Today I shopped for food in the local market, things I will need for the week. I want to start cooking my own meals, the vacation is over. My goal is to have a solid draft of my new book in a few months, if I am not too distracted by food, which is an enormous challenge for me.
My God the food! In the market as I walked past the meat department I spotted one package that contained inside; plump sausages, thick pink slices of pork and even thicker slices of pork belly, it was begging me to take it home, pleading, begging and pleading… I walked back to it several times. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I even picked it up and sighed, help me! In the end, I walked away picking up a package of thinly sliced chicken breast. Although I am losing weight from all the walking I am doing, I want to try, at least for a few weeks, to stay away from the fabulous cheeses, the “to die for” fat laced meats, subtle sweet gelatos and the heavenly, creamy sauce based pastas. However, in total fairness, I only eat two meals a day, a lite lunch and a full meal for dinner. I do not pick in-between meals, this is something I learned my first two weeks when I was living with the Baldoni’s up North in Pavullo.
The kitchen in my apartment is small, narrow, nothing fancy, more charming than anything, green tiled and yellow walls, the floor is stone. The stove only lights with a touch of lit match. Pans and utensils hang above the sink, small wine glasses sit on a shelf over by the small cabinet where bread is kept and next to this, a small clothes washer that noisily spins as I write this blog.
The window, the only one in this space, looks out onto the courtyard where laundry hangs and a place where women lean out their green shuttered windows and speak to one another in their beautiful language. Their voices echo and carry musically into the kitchen where I cook. While preparing my dinner (I will cook it now, write all day and heat it tonight at 9pm) I hit the mother-load, a jug, yes a jug, of dark green olive oil under the sink, there is no label on the jug. It looks as if fresh off someone’s olive farm. My roommate is from Southern Italy so in my foodie, romantic mind I think it was given to him by someone who pressed the olives days ago. Its scent is rich, fruity, dense, the green profundity of color so vibrant and slick, I want to drink goblets of it or pour it over my head and dance.
I woke today with a smile, a comfort has arrived. I feel I belong here, homesickness dwindles with each passing day and I feel my life in Rome unfolding. Who knows how long I’ll stay here, but here I am today. I made friends this past week and last night I spent the evening in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome, Trastevere with Shane, a young, articulate and intelligent woman from Oregon who studies language. We had dinner, pre-fix. I had Spaghetti alla puttanesca, it was slightly spicy cut by the saltiness of the capers, next grilled Shrimp with head and shells on, they were pink, rosy and their taste was in intense, clearly fresh from the sea, each one scrumptious and better than the last. For dessert, Panna Cotta, pure white, creamy, slightly sweet, a puddle of chocolate sauce on top made this dessert one of the best I’ve had in Rome.
I have a routine each day. After I wake, I take a walk, look for the familiar faces that offer me comfort in a city I felt all alone only one week ago. “Ciao” I say to the people who stand outside the eyeglass store and I wave and smile to the elderly man selling fruit across the way. He sells the most delicious Peaches, they’re huge and their stems have leaves on them. They almost look to good to eat. The people in the building are getting to know me too, “Buon giorno” they say and I hold the front door or the elevator for them and they return the favor…. “Prego”.
My chicken is on the stove simmering, it needs to be stirred. My laundry is done and needs to be hung. Cars beep and speed on the street below and the chattering picks up in the café outside my window as lunch begins. All is in full swing on this warm and sunny day as my second week in Rome begins.
Chicken Ala My First Meal I Cooked In Rome
Put two tablespoons of your roommate’s fresh and green Olive Oil in a sauté pan, turn on the stove with a match and hope you don’t blow the place up. Next throw in two anchovies (optional, but you should!) when hot and sizzling add thin chicken slices that have been cut into strips, brown on both sides adding salt and pepper, a pinch of hot pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Next add sliced Portobello Mushrooms and cook until the liquid reduces. Add a can of whole plum tomatoes and simmer again until liquid reduces and the tomatoes have become a thick rosy paste that covers the chicken and mushrooms. Enjoy over pasta or not, but be sure to eat it on your balcony while marveling at the city of Rome.