There are some days here in Puglia when your little tootsies don’t seem to touch the ground all day and today has been one of those.
My little jeep which I had planned to take for an airing after its winter hibernation sprung a leak in one of the water pipes on Monday. So today Pasquale arrived to drive with me to the garage and then bring me home. Unfortunately the bar is on the way to the garage and neither car seems capable of passing it so in we went for morning coffee. There was quite a crowd of workmen inside and unlike most workmen around the world I have had the pleasure to chat to, the talk in Italy is not of widgets and drill bits but food. More precisely what everyone ate at Pasquetta, how was it cooked and how it came out. I was of course called upon to vouch for the excellent food that Rosa prepared but for which he was clearly taking full credit. Onwards then to Donato’s garage. He insisted that we immediately decamp to the local bar for more coffee and further in-depth discussions on the intricacies of preparing the lunch. Luckily the ironmonger was nearby and I avoided yet another coffee by ducking out to visit it to buy some bits.
This shop is like the ones I remember in my childhood, loads of shelves stuffed full of – well – stuff and a certain smell about the whole place. We had been conditioned by the cheap prices at Home Depot in the USA and B&Q in the UK so when we hit these shores we had assumed wrongly that you went to a large store like Leroy Merlin to get the er stuff. But that is not the case in Italy the bigger the store the higher the price seems a rule of thumb as they appear hampered by costly labour restrictions. These little places are much nicer to shop in and my thought turned quickly to fork handles
This place seems to do a steady trade but it was shocking to read this morning in the Italian paper that 10,000 shops went bankrupt in Italy in January and February this year. That is 170 every single day and the retail association expects this figure to increase month on month . This is a direct result of the policies initiated by our unelected Premier who was brought in to save the Euro by the also unelected octogenarian President. Once the electorate were given their head in February the unelected premier was annihilated in the polls. I wonder why ?
Still I digress though I must do a little on Italian politics at some stage on this blog. From the cafe we drove back towards my house but another detour took us down a track to a house with a large vegetable area growing along side it. Out we jumped and within minutes after greeting the owner we were busy digging up and cutting rape ( pronounced rahpey ) . Now this is not to be confused with british rape seed . It is in fact part of the cabbage family and is full of vitamin C and tons of potassium as well. It is one of the new power foods in the USA but here it is the accompaniment to the famous Puglian pasta orechiette ( little ears ‘cos that is their shape). We actually also mix it into our chicken curry as you would spinach in India and very good it is too, so I was an eager digger.
Hands in the soil, close to the earth, that must be a cue for an Italian song mustn’t it
Now all of you know all about him but a fact I didn’t know was how he came to fame. You remember Zucchero from yesterday ? Well in 1992 he wrote a song that he wanted Pavarotti to be the duet tenor on. To do this he did a demo tape to send to the great tenor and used, to sing the stand in tenor part, the almost unknown Andrea Bocelli. Pavarotti heard the demo and said ” not me, him ” but in fact Zucchero did use Luciano but took Bocelli on tour giving him massive European exposure. The rest as they say is history.
We also dug a load of bulbs up that we will pickle but more of that at a later date. Suffice to say I am sitting here now typing but having an Ice Cold in Alex moment. If you have read the Neville Shute book you will know the hero sits in the heat of the desert during WWII and imagines a beer glass full of ice cold beer standing on the bar of the club in Alexandria. The condensation is running slowly down the glass as the beer bubbles up inside it.
I’m off to the pub. Oh, okay here is that song Zucchero wrote but I’m not hanging around to listen to it.