Something to believe in

Peggy was a formidable woman.  Brought up atheist by Jewish parents, and married to a practising Christian, her faith was, in many ways, cooking – something which she passed on to her daughter, who in turn passed it on to hers. When she and her husband were posted in Northern Italy just after WWII her priority was to learn enough Italian to be able to shop for ingredients.

Sixty years later, her granddaughter arrives in Puglia and continues what she started.

In many ways, although Italy wasn’t somewhere that you’d ever thought of living until you actually ended up here, it’s perfect. Food is such an important part of life, especially in the south. After ten years of snacking on the run in the back of a car between theatre shows, or eating overpriced and disappointing sandwiches at the desk of yet another city temp job, rediscovering long lunch breaks is bliss. You decide that a region which closes all businesses between 1 and 4 in the afternoon is your kind of place.

In Puglia you trek 20 minutes down the hill most Saturday mornings to the market to pester the veg sellers. Some are grumpy; many are friendly, and you learn the names of things which you hadn’t even known existed before you came here. What’s this? –It’s cime di rabe, bellamia. You nod enthusiastically and take a kilo of the stuff because you can’t remember how to say half. Luckily, you fall in love with it and can happily eat it three times a day, wolfing down great bowls of the stuff with fistfuls of salt and chilli flakes ground over the top of it while watching DVDs in your room.

In Calabria eating becomes more social. The classic image of family and friends around a huge trestle table groaning with food under a vine-covered pergola, laughing, singing and eating until they just can’t eat any more? Yeah, it really happens. And you tell someone that this parmigiana alle melanzane is delicious, and they tell you their secret ingredient and you go home and make it and yes – it’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten. And then you make it when you go back to England and it’s worth paying six times the price that you would for the ingredients in Italy because when your mum and uncle taste it they go silent for a moment and then say, god, this is just like the one that Mum used to do … And you glow a little bit knowing that means you’ve got it right.

And now in Sicily your favourite part of the morning is going to the greengrocer’s. Not just because he’s cute – although he is – but because it means that you can dance around the shop while he looks on in amusement, and point to things and say you want some of those – no, a few more – and a big bunch of that, and have you got any cime di rabe today? And he laughs and crinkles his eyes at your terrone pronunciation and the fact that you’re standing right next to it and haven’t noticed when you ask that question. Then he tells you that you can cook the leaves of the rabe, too, and it’s your turn to laugh, because you remember the Pugliese traders telling you that right back at the beginning, before you could speak any Italian at all, but you understood them because their passion and yours were the same.

This is your church.

Image by ljcybergal (Creative Commons)

This post is a response to the Scintilla Project‘s day 6 prompt: Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else’s.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
This entry was posted in Eating Like a Maniac, Living Like a Maniac and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Something to believe in

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’m not kidding, you write my dreams. I would attend this church any and every day. And the conceit (literary) of using “you”? *kisses fingers* Perfect.
    Jennifer´s last post ..Black Sheep

  2. Debbie says:

    Please sign me up for your delicious church.
    Debbie´s last post ..My Homies

  3. Katja says:

    Thanks Jennifer. It’s weird – I hadn’t planned to write it that way at all, but in about the third paragraph it just started coming out that way and it seemed to work, so I went with it. I like the way it frees me up to be a bit kind of breathless and stream of consciousness-y.

    Also? (And this goes for Debbie, too): Joinnnnnnn usssssssss …

  4. Stereo says:

    I have so many questions for you – how did you get there? How can I get there? What is your favourite part about life there? So many more.

    I will settle (right now) for saying that your church is one I would love to be part of but am happy that I can live vicariously through you.
    Stereo´s last post ..#Scintilla Day 7: Tribes & Triumvirates

  5. Vanessa says:

    I think this is the best food related post i have ever read. My eyes usually glaze over when people start talking/writing about food but i just loved this. Lately i have been learning a few things about the weeds in my garden, some of them make very tasty ”peasant” dishes. There is one that you can only cook before it flowers, once it does, the leaves are too bitter to use. However, it has very pretty star shaped purple flowers, and those you can use in salads. Who knew spring weeds could be so interesting. Thanks again for this lovely post. Vanessa.

  6. Katja says:

    Wow, thanks V! crikey – that might just be the best compliment I’ve ever received.

    I love the idea of foraging, but I’ve never really managed to put it into practice, apart from picking mushrooms as a kid. Oh, and eating nasturtium leaves. Any idea what these purple weeds are called? From your description it sounds like it could be borage, which I’ve only ever used as decoration for Pimms in the summer (cos that’s when it flowers in the UK), but I noticed it flowering all over the place this weekend so guess it starts earlier here.

  7. Vanessa says:

    ha, that’s probably the first time i’ve ever left a ‘best compliment’, and can’t remember when i last read a food blog post (usually a giveaway food picture at the top brings out my ADD and i switch off), but it was really great. I especially liked the intergenerational aspect, even if it did take me until the end of the post to work out that Peggy is your grandmother (i think?). Re the ”weeds” Got all enthused this weekend when we had the woman who runs the university orto botanico over for lunch. Not sure what the purple flower plant is called, i forgot their name, the leaves are kinda raspy/prickly like a cat tongue. I’ll take some pics and post an album on FB.

  8. Katja says:

    Yeah, that definitely sounds like borage – I’ll look out for the pics on FB.

    Yes, Peggy was my granny – thank god I managed to get that across haha! Actually, she was only in it incidentally – I started out writing quite a different post and then got distracted by the food (as usual …) I think this one’s definitely better than the rather worthy one I had planned, though.

  9. Pingback: Quasi Siciliana | Parmigiana alla Melanzana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge