Exploring life and the world with wide eyes and curiosity.

A Ligurian Lunch

Dinner the night before was followed by a long lunch the next day. Renata and Angelo, who live in a town within walking distance from Sanremo, were having some friends over on Sunday and I was invited to come along. So gracious! It’s a real treasure to have people open their doors and ask me to join them in their homes.

By a little before one o’clock, 8 people had clustered in the kitchen and around the dining table. Renata and Angelo had been cooking all day for us and piled the table high:

  • Genovese focaccia – plain, with oil.
  • Sardenara – Ligurian specialty focaccia with tomato sauce,
    anchovies, olives, oregano and garlic.
  • Carciofi Impanati Friti – breaded, deep-fried, small young artichokes.
  • Maiale Cicioli – breaded, deep-fried pieces of pig fat.
  • Patate – little baby potatoes, roasted with olive oil.
  • Polenta Taragna Concia – a regional style of polenta with ground buckwheat and 1 kilo of cheese. It cooked over the stove in a copper kettle for more than an hour, with a motorized stirring paddle to mix it and keep it from sticking.
  • T-Bone Steaks – the thickest t-bones I’ve ever seen were grilled outside ’til rare. The meat was cut away from the bone, then sliced and served.

The sweets at the end of the meal included:

  • Bugie – (which means “lies”) crispy, fried, sugar-dusted twists of dough.
  • Nutella-topped sweet buns
  • Baked Pears – Angelo got up from the table several hours into the afternoon and prepared baked pears by crushing amaretto cookies, mixing them with chocolate and liqueur, and pouring this blend onto the pears before quick baking.

The food went around. The home-bottled chianti, extra-proof, flowed, as did the conversation. I understood most of it and jumped in when I had something to add. Though I had shot photos of Renata in the kitchen when I first arrived (feeling comfortable since we’d had dinner together the night before), I kept my camera tucked away for the first couple hours of the meal. These people didn’t know me and I didn’t want to be rude.

To lubricate the conversation, we had begun with the chianti, then moved on to champagne, grappa, rum and caffé. Time was passing and everyone was loosening up. I was treated to a display of classic Italian hand gestures, mannerisms and animated speech. So theatrical, you would have thought it had been scripted. Eventually, my camera came back out and I had fun snagging images as the hours ticked by.

The first part of the day had been blue-sky serene, the kind of day that brings the crowds to the Ligurian* seaside. As we passed the afternoon in lively discussion at the table, the sky had darkened, a wind picked up and waves were crashing at Renata and Angelo’s bulkhead. It was time to go home at close to 7:00.

*Liguria is the “Italian Riviera”, that northern region of Italy that includes Cinque Terre at its southeastern end and arcs from there northwesterly to France.

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