Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of love and of loss - Chicken Tikka Masala


This has been an extraordinary week, and as I start writing this post it is only halfway through.
Extraordinary as in "out of the ordinary" not " unusually great".
F and I spent the first two days of it sitting sweat-drenched in stiff, ceremonial outfits in the midst of a heatwave.
On Monday we wore the colors of mourning to say goodbye to an old friend. Needless to say, his departure was unexpected, shocking, painful and happened much too soon.
It is very different when you bid your farewell to a person that has lived a long, rich life. It is still extremely sad, but you know it is their time, it is part of the circle of life.

When, on the other hand, you sit in a pew surrounded by all the people who were a part of your formative years and you see grown men (and women) cry their eyes out, something is very wrong. You almost hear an unfinished life coming to a screaching halt. There is just grief, no comprehension. You feel the weight of injustice on your shoulders; as the priest talks you remember facial expressions, words said, moments spent together that had gone lost somewhere in your subconscious. While you sit in that church it seems everyone is suddenly a good friend... no, your best friend. You are all connected on an intimate level, you share that pain. Everyone has an air of empathy and well meaning. You mentally promise each other you will never forget, you will share the precious memories, you will be better friends, companions, parents, children from now on. You hug, you exchange tissues and bare a part of your soul you usually never let anyone see. And even if you pretend not to notice them, you feel the cold fingers of fear creaping up around your hairline at the mere thought that it could have been you. For days after you spend large amounts of your time being incredibly aware of and thankful for the beauty that surrounds you.
So yes, that was Monday.

Raw from the experience of the previous day and a tad unwilling, on Tuesday we donned the colors of summer. I stepped into a flowy, light dress and F replaced his somber tie with a bright one. We didn't even turn on the radio on the drive up to the wedding, our hearts were so heavy. Then, as we neared the mountains and crossed the border into another country, our mood got lighter and we started feeling almost elated.

The sky was blue, the lake sparkled in the sun and the beauty of the landscape enchanted us. Once more we silently thanked someone/something for the breathtaking world we live in.
It did us good to see a new family being created after seeing a broken family the day before. It is good for the soul to counterbalance salty tears of grief with the sweeter ones of sentiment. It soothes to see love, to see different cultures, religions, races come together instead of clashing. It helps to be reminded by an exchange of rings, or an email (you know who you are, thank you), how much love there is in the world and how brief our journey through it is.


It was wonderful to dig our feet into the sand, to see the white of a wedding day spruced up by the bright, warm colors of Africa. Hips in vibrant prints jiggled to the beat of drums, we did the conga to '80s disco music and during the cutting of the cake, an ancient song bid peace to be upon us. Evenu shalom alejem.
I felt guilty on my way to the wedding, like I was not  mourning my friend appropriately. But now I know I did what he loved most: I celebrated the awesomeness that is life, in good and bad. I celebrated friendship, I drank champagne, I danced barefoot in the sand. And by doing this I celebrated his life too.

This one is for you, my friend.

Indian cooking is a bit like life: a mix of contrasting ingredients and flavors. Spicy, sour, sweet, cool earthy. It is all about balacing these flavors to reach the sublime.

I used to be really intimidated by the enormous list of ingredients most Indian recipes require, but the truth is that once you invest in the basic, pantry-friendly range of spices called for, many favorites are just at an arm's reach.

Recipe from Indiaphile

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Polpette al latte - veal meatballs (made with rolled oats) in milk sauce

We spent the week end with good friends in the country. We grilled, ate, drank and the kids all had the best time. We even got creative with what the local supermaket had to offer and made these. We were dreading the drive back in heavy traffic and pouring rain on Sunday evening, but it was actually fine. And although the kids didn't fall into a deep sleep as we had hoped, it turned out to be quite entertaining.
Snap shots from the back seat
Son (3 yrs): " Jesus died before me".
Daughter (7 yrs): "That's obvious ".  (Uh, yeah! That was a couple of thousand years ago).
                           "You aren't dead yet". (um, ooookaaaay...)
S: "Is there meat inside of us?"
D: " What is your team?"
S (with great enthusiasm): "Goal!!!"*
D: "No!! What team do you support?!"
S: "..."
S: " What is a team?"
* He calls soccer or anything soccer related "goal". As in: "I played goal today in pre K". Or "Can you get me my goal ball?". Or "I want to wear my goal shoes" or "Are these goal pants Mommy?" referring to sneakers and sweat pants.
D: " Moooommy, can you put songs on? I want the Rumple Stiltskin CD"
S: "Nooo! I want Bruce Stiltskin".
No, we don't have the Shrek soundtrack in the car. That would be Robbie Williams and Bruce Springsteen. As said by my Italian children.
Turning Tables was blasting on the speaker.
S (wagging his finger at Adele): "Non si grida - screaming is a no-no!"

This next one is from yesterday during story time on the couch, not Sunday in the car, but I couldn't resist.

S: "Mommy, this isn't The Three Little Pigs... look! One, three, four, five, six, eight.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Boss and Tizzy's N.Y. Bar & Grill

On Monday evening, for almost an hour, I was thirteen again. The good thirteen, not the insecure, pimply version of teens. The thirteen of life-long friendships, unrequited love, a clean slate of adulthood and opportunity stretching ahead of me. The thirteen of colt-like, tanned limbs and cherry lip gloss, of slushies and wine coolers.

It is not often that you get to step into a time machine, it is not often that your teenage dream comes true.
The other night Bruce and the E Street Band played the whole soundtrack of my early teens in sequence - just like I had listened to it so many times that the cassette broke and I had to tape it back together - and I was there, singing with him.

Nothing like the notes of that album can bring back those warm summer evenings spent hidden on the back porch roof, that handful of scorching black tiles where everything I wanted and needed was at arm's reach. My best friend, a soda or two, and shared stories over stolen menthol cigarettes of holding hands under a beach towel and sloppy kisses. We sometimes changed the names and words of his songs to create our own stories, our own oaths, but his music was always with us, in the boom box on the window sill,  in our walkman. We sang about factories closing down, unions cards and relationships gone bad, but we only heard what our young ears wanted to hear: love, adventure, lust, camaraderie.

Chocolate milk shake

Time changes things and almost three decades later, I have changed too. Now, when I listen to the Boss, I see the whitewashed windows and vacant stores*, not just the girls in their summer clothes. The only one who never seems to change is Bruce himself, jumping up onto the piano in one leap after singing and running all over the huge stage without a single break for over three hours. The man was born to run.

Leaving San Siro - Good bye Bruce
I sang my heart out to my very own Bobby Jean, remembering how we used to sing in the car at the top of our lungs with our windows rolled down. I hummed to I'm on Fire using the flashlight app on my iphone instead of a lighter. I clapped my hands until they were sore and went down, down, down with him and the other 60,000 enthusiastic fans in the stadium. And as I sang along about those glory days that will pass you by in the wink of a young girl's eyes, I realized that I had been that girl  too.

Thank you, Bruce, for the magic. And for working on  my dream.

Fries come with all burgers

If, like me, you were born in the U.S.A. and you get homesick sometimes, I suggest trying out Tizzy's N.Y. Bar & Grill, a place that reminded me of my hometown.

Although it is a definitely more hip, Milanese incarnation of your typical American blue-collar diner, it is definitely the most authentic American meal I have experienced here so far.

Beer from home

It was the logo of the Brooklyn Brewery (and the disenchanted hope for a decent burger) that first lured us in like the Odyssey's sirens, as it brings back many memories of good friends and great food shared on the other side of the pond. We couldn't resist the calling and it helped us get through the long wait in a place that unfortunately does not accept reservations for parties under 8 for Sunday brunch .

Jumbo hot dog