This is a post about ends. A long-awaited end and prosciutto ends.
But before the end, the beginning.
Yesterday my day started at my local police station and ended about 8 hours later in the central immigration office. Well, to be exact it started several months ago with endless phone calls, trips to various municipal offices and the Consulate, but you know that already.
I am now the proud holder of a permanent resident visa after decades of renewals, endless lines and many moments of distress. I still cannot believe it, I still am scared to even put it down in writing lest the law change and someone in uniform come knock on my door and take that precious slip of paper from me.
I think immigration is a nightmare wherever you are, what makes the difference in this country is the uncertainty of the outcome. Usually you know where you are going, what you have to do, what you have to bring. If all the requisites are there, you get what you went for and if they are not, you just don’t.
Not here. Laws change quicker than a model at a fashion show. What was valid yesterday may not be today, what was a fact the last time you called that office is now dubious. I think I got about ten different versions of how to renew my permit and what papers to present over a few weeks. I filled out forms and sent kits and was handed computer-generated appointments only to find my self once again filling in the same paper form I used ten years ago after a day at immigration last week and a broken down computer system. I paid fees at the post office only to find out that the new fiscal budget, which became effective on the day I sent in my kit, required an additional €200,00 payment. Then I ended up not paying a thing. I did not question that.
Now, I understand and admire the people working in these offices. They find themselves having to explain a system they don’t understand themselves to hundreds of foreigners who do not speak a word of Italian. They are constantly interrupted in their work by impatient, angry and somewhat desperate people asking all kinds of questions. Also, let us not forget that until recently Italy was a country of emigrants and it has not yet quite learned to deal with the soaring levels of immigration of the past two decades. To make things worse, public funding is at a minimum and more than one officer complained that they did not even have paper to print on (one actually asked me if he could use a copy I didn’t need to print something out for me on the other side. I kid you not).
Then again there is the other kind of employee: comfortably seated behind a glass partitioning who is rude, arrogant and impatient. The kind who raises his voice and treats people differently according to the color of their skin, their passport, their clothes even. The kind who forgot that at least one person in his family probably emigrated to the US, South America, Australia or some country in Europe. I am aware these people exist everywhere, not just here, and whenever I watch these things happening I feel a tightening in my chest.
I can count myself lucky as I am usually treated civilly once they hear my fluent Italian and see my US passport. Being a woman can be helpful too, but then again it may work against you according to who you end up dealing with. After many years, I have learned my way around. I bring pretty much any document I own with me (my husband teased me the other day when I wondered if I should bring some totally unrelated papers with me, which I incidentally ended up using) and copies of them all.
Yesterday I was given at least three reasons why I couldn’t renew my visa:
I didn’t have my husband’s tax returns with me (hello, I work, this is the 21st century, I have my tax returns with me).
I didn’t bring a certificate of family status with me (hello again, the Municipality offices gave me this paper – pull out – saying that as of 1 January 2012 they can no longer issue this paper for residents using them in PA offices. The PA must contact them directly. And by the way my children and husband’s social security numbers are on my tax returns).
I was told I had to go to another office for my specific case and when I did, they asked me (after waiting for 80 numbers before my turn) why I had gone there for the renewal (uhm, because you sent an email to the officer I was talking to asking him to send me over). I was then warned that the new law no longer envisaged ten-year renewals, the maximum was five. Bummer. So, how did I end up with a permanent visa? Once again, I am not asking.
I gave my Oscar-worthy performance: I played the helpless blonde with the grateful smile, I played the sympathetic friend who fully grasps the difficulties of being a public official, I played the taxpayer filled with indignation, I played the hard working feminist who supports two Italian citizens and I played the graduate from law school pulling out laws and lists.
Whatever I did it worked and I am grateful for what I was given. I just wish everybody on every line in every office could feel how I feel today, the relief, the joy. But I unfortunately know that will not be the case.
Now to the prosciutto end. This pasta is packed with flavor thanks to the prosciutto and with umami from the dried mushrooms. In Italy you can buy the end part of a prosciutto leg, that little piece that you can no longer slice with the machine. Sort of like that last little part of the pencil you can no longer sharpen. This works fine of course with some lovely sliced prosciutto too, but if they are slicing it freshly for you, ask them to make thicker slices. Otherwise, try asking at the counter for that endpiece, you might get lucky. Amounts here vary depending on how many people you are making this for, so I will give you a general idea.
1 prosciutto end or about 200gr prosciutto
1 small bag (about 2 handfuls) of dried porcini or mixed mushrooms
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it. In the meantime, soak the mushrooms for a few minutes in a small bowl with warm water. Chop up the prosciutto by hand, as finely as you can. Brown some sliced or chopped garlic in a pan with olive oil and then add in the prosciutto. While it fries in the pan, squeeze out the excess liquid from the mushrooms and chop up finely. Do not discard the liquid. Add mushrooms to the pan and after a few more minutes add in the water. Let it dry up a little, but not too much, you want it to be creamy. When the pasta is ready, drain it but not too much. Mix in the sauce and serve with a grating of Parmesan cheese, a little pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.