A few posts ago I quoted a passage of a book about listening. Two people who are very dear to me emailed me their thoughts about it, and I report them here:
"L'ascolto richiede silenzio, dare spazio. Ma come sono diversi i silenzi! Basta un sopracciglio sollevato per apparire sprezzanti. O un movimento degli occhi per esprimere disapprovazione o noia. Il silenzio può manifestare rifiuto, essere borioso o sarcastico. E poi qualche parola bisogna dirla, e ci vuole misura. E delicatezza. Tutto questo si otterrebbe facilissimamente con un solo ingrediente: l'amore! Nella cucina del mistico basta questo solo. E tutto risulta perfettamente cucinato! "
"Credo che alla fine sia questo l'essenziale: capire che cosa l'altro ti vuole comunicare, non che cosa cogli tu, soltatno, anche perché tutti abbiamo una certa "attenzione selettiva" che ci porta a prendere in considerazioni solo alcune parti di un discorso.
Poi certo, se vuoi dare il TUO punto di vista, puoi porre l'accento su alcune questioni, ma io sono più per l'importanza di vedere che cosa L'ALTRO considera rilevante, che cosa lo turba o lo emoziona o lo fa pensare... o smeplicemente che cosa ti vuole raccontare, a volte le persone hanno soltanto voglia di condividere un'esperienza, senza trarre alcuna conclusione -un discorso magari effimero ma che secondo me ha una buona funzione "rinsaldante" tra le persone, proprio come quando ci si trova a tavola e ognuno havoglia di raccontare, condividere."
It's nice how both of them somehow speak about cooking and sharing at a table. I'll translate these posts and add something to them tomorrow, now I'm too tired. Good night :)
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
A few posts ago I quoted a passage of a book about listening. Two people who are very dear to me emailed me their thoughts about it, and I report them here:
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Volterra is famous for its Roman and Etruscan ruines. It's another wonderful town on top of a hill. I liked it better than San Gimignano, maybe because it was a little bit less turistic..
Here is the main square:
And this is a typical road:
Some of the doors of the towns still date to the Etruscan period (IV century BC):
And there is a very famous amphitheater that dates back to Roman period (I century BC):
It's absolutely amazing how well preserved this is.. you can imagine people go on the stage and play the comedies or tragedies, with that nice background made with columns, and all the audience listening, admired..
From Volterra, we headed towards our 'hotel' close to Siena. We decided not to stay in a real hotel, but in an 'Agriturismo', that is a sort of villa in the middle of the countryside, where people live and cultivate the land, and rent a few rooms to visitors. We chose our Agriturismo on-line. It was a really good choice. It was on top of a hill, and to go there, we passed through a little wood, then vineyards, and then olive trees. Our guest was super-nice to us, he let us stay in the whole 2-story cottage, with three bedrooms, and a kitchen, and gave us three bottles of the wine that he himself produced (one per night of our staying). It was all nicely furnished, in wood, and the dishes and everything were really nice. This was the view from our window that welcomed us when we arrived, at the sunset:
If you want to see more pictures of our Agriturismo, there are a few more in my picture website. Also, Miscianello has a website.
This place was very close to Siena, so we decided to go there both that night, and the day after to visit the town during the daylight.
Monday, May 22, 2006
So, now that Lucas is back, I have again access to the computer where we have all the pictures from the trip to Toscana... and I can post again about it!
After leaving Pisa, we went south-east. The goal was to reach Siena by the end of the day, and visit San Gimignano and Volterra on our way.
The drive through the hills was gorgeous. A lot of hills are topped by Medieval villages, surrounded by walls, and on most of the hills there are vineyards.. This is an image of a medieval village named Certaldo.
We decided to visit San Gimignano because it's a very famous Medieval town, well known for the number of towers that were built in it.
The town was very crowded, because it was the 25th of April, which is a big holiday in Italy, when we remember the defeat of the Fascists. There was the band playing in the main square of the town:
Anf a place where they were selling wonderful paintings and wine and cookies, with this amazing glycine tree in front of it:
We left San Gimignano with two paintings, two types of cookies and wine, and drove towards Volterra.
In the past two weeks I was in the mood of using fruit to cook savory dishes. So, I made up a few new dishes, and I also made some more traditional ones.
Maiale con barbabietole e pere (pork with beets and pears)
This was a pork chop, that I just cooked in olive oil for about ten minutes, turning it from time to time so that it was well roasted on both sides, and then, I added a puree of a beet, a pear and two tablespoons of yogurt. The beet had been previously roasted in the oven. I let the meat finish to cook in the sauce (about another 10-15 minutes), and in the end, I served it topped by the red sauce - in the picture, it's served together with steamed rice and sauteed cabbage and peas, spiced up by red pepper to contrast the sweetness of the meat. It was good! In fact, pork and fruit are well known to go well together.
And doesn't it look pretty, like a red heart? :)
Salsiccia di tacchino con peperoni e banane (turkey sausage with peppers and bananas)
In this case, I sauteed some onions, green peppers, and added turkey sausage, cut up into pieces. I let it cook for about 20 minutes, adding salt and pepper to spice it up a little bit, and then, in the last 5-10 minutes, I added some mushrooms and a banana cut into pieces. I added some rum, and let it evaporate. I really liked it. I think banana is great with this type of food! It made a sweet sauce, that went really well with the peppers and the sausage. In the picture, it's served together with a 'bruschetta' topped with freshly made guacamole (to make it, cut into pieces a ripe avocado, a small tomato, garlic and cilantro, add red pepper, salt and the juice of a lime, and mix everything up. Quick and delicious. Usually eaten with tortilla chips in Mexican restaurants).
Risotto con fragole (rice with strawberries)
This is a dish that is part of the 'new' Italian cuisine, in that it's become famous in the last few years. I never tried it in Italy, so I decided to make it for a dinner that we had on a girls'night at my place, when Lucas was away.
It was a great success. To make it, soak in white wine about 1 pound of strawberries cut into pieces. Then, sautee some onions in a little butter (1 tablespoon), add 8 handfuls of rice, sautee the rice. Then, add the wine where the strawberries had been soaked. The liquid should be enough to cover the rice, and about one finger more than that. If it's not enough, add a little water. Add salt and cover the lid. Let the rice cook for about 20 minutes. Open, make sure there's still a little bit of liquid, and add the pieces of strawberries. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, until rice is done. The rice is very good, the taste is very different from every type of rice I had before, and it's nicely colored.
This procedure is my mom's simplified version to make every possible type of risotto (the real recipe would make you add the water a little at at time, stirring continously. It's a lot more boring). We used the same procedure to make risotto agli asparagi (rice with asparagus), on that girls' night. Just, instead of adding the wine, add some water and a bouillon to give a nice taste to the rice, and at about 10 minutes from the end, add about a pound of asparagus cut into pieces. Before serving, stir in some pieces of cheese that can nicely melt (I used Italian pecorino di Pienza, which is delicious, but you can use colby or whatever you like).
Spiedini di frutta e formaggio (cheese and fruit skewers)
My aunt used to make something similar when she had nice dinners at her place. She used to use a grapefruit instead of a loaf of bread, to stick the skewers into, but I decided we had too many for a grapefruit and a loaf of bread would be better.
It makes a very nice centertable and it's easy and fun to prepare. Basically, you cut into pieces all sort of things that can come into your mind and put them onto the skewers. Since I was in this fruit mood, I decided to use different types of fruit and cheese, and a little ham and olives. The fruits we used were pineapple, papaja, apple, pear and avocado. The cheese was 'ricotta salata' and another Spanish cheese that I found in Whole Foods and I may look for the name if someone is interested, because I forgot it. When the skewers are ready, stick them on the bread loaf.
Mousse di frutta (fruit mousse)
At last, a sweet thing made with fruit :) - I prepared these two types of mousse for the girls'night. One was a simple strawberry mousse, because it's strawberry season! So, just blend strawberries, add whipped cream (make it!!!), and honey, cool down and add grated chocolate on top before serving. Nice and sweet, probably very good for children. For more 'adult' tastes, try the other type, though, because it was really delicious. I blended together two mangos, a quarter of papaja and two bananas, and then added some ginger powder to it and two tablespoons of whipping cream. After pouring it in the glasses, I added a strawberry sauce on top (just blend some strawberries) - this was to cut the sweetness of the banana and mango. All of the girls loved it.. it was very flavorful, and at first you could taste the banana, and in the end, you would have a taste of mango and papaja in your mouth, and a tickling due to the ginger. :) - you can also cut down on the banana, I think, if you want the mango taste show up more. Again, to be served chilled and with pieces of chocolate on top.
Every once in a while there's something nice going on in Raleigh. This makes downtown Raleigh look more similar to a 'real' town, instead of a 'ghost town', like it usually is on Sunday afternoons. Yesterday and on Saturday, there was 'Artsplosure'. Moore Square was full of stands with people showing their paintings, photographs, ceramics, jewels.. one stand was from 'The America Wildlife Society', and they had a living owl! I never saw one, so I took a picture of them:
(The right eye of the owl had been hit by bullets, unfortunately. But doesn't this animal have a very interesting gaze?)
There were also some artists that were making a really cool sand sculpture!!
The best thing was that there were concerts on the square.. and really good ones! We listened to 'The yellowjackets', a very good jazz group. I liked them a lot, and also, I loved to be again in a square, with people clapping, like in the Summer evenings in 'I giardini Reali' in Torino.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Every day we hear about the disaster that is occurring in Iraq. Recently I heard some description of the atrocities that Sunnis commit towards Shiites and viceversa. It was painful to imagine.
By chance, I found an interesting paper written on 'The Guardian' on April 2003, one month exactly before Bush landed in Iraq and declared that the war was won and over (here are his exact words, pronounced on May 1st 2003: "Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before," Bush told a sea of blue and khaki standing on the flight deck. "Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and might of the American armed forces.")
It's interesting to see how a few of the predictions made by the author turned out to be very true, although, he couldn't imagine the point that we've reached now. I feel awful everytime I think about it, even if I never supported this war.
So, here is the English version:
No way out
Every likely outcome of this war is a disaster
So far, the liberators have succeeded only in freeing the souls of the Iraqis from their bodies. Saddam Hussein's troops have proved less inclined to surrender than they had anticipated, and the civilians less prepared to revolt. But while no one can now ignore the immediate problems this illegal war has met, we are beginning too to understand what should have been obvious all along: that, however this conflict is resolved, the outcome will be a disaster.
It seems to me that there are three possible results of the war with Iraq. The first, which is now beginning to look unlikely, is that Saddam Hussein is swiftly dispatched, his generals and ministers abandon their posts and the people who had been cowed by his militias and his secret police rise up and greet the invaders with their long-awaited blessing of flowers and rice. The troops are welcomed into Baghdad, and start preparing for what the US administration claims will be a transfer of power to a democratic government.
For a few weeks, this will look like victory. Then several things are likely to happen. The first is that, elated by its reception in Baghdad, the American government decides, as Donald Rumsfeld hinted again last week, to visit its perpetual war upon another nation: Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea or anywhere else whose conquest may be calculated to enhance the stature of the president and the scope of his empire. It is almost as if Bush and his advisers are determined to meet the nemesis which their hubris invites.
Our next discovery is likely to be, as John Gray pointed out some months ago, that the choice of regimes in the Middle East is not a choice between secular dictatorship and secular democracy, but between secular dictatorship and Islamic democracy. What the people of the Middle East want and what the US government says they want appear to be rather different things, and the tension between the two objectives will be a source of instability and conflict until western governments permit those people to make their own choices unmolested. That is unlikely to happen until the oil runs out. The Iraqis may celebrate their independence by embracing a long-suppressed fundamentalism, and the United States may respond by seeking to crush it.
The coalition might also soon discover why Saddam Hussein became such an abhorrent dictator. Iraq is a colonial artefact, forced together by the British from three Ottoman provinces, whose people have wildly different religious and ethnic loyalties. It is arguable that this absurd construction can be sustained only by brute force. A US-backed administration seeking to keep this nation of warring factions intact may rapidly encounter Saddam's problem, and, in so doing, rediscover his solution. Perhaps we should not be surprised to see that George Bush's government was, until recently, planning merely to replace the two most senior officials in each of Saddam's ministries, leaving the rest of his government undisturbed.
The alternative would be to permit Iraq to fall apart. While fragmentation may, in the long run, be the only viable future for its people, it is impossible, in the short term, to see how this could happen without bloodshed, as every faction seeks to carve out its domain. Whether the US tries to oversee this partition or flees from it as the British did from India, its victory in these circumstances is likely to sour very quickly.
The second possible outcome of this war is that the US kills Saddam and destroys the bulk of his army, but has to govern Iraq as a hostile occupying force. Saddam Hussein, whose psychological warfare appears to be rather more advanced than that of the Americans, may have ensured that this is now the most likely result. The coalition forces cannot win without taking Baghdad, and Saddam is seeking to ensure that they cannot take Baghdad without killing thousands of civilians. His soldiers will shelter in homes, schools and hospitals. In trying to destroy them, the American and British troops may blow away the last possibility of winning the hearts and minds of the residents. Saddam's deployment of suicide bombers has already obliged the coalition forces to deal brutally with innocent civilians.
The comparisons with Palestine will not be lost on the Iraqis, or on anyone in the Middle East. The United States, like Israel, will discover that occupation is bloody and, ultimately, unsustainable. Its troops will be harassed by snipers and suicide bombers, and its response to them will alienate even the people who were grateful for the overthrow of Saddam. We can expect the US, in these circumstances, hurriedly to proclaim victory, install a feeble and doomed Iraqi government, and pull out before the whole place crashes down around it. What happens after that, to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, is anyone's guess, but I think we can anticipate that it won't be pleasant.
The third possibility is that the coalition forces fail swiftly to kill or capture Saddam Hussein or to win a decisive victory in Iraq. While still unlikely, this is now an outcome which cannot be entirely dismissed. Saddam may be too smart to wait in his bunker for a bomb big enough to reach him, but might, like King Alfred, slip into the civilian population, occasionally throwing off his disguise and appearing among his troops, to keep the flame of liberation burning.
If this happens, then the US will have transformed him from the hated oppressor into the romantic, almost mythological hero of Arab and Muslim resistance, the Salah al-Din of his dreams. He will be seen as the man who could do to the United States what the mujahideen of Afghanistan did to the Soviet Union: drawing it so far into an unwinnable war that its economy and its popular support collapse. The longer he survives, the more the population - not just of Iraq, but of all Muslim countries - will turn towards him, and the less likely a western victory becomes. The US will almost certainly then have engineered the improbable chimaera it claims to be chasing: the marriage of Saddam's well-armed secular brutality and Al Qaeda's global insurrection. Even if, having held out for many weeks or months, Saddam Hussein is found and killed, his spirit may continue to inspire a revolt throughout the Muslim world, against the Americans, the British and, of course, Israel. Pakistan's unpopular leader, Pervez Musharraf, would then find himself in serious trouble. If, as seems likely in these circumstances, he is overthrown in an Islamic revolt, then a fundamentalist regime, deeply hostile to the West, would possess real nuclear weapons, primed and ready to fire.
I hope I've missed something here, and will be proved spectacularly wrong, but it seems to me that the American and British governments have dragged us into a mess from which we might not emerge for many years. They have unlocked the spirit of war, and it could be unwilling to return to its casket until it has traversed the world.
*copyright by the Guardian, G.Monbiot, April 1st 2003
Senza via d'uscita
Ogni probabile risultato di questa guerra è un disastro
Finora i liberatori sono riusciti solo a liberare le anime degli iracheni dai loro corpi. Le truppe di Saddam Hussein si sono dimostrate meno inclini alla resa di quanto le forze della coalizione si aspettassero, e i civili meno preparati alla rivolta. Ma mentre ora nessuno può ignorare i problemi immediati che questa guerra illegale si è trovata davanti, adesso stiamo anche iniziando a capire ciò che avrebbe dovuto essere ovvio dall'inizio: che, comunque questo conflitto si risolva, il risultato sarà un disastro.
Mi sembra che ci siano tre possibili esiti della guerra in Iraq. Il primo, che ormai sta cominciando a sembrare improbabile, è che Saddam Hussein venga eliminato rapidamente, che i suoi generali e ministri abbandonino i loro posti e che la gente che è stata oppressa dai suoi miliziani e polizia segreta si sollevino e accolgano gli invasori con le loro benedizioni di fiori e riso che ci si aspetta da un po'. Alle truppe viene dato il benvenuto a Bagdad, e incominciano a preparare il terreno per quello che l'amministrazione usa sostiene sarà un trasferimento di potere a un governo democratico.
Per alcune settimane questa sembrerà una vittoria. Poi è probabile che accadano varie cose. La prima è che, esaltato dall'accoglienza a Bagdad, il governo americano decida, come ha nuovament accennato Donald Rumsfeld la settimana scorsa, di far ricadere la sua guerra permanente su un'altra nazione: Siria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Corea del Nord, o chiunque altro la cui conquista possa aumentare la statura del presidente e la portata del suo impero. Sembra quasi che Bush e i suoi consiglieri siano decisi ad andare incontro alla nemesi che la loro tracotanza invita.
E' probabile poi che la nostra scoperta successiva sia che la scelta dei regimi del Medio Oriente non sia tra dittatura laica e democrazia laica, ma tra dittatura laica e democrazia islamica. Ciò che i popoli mediorentali vogliono e ciò che il governo americano dice che vogliono sembrano non coincidere, e la tensione tra questi due obiettivi sarà fonte di instabilità e conflitto fino a che i governi occidentali non permetteranno a quei popoli di fare le loro scelte senza essere molestati. E' improbabile che questo accada prima che si esauriscano le riserve di petrolio. Potrebbe allora darsi che gli Iracheni celebrino la loro indipendenza abbracciando un fondamentalismo da tempo soppresso, e che gli Stati Uniti rispondano cercando di schiacciarlo.
La coalizione potrebbe allora rapidamente scoprire come mai Saddam Hussein è diventato un tiranno così tremendo. L'Iraq è un artificio coloniale, creato dai britannici mettendo insieme a forza tre province ottomane le cui popalazioni hanno affiliazioni etniche e religiose diversissime. Potrebbe darsi che questa invenzione assurda possa essere tenuta insieme solo con la forza bruta. Un'amministrazione appoggiata dagli Stati Uniti che cerchi di mantenere in piedi una nazione di fazioni in guerra tra di loro potrebbe rapidamente trovarsi davanti il problema di Saddam, e, in ciò, riscoprire la sua soluzione. Forse non dovrebbe sorprenderci scoprire che il governo di George Bush, fino a poco tempo fa, intendeva semplicemente rimpiazzare i funzionari delle due cariche più alte in ciascun ministero di Saddam, lasciando il resto del governo indisturbato.
L'alternativa potrebbe essere quella di consentire all'Iraq di sfasciarsi. Mentre la fragmentazione potrebbe, alla lunga, essere l'unico futuro praticabile per le sue popolazioni, è impossibile capire come, nell'immediato, questo possa accadere senza spargimento di sangue mentre ogni fazione cerca di ritagliarsi la sua area di controllo. Sia che gli Stati Uniti cerchino di gestire questa spartizione o che se ne lavino le mani, come gli inglesi fecero con l'India, la sua vittoria in tali circostanze diventerebbe molto rapidamente molto amara.
Un secondo esito possibile di questa guerra è che gli Stati Uniti uccidano Saddam e distruggano il grosso del suo esercito, ma poi debbano governare l'Iraq come forza di occupazione ostile. Saddam Hussein, le cui tecniche di guerra psicologica sembrano piuttosto avanzate rispetto a quelle degli americani, potrebbe aver fatto in modo che questo sia ormai l'esito più probabile. La coalizione di forze non può vincere senza conquistare Bagdad, e Saddam sta cercando di fare in modo che la presa di Bagdad non possa avvenire senza che gli alleati uccidano migliaia di civili. I suoi soldati cercheranno rifugio in case, scuole e ospedali. Nel cercare di distruggerli le truppe americane e inglesi potrebbero far saltar in aria l'ultima possibilità di conquistarsi l'opinione e la fiducia dei residenti. L'utilizzo da parte di Saddam di kamikaze ha già costretto le forze della coalizione ad adottare misure brutali ed estreme nei confronti di civili innocenti.
Il confronto con la Palestina non sfuggirà agli Iracheni né ad alcun altro nel medio oriente. Gli Stati Uniti, come Israele, scopriranno che l'occupazione è sanguinaria e, alla resa dei conti, insostenibile. Le loro truppe verranno tormentate da cecchini e kamikaze, e la loro reazione alienerà persino coloro che inizialmente erano grati per il rovesciamento di Saddam. In questo caso c'è da aspettarsi che gli Stati Uniti dichiarino frettolosamente vittoria, installino un governo iracheno debole e condannato, e si ritirino in fretta prima che il paese gli si disintegri intorno. Che cosa succederebbe dopo, all'Iraq e al resto del Medio Oriente, non lo sa nessuno, ma penso che possiamo prevedere che non sarà piacevole.
La terza possibilità è che le forze della coalizione non riescano ad uccidere o catturare Saddam Hussein rapidamente o ad ottenere una vittoria chiara e netta in Iraq. Benché ancora improbabile, questo è un esito che non possiamo escludere completamente. Potrebbe essere che Saddam sia troppo astuto da starsene fermo nel suo bunker ad aspettare una bomba potente abbastanza da ucciderlo. Potrebbe invece sgusciare nel mezzo della popolazione civile, facendosi riconoscere di tanto in tanto e facendo comparse a sorpresa tra le truppe per tenere viva la fiamma della liberazione.
Se questo dovesse succedere, gli Stati Uniti saranno riusciti a trasformarlo da odiato oppressore in eroe della resistenza araba e musulmana romantico e quasi mitologico, il Saladino che sogna di essere. Verrebbe visto come l'uomo che è riuscito a fare agli Stati Uniti ciò che i mujaheddin afgani fecero all'Unione Sovietica, trascinandola in una guerra che non avrebbe potuto vincere senza che la sua economia e il sostegno popolare crollassero. Più a lungo Saddam sopravvive, più la popolazione - e non solo in Iraq, ma in tutti i paesi musulmani - lo sosterrà, e meno probabile diventerà la vittoria occidentale. A quel punto gli Stati Uniti saranno riusciti a generare l'improbabile chimera a cui sostiene di dare la caccia: il matrimonio tra la brutalità laica e ben armata di Saddam e l'insurrezione globale di Al Qaeda. Persino nel caso in cui, avendo resistito per molte settimane o mesi, Saddam Hussein fosse catturato e ucciso, il suo spirito potrebbe continuare a ispirare il mondo musulmano alla rivolta contro gli americani, gli inglesi e, ovviamente, Israele. Il leader impopolare del Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, si troverebbe allora in guai seri. Se, come sembra probabile in tali circostanza, venisse rovesciato da una rivolta islamica, allora un regime fondamentalista, profondamente ostile all'occiente, sarebbe in possesso di armi nucleari vere, innescate e pronte ad essere lanciate.
Spero che ci sia qualcos'altro che non ho preso in considerazione, e che si dimostrerà che mi sbaglio clamorosamente, ma mi sembra che il governo americano e quello britannico ci abbiano trascinato in una bolgia da cui potremmo non riemergere per molti anni. Hanno scatenato lo spirito della guerra, che potrebbe non voler ritornare in gabbia fino a che non ha attraversato tutto il mondo.
*traduzione di Donatella Velluti
Sunday, May 14, 2006
I've always wanted to quote on this blog something interesting to meditate on. I found a lot of interesting ideas in the book I'm reading now: 'Spiritual journey for the contemporary man', by Henri Nouwen. I have the book in the Italian translation, so I'll quote here the passage in Italian and do a short summary in English afterwards.. but I invite all of my readers to read this book. It's very deep and inspiring. It's written by a Catholic priest who spent a long time in monasteries. His ideas are inspiring to everyone, I think. It's not really necessary to be Catholic or even to believe in God to read his books. He's really open to everyone.
"Invece, precisamente in questa volonta' di conoscere a fondo gli altri risiede la nostra capacita' di estenderci fino a loro e guarirli. Pertanto, guarire significa innanzitutto creare uno spazio vuoto ma amico dove chi soffre possa raccontre la sua storia a qualcuno che lo ascolta con attenzione reale. Purtroppo, spesso questo ascoltare e' interpretato come una tecnica. Diciamo:-Lascia che si sfoghi, gli fara' bene-. E parliamo della funzione 'catartica' dell'ascolto, dando l'impressione che il 'liberarsi' o il 'mettere tutto allo scoperto' abbia in se' un effetto depurativo. Ma l'ascolto e' un'arte da sviluppare, non una tecnica da applicare come una chiave inglese a dadi, a bulloni. L'ascolto richiede una presenza reale ed e' una delle forme piu' alte di ospitalita'"
A sort of summary could be:
"Our ability to reach out to other people and heal them lays in our will to know them deeply. Healing means first of all to create an empty but friendly space, where people who suffer can tell their story to someone who listens to them with real attention. Unfortunately, we often believe that listening is a technique.. we say: 'let him vent, it will be good for him', as if letting everything out had by itself a purifying effect. But listing is an art to develop, not a technique to apply like a wrench to screws. Listening requires a real presence and it's one of the highest forms of hospitality".
This passage is part of a discussion about hospitality, that I really love and I will probably quote more further. I would love to learn how to be _really_ hospitable - not only eating food together, but also sharing with kindness the most precious thoughts and feelings that everyone brings inside.
- the picture is Lake Johnson at sunset (the lake which is close to our apartment)-
I wanted to post some new recipes, but I just remembered that Lucas left today with the camera and I forgot to download the pictures of last week food.. so, I was just looking around for some inspiration, since on Tuesday I decided to have a girls'night at my place.. and I found an amazing blog by Fiordizucca. She has both an English and an Italian version.. her recipes and pictures are absolutely wonderful. Thanks Fiordizucca!!!!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The second day of our trip, Alessandra, Crissy, Lucas and I left for Lucca. Lucca is less well-known than Pisa, it's a smaller town, but it has an interesting history and structure. Many are the towers, where the rich people used as a refuge during the invasions from narrowing towns. One of these towers has trees growing on top (Torre del Guinigi), and people can climb on top of it. Lucas and Crissy went, and so we can admire the landscape of Lucca framed by the tree leaves. Walking around these little streets in the sun is very pleasurable. There are many little squares, with wonderful medieval churches, all with this typical white marble style, similar to what we saw in Pisa but less "elegant" - notice how all the columns in the cathedral look different. It's very pretty, though, I think I like this flighty style.
At last, this is a picture of the walls that surround this medieval town, another way of protection from the invasions. They are extremely tall and robust!
Have you ever seen the shadow of an airplane on a forest? This is ours, flying over NC, going north.The first day of our trip we drove from Torino to Pisa. We arrived there around 6 pm, because we met a lot of traffic, and we stopped in a town on the seaside for lunch. The first thing we wanted to see, after leaving our hotel room, was... Piazza dei Miracoli....
I believe this square is called Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of the Miracles) because it's so beautiful, that it seems to be a miracle. Also, the fact that the tower can lean so much and not fall seems like a miracle - thanks to old and new architects and engineers..
All the buildings in piazza dei Miracoli are gorgeous. In front of the cathedral, there is the battistero, where people used to be baptized. You can see it here from the inside of the other gorgeous and less visited builduing: the Camposanto, where people used to be buried.
Il Camposanto is a wonderful construction. Inside, tumbs are gorgeous:
These buildings were originally built when Pisa was very powerful as a Repubblica Marinara (ie, Marine Republic): in fact, even if you may find it hard to believe considering the position of Pisa now, Pisa was once on the seaside, and it was one of the four most important ports in Italy in the XI century. In the XIII century Pisa began to decline, because Genova defeated it, and it finally lost a lot of power when the sea stopped touching it. It reflourished with the dominion of the Medici family, from Firenze: in the XIV century the University came back to live, and the town began to prosper again.
We found out that still nowadays Pisa is very alive, maybe thanks to the very famous university that makes it more than a turistic town. The medieval downtown is very pretty to walk through both by day and by night. We also loved the riverside walk by night:
If you want to see more pictures about Pisa, go on my picture website. Also, in case you want to follow our trip, here is a map of Tuscany
(To see it better, click twice on it)
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Another catch-up post: I had some pictures from a very nice lunch that we had at Lucas's parents' house the weekend before leaving.. it was a very nice afternoon. The weather was beautiful and we spent a good part of the visit relaxing on the back porch on the rocking chairs, like real Southerners :) .. and as for the food.. look at these pictures and drool :)
(In the US everyone has a barbecue grill on their back porch, where they can make wonderful grilled meat.. this is something that we could import in Italy: here, it's so widespread that parks have barbecue places that you can go and bring your charcoal and meat and cook on the spot!)
And also, this is the wonderful bread rolls that Lucas's mom can make:
(when I showed this picture to some friends, they couldn't believe it was home made :) )
At last, these really good strawberry stuffed pastries, and another pastry that in Italian I would call sfogliatina alla cannella (cinnamom puffy pastry) :)
We always have a good time at Lucas's parents. I promise next time I'll also take some pictures of the nature around there, which is really beautiful.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
The week before going to Italy, Crissy and I had to go for a week to Brookhaven, Long Island, to do some measurements at the synchrotron radiation facility. Life over there is quite hard. You have to stay at the beamline nearly all the time. We're lucky, and our beamline is very automated, so we managed to get at least 6 hours of sleep per night - and a six hour trip to New York! (forget about the sleep for that night :) ).
Luckily we had some good results, which cheered our spirits. Also, luckily, there are some very nice people at the beamline over there, so the atmosphere is less depressing than what it could be otherwise (the lab is in an old military camp, so the whole architecture is really ugly, we have a tiny dorm room with common bathrooms, the surroundings contain radioactive waste, there are signs posted everywhere saying to pay attention to the lime desease and lead in the water.. and even the deer that circulate freely in the park are scary! They run after you at night if you seem to bother them :) ).
But when you're really tired and even coffee cannot do anything to you anymore, you can look at the 'beamline animals' and be happy again! (There is a collection of stuffed talking puppets at our beamline, that you can partially admire in this post) :)
And here is one shot from Central Park, NY!
It's been a very intense six hour walk, all throughout Manhattan. If you want to see more pictures, go on my picture website.
As I mentioned a few days ago, I intend to catch up with the 'old stuff' before speaking about Toscana.. that I know everyone is looking forward to read! :p :)
But I know I had some requests about the recipes for some food that we had at two Italian dinners that we had the two weekends before leaving...So here is a short description of the main things of the two dinners. These two dinners have an interesting story behind.. I will not describe it all, but in the end, only three of the many people expected came for the first dinner, and so we decided to give a second dinner to let also the other people try Italian cuisine.
Guests: Rich and his wife (AAAHHH I can't remember her name.. shame on me....), and Crissy with Everest :)
Tomini al verde e Acciughe al verde - Cheese and anchovies "in the green sauce"
Rotolo di tonno - Tuna roll
Linguine al pesto - Pesto linguine
Coniglio alla cacciatora - Rabbit "hunting style"
Pollo ai peperoni - Chicken with peppers
Macedonia con Rum -Fruit salad with Rum.
And here are the pictures and recipes of the most interesting things:
Tomini and acciughe al verde:
These appetizers are extremely easy to make, and very good. Prepare a sauce with oil, parseley, and garlic finely chopped. Soak anchovies or slices of some type of soft cheese (we had here plain and spicy goat chees rolls) in the oil. You should let it rest in the sauce for about two hours before serving. You should serve it with some good bread, to eat with it.
Rotolo di tonno:
This is also quite easy and very good. Make a paste with canned tuna, bread crumbs and eggs. I think I used 2 tuna cans with 2 eggs and enough bread crumbs to make it reasonably thick. Spread this dough on a piece of aluminum foil. Place some olives (better if the olives have some nice red peppers inside) in two rows, in the center, along the lenght of the 'rectangle' of dough. Roll the aluminum foil and close the ends of it, making a sort of big candy. Drop in hot/boiling water, so that the roll is completely covered by water. Let cook for about 20 minutes. When cold, open the aluminum foil, slice the tuna roll, and pour on the slices a sauce made of olive oil, lemon juice and parseley finely chopped before serving.
Linguine al pesto: I will not describe this, since I already spoke about pesto a few times, and I will describe the more complicated pesto dish that I made for the second dinner.
Coniglio alla cacciatora:
This in my opinion was the 'top' of the dinner, but some of my American guests refused to eat rabbit.. :) - I was afraid of that, that's why I also made the other second course with chicken :)
So, I was really happy that I had found a rabbit, at the Farmers Market in Raleigh, from a farmer that is now a friend of mine (I buy the goat cheese from him nearly on a weekly base :) ). He assured me it was really tender.. and in fact it was.
So, to make this dish, you should marinate the meat in a mixture of red wine, vinegar, rosemary, sage, and pepper overnight. Then, drain the meat and throw away the sauce. This at least is the suggestion that my recipe gave, but I'd say that next time I will not follow this. It was supposedly to remove the 'wild' taste of the rabbit, but in fact, the rabbit in the end nearly didn't have any rabbit taste any more.. so, next time, keep the marinade :) Saute the rabbit in some olive oil, and when it begins to become white, add some white wine (I think I'll add the marinade at this point, next time). In the meanwhile, prepare a mixture of 2 carrots, two pieces of celery and an onion, all minced finely in a food processor (NB, not liquefied!). Add the mixture to the rabbit and let cook for about 30-40 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add a little tomato sauce, and cook for another 20 min, or until meat is done. Two minutes before turning off, I added some wonderful little red onions that I had found in Whole Foods, and that I had previously caramelized by cooking them in vinegar, water and sugar. They were really delicious!
Pollo con peperoni:
Cut some boneless-skinless chicken thighs into pieces. Roll the pieces in flour to cover them with it. Saute some onions in olive oil, add the pieces of chicken and cook for 10 min. Add a can of diced tomatoes, salt, and some pieces of bell peppers, better if different colors. Cook for about 30 min or until meat is done. Serve with some basil leaves minced on top.
Macedonia con rum: easy to imagine.. Italians eat fruit salad with Maraschino, a sweet liquor.. I substituted eat with Rum. Don't exaggerate when you pour the rum on your fruit!
Actually, it was a nice dinner, more intimate than I was imagining at the beginning. It was nice to get to know better Rich and his wife.
Guests: Jennifer and Curtis, Jennifer, Crissy, Lina and JeyJey.
Tomini e acciughe al verde - well, they had to try them, or not?!?
Melanzane con mozzarella - Eggplants with mozzarella
Insalata appetitosa - Savory salad
Pomodori ripieni - Stuffed tomatoes
Farfalle con pesto, gamberetti e pomodori - Farfalle with pesto, shrimp and tomatoes
Dessert: Macedonia con rum
So here are the recipes of the things that I didn't describe already:
Melanzane con mozzarella:
Grill the eggplant slices in a pan (non-sticking, or with just a minuscule amount of olive oil on the bottom). Place the slices on a baking pan. Add little pieces of mozzarella on top, and salt. Bake in the oven until the mozzarella is melted. Serve immediately with some basil leaves on top.
Insalata appetitosa e pomodori ripieni
I don't have a better picture for pomodori ripieni, so this little piece which is visible in the right corner will be enough.. :)
The insalata turned out to be very good. I made it with cabbage, pecan nunts, celery, pears and gorgonzola cheese, seasoned with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Pears and gorgonzola are a typical Italian matching.
To make the tomatoes: cut them (5) in half, remove the pulp, mix it with salt, a spoon of mayonnaise, three spoons of plain yogurt, two tuna cans, capers, pepper. Fill the halves and add scallion on top.
Farfalle con pesto, gamberetti e pomodori
One of the main goals of this dinner was to teach Jennifer how easy it is to make pesto.. so, she saw it :) - I'll write it again here: put a bunch of basil leaves, a piece of pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, two cloves of garlic, and a handful of pinenuts in the food processor. Chop finely. Add olive oil to cover and a little salt.. and that's it :)
This dish was a little more elaborated: Jennifer had also brought some wonderful shrimp, that we sauteed in olive oil. In the meanwhile I had sliced some tomatoes, covered them with bread crumbs and a little salt and baked them for 20 minutes. When the pasta was cooked, we poured the pesto, shrimp and tomatoes on it, and sprinkled some pepper on top. It was really good :)
There was also a similar version with tuna instead of shrimp, in case someone didn't like the shrimp.
The dessert was the same, basically it was Lent and I didn't want to make any real dessert :)
For both dinners, one of the most important foods was the bread, that I baked and it turned out to be really good.. quite amazing considering how little experience I have with it, and how bad I am at following doses :)
So, here it is: Biova (biova is the name of a typical italian bread, similar to what I made)
(my bread with a bottle of Chianti)
(the inside of the bread).
To make this delicious bread, pour abuot two cups of water in a bowl, warm it up in the microwave. Add three teaspoons of yeast. Stir in flour until the dough is elastic and nice. I don't remember, probably it's about 6 cups. I can check it better next time I make it.
Let the dough rest for 45 min, then fold it in 4 parts. Let it rest for another 45 minutes. Divide it into two big shapes and put them on the baking pan you want to use. Let the bread rest for another hour. It should keep increasing in volume. Draw a cross on the surface. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then decrease to 400 and finish cooking (another 15 minutes, more or less). I know I had the oven at the high temperature for a longer time the second time, and it was even better. So, not sure exactly.. just try yourself!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Yesterday night I put on the web the nicest pictures I had from the trip in Toscana.
If you want to look at them, click here. It's Lucas's brother website, he nicely allows me to have a picture gallery on it :)
I'll put some of the most representative pictures also on this blog, when I have time to tell the story of this trip. I think this will happen during the weekend.. I'll first try to catch up with the other things I need to write about.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Welcome back, my blog-readers!
The blog was not dead.. just silent for a lot of work, at first, and a lot of fun after!
In fact, I spent one week in Brookhaven, NY, to work at the syncrothron which is located over there.. then I came back for one day, went back to work, and left the day after for a two-week trip to Italy!! So, now I have a lot of things to talk about. Not sure in which order I'll do that..
Il ritorno e' stato interessante.. un po' di nostalgia, leggendo cartoline virtuali e messaggi d'oltreoceano, un po' di rilassamento, dopo tanti giorni molto attivi, e anche il piacere di rivedere gli amici piu' nuovi di quaggiu'. E inoltre, la prima cosa che ci ha accolti al nostro arrivo e' stato questo meraviglioso cespuglio fiorito, proprio all'ingresso della nostra casa:Welcoming flowers at the entrance of our house to cheer me up :) )
So, strange to decide which one is my world.. I feel like I live in two separate ones, which I both like.