‘OK, Angela, tell me how you make this dish’, I say as we walk Lecce’s market together, her cheeks plummy from the recent cold.
‘OK. First you select a perfect chicory, this one is a real looker’, she says. She tucks the vegetable beneath her arm as though it were her briefcase.
Back at my place we strike wooden matches to light the flames under the large pots and she goes to work cleaning the chicory.
‘So what’s so special about chicory’, I ask her.
‘Well, first, they are very beautiful’, she says, her expression that of a young mother. ‘It might be the world’s most perfect vegetable. Healthy. Inexpensive. Hearty. Their flavour is rich and satisfying, complex. They feed the inner you as well’.
I slip some broad beans into a pot of water: they splash as they go in, leaving droplets of cold water across both of our faces. She laughs.
The cat in the school’s garden rounds the flower pots and sits to watch Angela as she works her knife through the leaves. His eyes start to ever……so….slowly….shut, rhythmically, as if they are some how mirroring his slowing pulse.
I pour another cup of tea from red kettle and warm my hands on the sides of the mug, the mug up to my chin.
I settle in for one of life’s most beautiful moments: watching a woman that I really like eating something that she really loves. If there are more beguiling moments between humans, I can’t think of one right now.
And while I’ve certainly made the dish hundreds of times, watching her eat in perfect silence, her spoon to mouth, plate to lap, the dish won’t ever, ever be the same for me…… not after today.
Not even close.
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