosetta Stone asked me to match “elmetto protettivo”.  Through trial and error, I determined that this is a hard hat.  A critical word for me to  master early on.  I might need to ask Fabio’s mom where to buy one in Como.  Anyway, upon learning it, I asked Fabio, with the sincerest of seriousness, “do you know what this word means??”

It’s impossible to describe the quantity of disbelief in his response.  Bucketfuls.  Truckloads.  City blocks.  He pointed out that “elmetto protettivo” was in the second unit of the first level of Italian for the Rosetta Stone course.  Since he  had been speaking Italian his entire life, he probably knew what it meant.

Ah – a lesson within a lesson.


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I couldn’t be more excited about the holiday season this year.  I’ve bribed my family to spend Thanksgiving in NYC with promises of air mattresses and nearby hotels.  We have surprise tickets to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. 

And I  booked my flight to Italy for my first Christmas with Fabio.

The traditions of Italy spin dreams for me.  Just last weekend I was looking for my next experimental recipe in my “Lidia’s Italy” cookbook and read a section out loud describing Torino’s decadent truffle season.  Delicately shaved aromatic mushroom sunshine melts over everything from risottos and scrambled eggs.  Fabio smiled and said,  “Those things are just normal in Italy…but it’s like a fairy tale for you isn’t it?”  It’s true.  The food and traditions of Italy read like a sparkling story.

I’ve heard the story of Christmas meals at least 4 times now – each year we’ve been dating at Xmas time, once before I booked this December’s flight, and once when my Aunt Sue asked for all the gory details last weekend.  It was then that I realized, not everyone listens to tales of food with the same freakish attention that I do.  I mean, she was interested, but not raptly fascinated.  I could literally, listen to Fabio talk about food traditions all day long.

So here’s how it’s going to go down. 

Day 1: Christmas Eve.  Fried breads, stuffed with anchovies or not.  The dough must be swirled into bubbling hot olive oil with an expert flourish to avoid becoming too dense or too airy.  My strategy: kneel close to the stove like a dog and hope to be thrown early snackings hot from the oil.  Baked fish with herbs.

Day 2: Christmas Day.  Many courses each with many matching wines – leading with smoked salmon, middling with ricotta ravioli pasta and a platter of many meats, finishing with classic Italian cakes like pannetone.  Apparently Fabio’s little nephews often give in after the ‘primi’ pasta course.   My strategy: Pace myself and attempt to last longer than the 5 and 7 year olds.

Day 3: Boxing Day:  This is not the right name, but it’s the same concept as the English bank holiday.  Happily reconvene as a family over all the leftovers.   My strategy: Go home 10 lbs heavier and happier.

In sum, there are homeade fried bready things and meals that last for 3 days.  Of course, most of all, I am just looking forward to being together with my honey over the holiday.  No strategy for that.

Xmas market on Lago di Como

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