Her tiny features appear in my cameras viewfinder as I focus, her self-consciousness something new between us. ‘So, Anna, tell me what you’re doing while you’re doing it’, I say, the tiny mirror in my camera clinking up and down.
‘Hello, I am Anna, Silvestro’s house keeper and I’m making a dried fig tart’, she says, her neratino accent as thick as motor oil. I start to laugh.
‘If you’re going to laugh, I’m going to go home’, she says. ‘No, I promise I’ll be good’, I say, wanting to point out that I’m taking her picture, not recording her. Still, her earnestness at self-declaration is adorable.
‘So, tell me what you’re doing’, I say.
‘OK. I am taking two eggs, and breaking them into the flour’.
‘What kind of flour’?
‘The normal kind’, she says, proud of herself.
‘Then you add butter’, I ask.
‘No, we are pugliesi and we use olive oil for everything’.
‘How much do you add’, I ask.
‘Just enough, not too much. In other words, the right amount’.
‘Good to know’.
‘Then a pitch of salt’, she says, starting to open up a bit.
‘ Then you roll it out with a rolling pin’.
‘This are the dried figs that Silvestro has left over when he makes vincotto each year, the ones that flavour it. We keep them in a jar of vincotto and then eat them over the winter’, she says.
‘They are good but they are very caloric’. This from a woman that could slide down a drain if not careful.
‘Then you line the baking tin with the figs cut into quarters. They are sticky’.
‘How long do you bake it’, I ask.
‘Until it’s done, about half an hour’.
‘No, normal hot’.
We put the crostata into the oven and then we go and fold sheets and table clothes together, folding towards the centre of the room and each another. We tells me about her making her first crostata, when she was a little girl.
‘I thought the oven was magical’, she says.
‘I remove the crostata from the oven of Silvestro’, she says after we’ve returned to the kitchen.
‘Do you make crostate often’, I ask.
‘When my man comes over I do’, she says with a smile. ‘I’ll tell you more when you’re older’, she adds.
I take the last picture, we sit down together and each eat a piece of Anna’s crostata,the dancing steam twirling up and off the tart as our forks click against the ceramic plates.
‘Thank you Anna, that was delicous’, I say, just as the espresso percolator begins to spit as we finish.
As we clean up the plates and pass the broom, I catch her from the corner of my eye, and for the very first time imagine her as a little girl, tiptoeing barefoot towards the kitchen, experiencing its magic for the very first time.