Archive for the ‘Grub and Stuff’ Category

An English Fandango hits the cyber-shelves

19/04/2013

I am excited, terrified, pleased but nervous to announce that An English Fandango is now on the Amazon shelves in Kindle format.

If you fancy a gander at the cover – hilariously executed by the very talented Simone Chararyn – or if you would like to review and/or even buy, then the link can be found by clicking here.

Any feedback, even here on the blog, will be most gratefully received.

I have already had requests for non-Kindle formats, but as I have initially placed the book with KDP Select (which apparently enables wider promotion) I will only be able to do that after the 90-day exclusivity period ends.

(Please could those interested in another electronic format let me know what that would be? I am utterly clueless about such matters…)

Requests for paperback copies have also been forthcoming, but I have no idea if that will be financially viable on a small-scale – I will report back as soon as I know.

Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Aperitivo, Anyone?

03/02/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

The Italian aperitivo is a veritable institution, and one that I have come to wholeheartedly approve of; although my waistline may not thank me for my adherence to such traditions.

Carbs ahoy!

If you care to drop by your local bar at any time from about 11h in the morning, you should be able to witness the breakfast paraphernalia of cappuccino, caffè latte, latte macchiato, brioche, focaccia and so on, being cleared away to make space for an alluring spread of calorific nibbles.

Patatine, arachide, funghi, olive, prosciutto, formaggio, crostini, crackers, salame (or in other words; crisps, peanuts, pickled mushrooms, olives, ham, cheese, croutons, cheesy biscuits, salami) amongst many other morsels, are spread out along the bar and brought to the tables in order to delight the tastebuds of those who file in for a tipple before plodding off home for lunch.

A small drink to wash down a mountain of snacks.

The drinks themselves can be quite a different matter, however, as many Italians are fans of a concept that I have never been able to come to terms with.

One that makes my stomach gyrate like a landed fish and my tastebuds retreat up my nasal passages every time I see an example of it being poured or consumed:

it is commonly known as The Drink With The Foul Bitter Taste.

Exhibit number one: ick.

The non-alcoholic versions of this particular abomination; this crime against the senses, are the Crodino – an innocent-looking orange fizz, which lured me in one day and managed to rape my tongue with a single sip before I caught on and cast the pernicious bubbles down to their plughole-ulate doom.

And then there is the Sanbittèr, made marginally less evil only by dint of the warning contained within its name.

Revoltingness in a bottle.

Joining these are their alcoholic cousins (look away now if you consider yourself to be delicate of stomach, or at least make sure there is a sturdy bucket in the vicinity…) of which below are a few examples served in my local watering-hole:

Americano – campari, martini rosso, soda water.

Maison – bitter campari, white and red vermouth, gin.

Negroni – Campari, martini rosso, gin.

Bruttaçao – sparkling white wine with a splash of campari.

And many other similarly gut-churning – and almost certainly gut-rotting – combinations of some of the most gruesome booze ever to have been bottled.

Extremely Italian, but still yucky..

Another popular aperitivo, is the Aperol Spritz: made when the lightly alcoholic Italian mixer, Aperol, is criminally and inexplicably chucked in to ruin a perfectly good glass of sparkling white wine.

But luckily for me, and others like me, it is possible to get stuck into the free vittles without compromising one’s delicate palate, and yet whilst also continuing to support the Italian liquid-beverages industry.

We have Prosecco to pave the way for the parmegiano, Peroni to precede the prosciutto and a superb selection of Italian wines to accompany the rest of the moreish foodstuffs to their final resting place.

And for those who do not wish to pass the remaining hours of the afternoon in an alcohol-induced fug, why not try some Spuma? A sparkling soft drink that comes in nero or bianco and tastes almost nothing like anything else that has ever passed my lips.

- Although the white is perhaps vaguely elderflowery and the black has a slight dandelion and burdock tinge.

But don’t quote me on that.

An… ummm… interesting alternative.

If by any chance that lunchtime aperitivo has left you hungering and thirsting for more, my advice would be to enjoy a long siesta before making sure you are back at the bar around 18h in time to begin the process all over again.

There will almost certainly be a certain somebody in situ who is very pleased to see you…

Got any spare crisps, mister?

This is Status Viatoris, who you needn’t think is overlooking tonic water or bitter lemon either for they are both the work of the devil, in Italy.

Can It Really Be That Time Again?

30/12/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I’m afraid so.

Snootzer - temporarily replacing Blitzer during his spell in rehab.

Yes: yet another year has managed to sneak on past, astounding those of us who suffer from the malady commonly known as: “Crisping cowpats! Where has the time gone?!”

(I am told it is an age-related thing I shall eventually come to terms with; possibly in much the same way I have resigned myself to rarely remembering what I came into the kitchen to get, or the occasional mad hunt for glasses that are already perched on the top of my head.)

Twinkling Terrazza

So Christmas 2011 has been and gone, and we are now a few short hours from the ushering in of 2012 – and the end of the world if those enlightened spokespeople for superstitious bonkersdom are to be believed.

And other than an on-going list of piffling illnesses (to which laringitus, mouth ulcers and a yeast infection can now be added), I have to admit that the last week or so has been all I could have wished for and more.

Fibre optics spreading a little festive cheer...

Admittedly it got off to a rather chaotic start, with the harrying of the builders from a (still half-completed) apartment in order to install my much longed-for French furniture.

But amazingly (movers grumbling at 54 steps-induced respiratory difficulties notwithstanding)  the whole endeavour was gloriously hitch-free, and having met the removal lorry in My Little French Village at 8h00, by 14h00 I was already elbow-deep in dust and suds getting my newly furnished Italian home scrubbed up to mothership standards…

…for she was due for a docking the very next day and there is nothing I enjoy more than the challenge of a tight turnaround.

Cosy just ain't the word!

Thus, 24 frantically busy hours later, and I was racing – late, comme d’habitude – to Nice International Airport to collect  Mother who, by failing to recognise my car at the Kiss, Bye, Fly collection/drop-off/ speedy drive-past, almost caused a fatal tits-upping of the entire enterprise.

Luckily our stars eventually collided in a flurry of waves and shrieks, and we were able to stage a triumphant return to My Little Italian Village; snuggling in for the duration amongst the merry twinkle of Xmas decs, and in the company of a most delighted Pooch.

When only tooth and claw will get the job done.

We spent the evening of the 23rd enjoying a typically chaotic and noisy  dinner with my adoptive famiglia (being now utterly inured to Italian decibels, it took Mother’s wincing visage to remind me just how loud they can get), and rather rashly decided to return the favour in the form of an “apero-cena” on the 24th in order to show off the now furnished apartment, and obtain forgiveness for opting out of the Christmas Day meal in a local pizzeria.

Contrary to all expectations, and with the rallying round of these excellent folk with polpette (little meat balls), Argentine empanadas (savoury mince and egg pastries) and a torta di formaggio (savoury cheese tart) to add to the salamini, parmeggiano, insalata caprese, olives and smoked salmon already littering the table, the evening was a roaring success.

Pandoro joins an otherwise rather British Xmas

With all the most pressing social engagements behind us, we were therefore able to spend a peaceful and guilt-free Xmas day at home with Pooch and my favourite Kiwi friend, contemplating the bottoms of rather too many bottles of prosecco and demolishing a roast chicken and apple crumble feast tipsily prepared by yours truly.

Boxing Day brought yet more delights in the shape of a classical concert in our local church. The repertoire was rather ambitious for a small brass and woodwind orchestra, with Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Dvorak providing some serious meat to accompany the more light-hearted carol veg.

A gentleman of my acquaintance rather aptly described the performance as “well-meant”, but although parts of it could certainly not be called technically masterful renditions, it was a truly delightful concert delivered with a joy and enthusiasm that was uplifting to behold.

"Ho.. ho... how the floating pooh sticks am I going to get back up there after all those delicious mince pies that SV was so incredibly touched to receive?"

Thus I slide, well-fed, contemplative and still a little snotty, towards the dawning of a brand spanking new year.

And on that note, I would like very much to wish all Status Viatoris readers, their families and their friends, oodles of health and happiness for 2012.

 “Dance as though no one is watching.

Love as though you’ve never been hurt.

Sing as though no one can hear you.”

And, most importantly:

“Live as though heaven is on earth.”

Because that is precisely where it is.

This is Status Viatoris, extremely hopeful that 2012 will see all French notaries being rounded up and repeatedly slapped with wet fish in a public place, in Italy.

Confessions of a Serial Comfort Eater

30/11/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Or should that be a “cereal comfort eater”?

I suppose, given my lifelong love affair with Kellogg’s, that the second term is equally valid, if a smidgen less encompassing of the whole truth.

Having written here and here about successful attempts to gain control over the blubber that has been souring my existence since my late teens, it seems right and balanced that I also share with you the low points.

Of which “right now” would qualify pretty nicely.

Because at some point over the last two months, I appear to have fallen off the healthy lifestyle wagon and the damage is starting to show: digging-in waistbands over rolling hillocks of tummy, bras that pinch, the disappearance of any semblance of a 90° angle where neck meets jawline.

But by far the worst symptom of all, has been the gradual erosion of my self-esteem: that most welcome of weight-loss side-effects.

And as I find myself in Italy, there is absolutely no hiding away from the reality of the situation:

“Goodness, you have put on weight. I can really see it in your face.”

“Goodness, you have put on weight. I can really see it round your middle.”

and my favourite old chestnut:

“How exciting! I didn’t know you were pregnant!”

Mortifying, depressing; but may possibly serve to heave my bulk back onto the healthy lifestyle wagon sooner than if I were surrounded by more polite souls.

Tracking back, it seems likely that things began to take a downhill path when the autumnal chills brought with them my first dose of flu; the negative connotations of such an occurrence being two-fold:

- I was not well enough to take Pooch for his customary walks.

- I had to rely on “easy” food stuffs because I was unable to take care of shopping or cooking.

But when flu turns into gastric flu, which morphs into a sinus infection, and then descends to a chest infection – all of which drag on in a seemingly interminable fashion, and are interspersed with persistent migraines; the risk is that a perennial comfort eater will eventually turn to that which their brain has decreed will bring temporary alleviation of all misery: calorific foodstuffs.

And when fevers, coughs and sniffles also conspire to prevent said comfort eater from keeping up their calm, but regular, exercise regime, then the result soon becomes visible to all and sundry.

So this is the point at which I find myself, yet again: gazing with horrified fascination into the mirror, torn between wanting to hide in a corner and sob self-loathing into a packet of biscuits, and the knowledge that with the right psychological impetus, I WILL be able to turn this around.

For although it may well be so that the consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods fosters addiction for high-fat, high-sugar foods; as long as the resulting satisfaction is fleeting and the price that satisfaction demands too high, I decree that my physical and mental health, and my sense of self-worth deserve to be fought for.

PLEASE DON’T GO ANYWHERE, HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, I’M BATTLING TO MAKE MY WAY BACK TO YOU!

This is Status Viatoris, the battle of the blubber is never over, a comfort eater is never cured; trying one’s best is the best one can do, in Italy.

Oh Nuts!

26/10/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Sunday played host to another important event in the annual My Little Italian Village calendar.

It was time for Festa della Castagna: a heart and cockle warming day of crackling fires, roasting chestnuts and a reminder that perhaps winter isn’t that bad after all.

Just the ticket...

Providing excesses of weather do not halt play, the main street and village square usually fill up with stalls peddling anything from local cheeses to olive wood carvings, paper flower arrangements, and even bizarre “owl” dresses made in Thailand (I’m just bitter because I desperately wanted one, but was too podgy to fit into any of them…), whilst folk mill around scoffing bags of roasted chestnuts and local sausage, all washed down with red wine and chestnut beer.

Before long, the village is crunching happily through the charcoal covered remnants of a day’s feasting…

Exhibit 1: Chestnut shells on an ex-pat table...

Unfortunately I was halfway down my bag before I remembered that foodstuffs reputed to make normal people fart, tend to have rather more serious implications for my delicate innards.

Too much information, perchance?

Sorry.

Exhibit 2: Chestnut shells under an Italian table... ;-)

This year I was able to experience the Festa della Castagna from a slightly different perspective – a more commercial one – thanks to one of my new “mini-jobs”.

Ci Vuole (it’s needed or necessary) is a tiny, but perfectly formed little emporium that belies its size by managing to bulge with a seemingly endless stock of interesting bits and bobs – antique mirrors, dresses, dressers and lamps; olive oil and handmade soap, aluminium jewellery, paintings and agricultural baskets and pots – the variety is as rich as it is fascinating.

An Aladdin's cave of goodies...

And lucky old me has been offered the opportunity by the Italian-American owner to pongle around amongst the goodies act as sales assistant for a few hours a week.

I am even to be remunerated for the privilege, and life don’t get much more satisfying than that.

A selection of bits...

So Sunday saw us perched in the street outside the entrance, holding court over a table hopefully festooned with cinnamon and olive oil soap, brass bells, candles, olive sifters and fragrant bags of pot pourri – the perfect opportunity to make contact with the masses and introduce them to the delights of Ci Vuole.

Non-locals and foreigners wandered in and out of the shop throughout the festa, casting admiring glances over the wares and asking interested questions about their provenance. Interspersed with them were some of the older villagers, who simply looked rather bemused whilst wondering out loud about the intelligence of anyone prepared to pay good money for old stuff.

(Luckily for the future of this particular concern, those are the very locals we are relying upon to delve into their attics and sheds in order to keep us supplied with “old stuff”, and not the target client-base we are hoping will cough up for it.)

...and an array of bobs.

Sadly Sunday’s sales did not extend beyond the odd soap an a couple of bundles of incense sticks, but by all accounts we were not alone – trade in general was pretty lax: whilst there is apparently always just enough dosh for seasonal food and drink, could it be expenditure on heating bills that  is currently taking precedence over the acquisition of pretty trinkets?

Warmth come at a price, you know.

Which brings me to the interesting conundrum I now face: how to winkle enough cash out of the Ci Vuole customers in order to finance the toastifying  of my own humble abode…

This is Status  Viatoris, keen to see whether her modern-day nomad status has deprived her of her previous membership to the nation of shopkeepers, in Italy.

A Scoffulatory Journey

19/10/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Having resolutely put all things culinarias from my mind in 2003, I was barely back over the border before my taste buds began involuntarily wallowing in a swill of nostalgic juices.

All concerns about putting back the weight I had lost over the past nine months disappeared in the squeeze of a lemon and the grind of a pepper mill, as I feverishly started planning my menu for the coming days…

First and foremost on my list of must-have-on-pain-of-deaths, was my definition of a proper Spanish breakfast: café con leche (infinitely more bearable than the gut rot they serve up in Italy), zumo de naranja natural (the health benefits of which are often offset by the addition of several sachets of sugar) and best of all; pan tumaca – fresh pitufo bread rolls, lightly toasted and spread with tomato innards before being drenched in olive oil then lightly sprinkled with salt.

Boy oh boy, some things never change – it turned out to be still far and away my favourite way of starting the day.

The desayuno of Kings

Breakfast taken care of, it was to the famous tapeo that my thoughts then turned.

How I had missed that glorious spread of bits and bobs, each expertly crafted to tickle the taste buds and seduce the senses: tortilla de papas, croquetas, papas bravas, ensaladilla rusa, morcilla, calamares a la romana, pulpo gallego, montaditos, pimientos piquillo, gambas al ajillo, pimientos rellenos, boquerones en vinagre – the mention of any of which is still capable of sending my tummy a-rumbling and filling my greedy mouth with lakes of lustful saliva.

Avocado and prawn montadito nestling happily next to quail's egg and salchicha montadito

Pimientos masterfully rellenados (and not long for that plate)

Spicy papas bravas, exquisitely accompanied by creamy croquetas de jamón

Calamares, boquerones in vinagre and pescaito frito join in the fray...

Despite the straining of seams that resulted from such excesses, there was nearly always room for pud; and a teensy dish of practically calorie-free crema catalana would do the job nicely, thank you very much…

Crème Brûlée by any other name...

By the time we reached Portugal, even I was flagging a little. And having ticked all of the most important food stuffs from my list, I was ready to return to a more controlled way of eating. So what better than a modest and healthy bowl of seafood soup?

My darling, I dream of you still...

Spicy, fragrant and rich, it proved to be utterly and totally the most delicious bowl of seafood soup I had ever supped in my entire life, and washed down with copious quantities of iconic Mateus Rosé, (complete with fancy ice jacket)…

For re-hydrating purposes only...

…and the odd taste of my travelling companion’s goat (in the nicest possible way, you understand)…

I kid you not.

…it was quite possibly the most fabulous meal of our entire trip. So thanks a bundle, Porto, I will now be unable to visit Portugal without suffering similar paroxysms of greed as those which assailed me in Spain.

And once Burgos had been kind enough to provide us with temperatures wintery enough to allow a guilt free rendition of chocolate con churros, I knew the time had definitely come to kiss goodbye to my scoffulatory journey, and begin finding my way back to a more healthy life.

Spare tyres guaranteed.

(T’was exceedingly nice to be naughty, though…;-) )

This is Status Viatoris, thrilled to have returned to find broccoli season in full swing! in Italy.

The SV Guide to a Good Night Out

19/07/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Step One: Put on your best party frock – making very sure not to forget your dancing shoes – and carefully apply glittery make-up (optional for men).

Step Two: Make your way to the village bar, where good friends and oodles of beer await.

Step Three: Pile seven people of various sizes into a small Italian car, and laugh far more uproariously that the situation actually warrants as the driver makes four attempts to propel said vehicle up the steep ramp and out of the carpark.

Step Four: Pump up the music and sing unnecessarily loudly for the entire 2km journey to the local beer festival’s Brazilian evening.

Step Five: Fill your plate with rostelle (little kebabs), stinco (pork shin), chips, pasta, sausage, bruschette (various things on toast) and indeed anything else that you can think of  (it helps if they are also on the menu).

Step Six: Fill your glass with beer.

Step Seven: Repeat step six.

Step Eight: Ditto.

Step Nine: Ditto.

Step Ten: Ditto.

Step Eleven: You are now ready to hit the dance floor. Now, you know perfectly well that you are the undisputed queen of dance, so when the nice lady with the feather on her head and the nipple tassels shimmies up to entice you into joining her in a bit of samba, just do it!

Step Twelve: Repeat step six – dancing like a goddess is thirsty work.

Step Thirteen: Ditto.

Step Fourteen: Chat to lots of people. It really doesn’t matter if you know them or not; your wit is sparkling and your conversation scintillating. Your presence can only serve to enhance their beer festival/Brazilian evening experience.

Step Fifteen: Repeat step six.

Step Sixteen: It’s time to shake that booty again, and show all those rhythm-less people how it’s done. Wiggle those hips! Windmill those arms! Holy moly, you’ve sure got the moves…

Step Seventeen: Refuse the offer of a perfectly good car seat, and instead travel home in style. For the flat bed of a small red motocarro undoubtedly constitutes stylish transport. And comfort. And warmth. As well as providing a sense of adventure and a really good view of the stars – which look strangely more appealing this night than any other you can remember – luckily there are lots of people around to whom to impart this suddenly very important conviction.

Step Eighteen: Stagger up the squillion steps to your apartment, making sure to giggle loudly enough to wake the neighbours (their little brats make enough noise the rest of the time, so what the hell).


Step Nineteen:
You really haven’t consumed enough calories in the last eight hours, so cook up an enormous pot of pasta and consume rapidly and messily.

Step Twenty: Drink a large glass of water and collapse into bed – you are still blissfully unaware that the builder will be ringing on your door bell in a little under four hours, so make the most of such ignorance, and go to bloody sleep!

This is Status Viatoris, please note that the SV Guide has not been approved by any medical professional thus ensuring absolute enjoyment, unhindered by any boring and tedious “health” advice… ;-)

Bil-hanā’ wa ash-shifā’…

12/07/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Beef tajine with prunes. Yum!

…or for those of us who do not have our modern Arabic down pat  – “May you have your meal with gladness and health.”

Which is exactly what I did on Sunday night, having been lucky enough to have been invited to an evening with a very international flavour: four Poms, a Kiwi and a Canuck, all sitting down to enjoy the most mouthwatering repast, prepared right in front of our eyes by the Moroccan cousin of one of the girls’ paramours.

A pasticciere (confectioner) by trade, and a passionate adherent to healthy eating, he excels in combining traditional Moroccan recipes with an organic style all his own. Herbs to clean this, spices to purify that; it is all minutely thought-out in order to provide guilt-free sustenance to those who treat their bodies as a temple, as well as titillating the taste buds of us rather less corporally-discerning souls.

Whilst the tajine was cooking I was set to work hand-rolling seasoned meatballs, quite a few of which the paramour was then popping raw into his mouth  – making me mightily relieved that it was not going to be me kissing him later on in the evening ;-). They were then cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, before being scooped into hungry mouths with lumps of soft Moroccan bread – a vast improvement on the often ghastly dry Italian stuff.

All those familiar food aromas, coupled with the sound of what is one of my favourite languages, ensured that I spent the entire night awash on a tide of nostalgia. Whisked right back to Granada in the late nineties, and the three years I spent with a pharmacy student from Ksar el-Kebir. The relationship itself was an unmitigated disaster (my speciality), but boy did I revel in the exoticism. The music, the food, the traditions; all perks of an association with someone from a vastly different background. And, for a while at least, more than enough recompense for turning a blind eye to the glaringly obvious examples of long-term incompatibility.

So I am led to conclude that Moroccan food with an organic twist is manna of the gods, my desire to see Cheb Khaled live in concert remains undiminished and I STILL DESPERATELY WANT TO LEARN ARABIC!

Oh dear, let’s just hope that the renewed itching in my flip flops is simply a sweat-induced fungal condition and not something with more serious geographical ramifications…

This is Status Viatoris, wahad for the sharia, and off we go!

Wobbly Bits on the Wane

11/05/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Back in January of this year I wrote a post about my attempts to battle the dreaded bulge, and it’s probably about time I came good with a bit of an update for anyone who may be interested in such matters…

Having followed the Slimming World plan for seven weeks whilst I was in the UK, I returned to Italy full of good intentions and at least six kilos lighter. But as fantastic as it undoubtedly was to be heaped with compliments on my (marginally) trimmer physique, I couldn’t help but feel ever so slightly terrified.

Would I be able to keep the weight off without my weekly SW weigh-in to spur me on? Would I be able to carry on losing weight in a country abounding with delicious things to eat, and where low-fat options of many daily staples are simply not available? At times of stress, would I be able to resist tumbling back into a cycle of comfort eating without my UK support system?

I decided to take things one day at a time. No pressure. No fretting. No stress.

  • I have got back into the habit of taking a couple of energetic dog walks every day, even when I don’t feel like it – exercising in the fresh air never fails to make me feel more positive, as well has having the added advantage of reducing my appetite.
  • I make sure I always have plenty of fresh/frozen veg, wholemeal pasta and mozzarella in the house so when lacking in inspiration or patience for more inventive dining, I know that I at least have the ingredients for a quick, healthy meal.
  • If I know I will be going out for dinner (a frequent hazard of Italian-living), I just have vegetables for lunch so that I can enjoy the evening spread guilt-free.
  • And if I do overdo things, I refuse to beat myself up about it; I simply make more of an effort the following day.
  • I put on a little bit of make-up and a spritz of perfume every morning, even if I’m only heading out to walk the dog.
  • And once out and about, I make a concerted effort to stand up straight, walk tall, and attempt to emulate the sort of woman I would dearly love to be.

Being slim is most definitely not the be all and end all, but feeling moderately happy in your own skin is a very uplifting state of mind to attain. I have now lost the twelve kilos I originally set out to lose, but for me, and countless others like me, this particular battle will never be completely won.

So rather than trying to squeeze the needle on my scales down even further, I am instead going to try and concentrate on maintaining a lifestyle that is hopefully going some way to provide me with a healthier body, and what is far more important; a healthier mind.

It will be a full-time occupation.

This is Status Viatoris, who would like to send oodles of love and support to all of her friends, readers and indeed anyone who is battling the bulge and pummeling the paunch, wherever you may be. Don’t ever give up, because you can do it!

Utterly Stuffata

30/04/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Looks innocent enough...

For a country that is stuffed to the gunwales with an impossible number of slim and beautiful people, it is quite frankly astonishing just how much food your average Italian can put away. Perhaps not on a day-to-day basis, but put them in a restaurant on a high day or a holiday, and I guarantee their food consumption could quite easily feed a small developing nation.

Before I lived here, my ex-partner and I often drove over from France for lunch in one of the many villages scattered over the Ligurian hills. On Sunday in particular, there is no menu to choose from in such restaurants; you get what you are given, and what you are given is one hell of a lot: anti-pasti followed by pasta, followed by risotto, followed by a meat dish, followed by dessert; and all washed down with copious amounts of wine.

But as spectacular as the food undoubtedly is, I always left the table feeling more than slightly green about the gills. So since I have lived here, I’ve done my best to avoid such excesses. Easter Sunday, however, caught me unawares…

That's a lotta tucka!

I joined my adoptive family and respective hangers-on for Easter lunch in a restaurant just outside the village, without giving enough thought to what such an eating marathon might entail. I should have gone without breakfast, for example; and not eating a scrap for at least three days prior to that might also have stood me in good stead for what was to come.

For that list of food you see, was not a list of options to choose from. Oh no. Every single item on said list was placed on my plate over a two-hour period, green gills or no green gills.

The problem is always the same; I approach the table with an appetite, so the innocuous-looking aperitivi and anti-pasti slip down with barely a murmur. All well and good. But then the pasta arrives, and I realise that I perhaps should have paced myself a little. But what the hell! It’s not as if I do it every day, and my goodness, it is all so very tasty…

…oh god. I feel awfully nauseous. Just looking at the asparagus risotto has caused major internal gymnastics, and now they’re coming at me brandishing what must be half a fair-sized lamb. HELLLLLLP!

I managed to get round it this time by off-loading considerable amounts to the menfolk (there, I knew you lot had to be good for something ;-) ) and shuffling the rest around my plate in a sort of “I am definitely eating, but slowly and thoughtfully” way until the dishes finally stopped appearing.

Then, after a brief respite, a 10kg chocolate egg was wheeled out which the children proceed to beat into bite-sized pieces with their fists. Strangely enough, I somehow found room for two whole chunks. What is it about chocolate?

This is Status Viatoris, still with a bit of an ominous rumble in the jungle, in Italy.


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