Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grandma’s pasta

Sundays are supposed to be a family day here in Italy, though it’s easy to believe that every day of the week could be described that way. We guess that our Italian friends at the pasticceria felt sorry for us not having our relatives close by, so they invited us over to their grandma’s house for Sunday lunch.

Our expectations were high; our first Italian family lunch, and cooked by grandma no less – in Italy, the gastronomic pillar of the family.

During the short walk from the pasticceria to grandma’s house “mini” was shown off to all the neighbours and passing acquaintances as if she was part of the family. We were heartily welcomed by the grandmother on her door-step. The street entrance to her house led immediately into the kitchen, where she already had set the table for seven. The smell of the upcoming feast, cooking in the corner on her large stove, was like a nice prelude for the flavour symphony yet to come.

Since it was past our little one’s lunch time we began by feeding her outside in the sun-soaked street, with the whole family spinning around her, admiring her appetite. Shortly after, the grandmother spoke the magic words “A tavola, mangiamo!”

Thus the feast began. The first course (of many) was one of spaghetti al sugo, or spaghetti with a homemade tomato sauce, where everything from the tomatoes to the olive oil came from the family’s plot of land. It might seem silly to praise a dish as simple as spaghetti with a tomato sauce, but this one truly deserved it, since it was the ultimate genuine food experience – no fuss, no tricks - just delicious ingredients, perfectly cooked.

Since they were sure that we couldn’t possibly have had enough to eat after the first huge bowl of pasta, they refilled them again (and again) whilst they continued onto the “secondi” of rabbit and chicken. By that point we could have easily rolled our way out of the kitchen but there was still more to come.

To everybody’s amusement “mini” was keeping pace with us, and was already on her second small serving on spaghetti al sugo. The remaining pasta and meat was whisked off the table and on came the salads, hand picked olives and a giant Italian baguette. The salads were followed by a huge fruit bowl and to nobody’s surprise an even bigger plate of dolci.

The amount of food was almost comical, and left us wishing that we were wearing elastic waistbands. We learnt that Italian etiquette doesn’t appear to allow self-service when it comes to food, we both had six dolci specially selected for us. Now neither of us is known to be a particularly small eater, but by our third and fifth dolci we had to admit defeat. Our hosts didn’t seem too impressed by our lack of conviction and explained that this was just a typical Italian lunch (not Sunday lunch!) and that we could always get back to our old habits in Sweden. For now, this was Italy: family, sunshine and grandma’s wonderful pasta.

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