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paternoster: new world, old world and where you find yourself

  It couldn't be prettier, this mountain. For the longest time you half expect Heidi and her grandfather and oxen to cross the road in a straw-covered wagon. It's that pretty, that storybook-like, so completely untouched by man. The only way to know which millennium you're in as that every so often you pass what looks like someone having thrown...

il polpettone e come mai lo insegno: meat loaf and why i teach it

  At the school we serve rabbit, at least once a week. We serve bitter weeds, once caked with red mud. We serve cheeses that could revive dazed boxers. We serve actual flower bulbs, boiled in vinegar and then put up in jars. We serve squiggly little things that live between shells at the bottom of the briny sea. And in...

le pignate: earthenware pots, salento-style

Is it 'irony'? If not, what else would you call it? How else would you explain this disparity, the perception of the Mediterranean basin as the cradle of simple, fresh, quickly-prepared foods, when, for the last 12,000 years or so it's to the long-simmered brown foods that nearly all of us owe our existence? Vessels like these pignate was how it was done,...

in difesa del rosato: in defense of pink wine

I can't think of any other wine that represents such a polemic. Can you? You can almost predict what folks will think and say about it, just by reading their bank statements or passport stamps, assuming that they'd let you read those sorts of things. But I think there are really only four true stances on the subject of pink wine: 1) That...

gli spaghetti alle vongole: spaghetti and clams

Next time you hear one of his solos, sit and really listen. I mean really listen. I'm not the first to say this, but the solos of Louis Armstrong are famously appreciated for being reduced to their absolute essence. There is no flab, nothing that can be trimmed away without leaving a gaping wound.  His solos are gorgeously spartan, pristine and...

granita di caffè: espresso-flavoured italian ice

Everyone has that one dessert, the thing you pull out of the air when there is nothing in the house. I shouldn't tell you this (please, let's keep this between us), but la granita di caffè is that dessert for me. I bang one out a least a few times a week. And in the summer, it's what's for breakfast. My...

gli scampi: langoustines

Norway lobsters is what the books call them. The English call them Dublin Bay Prawns. The French call them Langoustines.  The Spanish who go nuts for the things, buying up up to half of England's catch, call them cigalas. Visit friends in Spain and you'll be offered these, often the first meal to celebrate your arrival. Maybe your last...

la pepata di cozze: hot pot of fragrant mussels

This is the first part in a series of posts dedicated to fish and fish cookery, and especially how it's done here in the Salento, the thin slice of gorgeous land dangling out into the middle of the seas that make up the Mediterranean. Like you, I had always tended to fall back on a handful of recipes, virtually neglecting...

le orecchiette salentine: little ear-shaped pasta, salento-style

No pasta in all of Italy is harder to make. As a teacher, I push them back later into the week, introducing the easier shapes first. This cuts down on the frustration that usually accompanies learning how to make le orecchiette, nearly always dictating a rich, Rococo-like stream of blasphemy, free-styling profanity featuring donkeys and broomsticks, followed by the tearing...

la mia taieddhra: famous dish of mussels, potatoes and courgettes

I'm going to get hate mail on this one. Drive bys with rotten fruit. Perhaps Molotov's through my front windows. If I had children, larger kids would pull their braids and push them down into the gravel. Folks would kick my puppy, if I had one. Cartoonists and late night television hosts are going to use me as the butt...