You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

mercoledì 25 maggio 2011

Memorial Day, and Waldo, once again

We’ll be celebrating Waldo’s birthday this coming Monday despite the fact that Waldo, who died stupidly and prematurely last August, will not be around to celebrate what would have been his sixth birthday.

It’s also Memorial Day in the United States, a day that obviously goes ignored in this part of the world. (For those of you who are interested, do please check out last year’s Memorial Day blog for historical trivia.) In Florence, on the same day in 1868, the royal family arrived to take up residence in Palazzo Pitti. Given that there is no longer a royal family of Italy (well, there are a couple who call themselves King and Crown Prince – interestingly enough, they are so not relevant that The Scallion, half Italian he, cannot remember the would-be king’s name), this seems somewhat of less importance.

For those of us of a certain age, we know that now's the time to wear white shoes (this never stopped my Uncle Jack, who wore them year 'round).

Family tradition – dating back to the Days of Tillie more than twenty years ago – dictates that all of us eat hamburgers whenever a canine birthday rolls around. They, naturally, get somewhat smaller burgers than the two of us and, like me, will eat theirs without a roll (The Scallion is always good for a roll).

This will mark the Puppers’ first foray into non-puppy food. It should be quite the occasion.

Fifteen years ago, finding a decent hamburger in Italy was a tough call (if you didn’t want to succumb to the deadly allure of anything at McDonald’s or spend too much money at Harry's Bar). Ten years ago, I went to our butcher in Florence and asked him to please grind a couple of pounds of Chianina beef (the beef that becomes bistecca fiorentina) so that Tillie could offer burgers to a number of friends (non-canine) at a special dinner party held in her honor.

The butcher was horrified at my desecration.

The dinner guests equally so.

In the past few years in the Tuscan restaurant world, anyone who’s anyone who’s worth anything is grinding Chianina beef, forming it into patties, grilling it, and slapping it between (mostly) lame hamburger buns. And all to great acclaim.

No, we will not be grinding Chianina beef this year. Instead, we will be grinding chicken. A few days ago at Santa Maria Novella, in the train station, I … um … succumbed to deadly allure and yet another McDonald’s promotion. (These are always inexpensive, as they’re testing the waters to see if the new product is marketable/edible.) It was called, inexplicably, the Ciociaro (according to The Scallion, it’s the name of a town in Lazio south of Rome). It bedeviled the whole notion of a fast-food establishment: i.e., I had to wait about 5 minutes ‘til they made it (something tells me that the Ciociaro will not make it on to the permanent McDonald’s rotation).

What was it? Well, it was chicken, breaded and fried, with a Parmesan mayonnaise served on a spinach-laced bun. It had mushrooms, too.

Its potential was enormous, the actual product a major disappointment.
I spent some time on the train ride mulling over this burger, as the ingredients were most enticing.

Here’s what all of us will eat on May 30th. Dogaressa of the Broken Halo will be with us that night, so we will be seven all told. Tomatoes aren’t yet happening, hence the inclusion of sundried tomatoes in the festivities.

Hamburger di pollo con mayonnaise e salsa di pomodori secchi /Chicken burgers with Parmesan/arugula mayonnaise and sundried tomato salsa

1½ lbs. ground organic chicken
2 c. best-quality mayonnaise (Hellman’s, in a perfect world)
1 c. grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1 T. freshly ground/cracked black pepper
3 massive handfuls of arugula
1 c. sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in hot water
Large glugs of extravirgin olive oil
Hamburger rolls for those who want them

Fire up the grill.

Put the minced chicken in a bowl, add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix. Make three nice-sized burgers for humans, and then form the remaining meat mixture into mini-burgers for Pups and Puppers.

Make the mayonnaise: throw the mayonnaise (preferably, Hellman’s), grated Parm, and 3 massive handfuls of arugula into the blender. Don’t forget the pepper. Purée ‘til smooth. Scrape out the blender, and reserve.

Take the reconstituted sundried tomatoes after having drained the water, and put in the blender along with generous glugs of olive oil. Whirl ‘til a paste results. Scrape it out, and reserve.

Cook the burgers on a hot, fiery grill (for about 12 minutes, depending). Ten minutes into the procedure, toast the rolls for those who want them.

For humans: Put the cooked burgers on a roll, add a generous dollop of the sundried tomato salsa, and an even more generous dollop of the Parmesan/arugula mayonnaise.

For quadrupeds: skip the roll (who cares?) and dispense with mini-burgering. If there’s any mayonnaise left after human burgers have been iced, throw it to the hounds.

(If you have the energy, the penultimate edition of the Joy of Cooking has a most glorious recipe for hamburger buns.)

We miss you, Waldito. Happy sixth birthday, your first of many, in the Happy Hunting Grounds.


Two Februaries ago, McDonald’s launched a McItaly campaign designed to showcase local ingredients in an American fast-food setting. Tasty though that burger with artichoke mayonnaise was, the project went up in flames. However, it appears that it’s not completely ended, as the McDonald’s at the train station in Florence is serving two burgers (280 grams … consider that a quarter pounder is about 125 grams) featuring Spek from the Alto Adige and cheese from can’t remember where. Interesting that Italians are supersizing us.

For those of you who didn't know Waldo, do know that the funny photo just below the masthead is of Himself.

This ran in last year’s blog. Am not at all concerned if this is repetitious (it is). It’s also simply beautiful.

To the valiant soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan (must we now add Libya?), we salute you as we salute all those scarred by these wars. We also salute those still fighting and striving to give meaning to these deaths and wounds.

Executive Mansion
Washington, Nov 21, 1864
To Mrs Bixby, Boston, Mass
Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of four sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully

A. Lincoln

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