To my seven-year old eyes, Bologna, the city where I grew up, seemed a vast metropolis. A city of half a million people, with a famous and vibrant university, it was safe enough that, from the age of seven or eight, I would walk to school unaccompanied. I lived in the center of town and everything that lay outside the medieval walls was unknown to me, and it’s what conjured vastness.
I recently read an article that made the point that eating in a big city, anywhere in the globe, will reward the diner with same flavor profiles, if not exactly the same dishes. Chefs talk to each other, they read about each other, imitate each other, to the point that you can have similar meals in Barcelona or Sydney. I would venture to concur. Even the architecture and decor of restaurants everywhere is becoming homogenous. The same words are on the lips of diners in Los Angeles or Paris: locavore, seasonal, organic…avocado on toast. During the two weeks I spent in South Africa, steered by sofagirl, I ate at quite a few spots that served honest, in-season and delicious food that was both familiar but also reminded me I was very many miles away from home.
To call sofagirl my friend, at this point in life, is a misnomer. After nearly thirty years in each other’s lives, Sue is my family. Her people are my people, and vice versa. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her or her people in times of need and I know she feels the same about my tribe. I also know she would do what was needed with enthusiasm and efficiency, no questions asked.
In just over four weeks I will be taking a (extraordinarily long) flight to Cape Town to meet sofagirl. While plotting what to do over the two weeks I will be spending there – besides “elephant stalking” – she asked me whether I would be interested in visiting one of the townships on the outskirts of the city.
I am not sure how we jumped from January to April (or, at least, that is how it feels to me) but here we are, with Spring in full bloom. Two things always happen to me in Spring: I want to sleep longer and I reawaken to the world, which means that I end up being very busy, doing a million things I wouldn’t have considered two months ago. April also means my trip to see sofagirl (and the elephants) is six weeks closer! Have a wonderful weekend.
It must be the Spring reawakening dormant joy but my outlook on life is brighter. How would my mood be affected if I lived, say, in Alaska? I shudder to think. A walk on the beach with the hounds and a friend’s play are in the cards for me this sunny and windy weekend. If you have some time on your hands, here you will find some suggestions on how to squander it.
I ate. With an abandon I hadn’t allowed myself in years. Mostly at people’s houses, experiencing a mix of the traditional and the new, but also at some restaurants – Italy has moved forward from the trattorias of old (that still exist and, especially in Rome, are mostly good), and the new food scene, with sleek and modernist establishments borrowing in look and fare from both Northern Europe and the USA, is vital and interesting. Because Italians will never be able to eradicate their culinary roots, with a maniacal attention to provenance and ingredients, the end result is worth seeking. These are places that caught my palate and left me wanting for more.
On my last night in Italy, before flying back to the States at an ungodly hour the following morning, my friends argued on where to give me a proper sendoff. Silvia, a woman I have known for over 50 years who is, inarguably, the life of whatever party she chooses to inhabit, suggested Osteria del Sole. We were all rather perplexed.