The first student was a young actress who needed to learn some lines in perfect Italian. Not your run of the mill student but this is LA after all, and I took it as a good omen. She was pretty and eager and we had a great time pretending to be an Italian mama in the 1930’s. First assignment completed. They might not all be this easy. The need to replenish my coffers has pushed me to seek part-time work that is better compensated than cake making so,last Monday, I started teaching Italian. What do I know about it, other than speaking it fluently? Not a lot but I have a talent for improvisation and an enthusiasm for treading on the unbeaten path.
Trying to make sense of the world and life through food and words.
It took me a long time to accept that failure was a good thing. Maybe not the massive, knocking you off your feet type of failures, (although, few and far between, those have their value too), but the little failures we encounter in the course of our every day activities. Failures force us to correct our course, change our approach and find different solutions. Above all, they push us out of our comfort zone.
In Italy, if you want to point out someone’s stupidity, you might refer to their chicken sized brain. Very unfair as, far from stupid, chickens have also been gifting us for thousands of years with meat that is beloved by most and with the PERFECT food : the egg. Think about it: the egg is the source of life and, in the kitchen, is one of the most versatile items. It can be used for airy meringues or rich custards; mixed with oil or water it creates an array of sauces; it imparts flavour and substance to anything from drinks to breads; it makes pastries shine and it can be fried, roasted, baked, fermented and pickled. You get my point.
Emma is a large woman with a ready smile of white and golden teeth and a secret salsa recipe she will not share, not even, I suspect, under torture. She has been working in the same restaurant kitchen for 16 years and, when she is absent, the salsa that gets served is slightly different – Emma always boasts of a secret ingredient but, in all the years, no one has figured out what it is.
Every year, I take a stab at it, at being a better person. The subject tends to come up around my birthday, an occasion I am prone to celebrate with much fanfare, as if my immediate world should give a damn about the momentous occasion of my birth. But friends and family all humor me and, at least, pretend rather well (under penalty of loss of friendship, maybe).
This year’s vacation saw me going from my pajamas to a pair of jeans and t-shirt and hiking boots for hikes in the forest or walks on the windswept beaches of the coast of Oregon. There were no pretty sandals or colorful beach bags packed in my suitcase but, rather, a stack of books, virtual or paper, writing implements and some music. The only pretty pair of shoes I brought (just in case) never saw the outside of the suitcase.
When in Rome, eat like the Romans do. Or, in my case, like a Oregonian. Although, admittedly, I have no idea if there is a typical Oregonian dish. What I do know is that, in this part of the world, the South Coast of Oregon, the fish is fresh and abundant. None of that sorry-looking farm-raised tilapia from Vietnam that makes me gag every time I spot it at the market. Or anything off the coast of Santa Barbara, probably polluted by nearby Los Angeles.
Rush hour on a Wednesday night in Humboldt County, California, consists of a flock of sheep grazing their way to the barn and a man on the side of the…