martedì 14 giugno 2011
It’s Flag Day today in the United States. On this day in 1777, the Second Constitutional Congress adopted the stars and stripes; in 1916, Woodrow Wilson made June 14th the official date of celebration, and in August 1949, it became official. (Um, why did it have to become official twice?)
Italy celebrates Flag Day on January 7. That day marks the occasion when, in 1797, the Italian flag was adopted. Highly puzzling, this, as Italy did not become a nation until much, much later (like, 1861). The Scallion theorizes that this flag was adopted in northern Italy after Napoleon made that part of the world his. No matter. Did the (Italian) Founding Fathers pick the colors red, white, and green to honor Dante, who thought that those colors symbolized the Theological Virtues (red/charity, white/faith, green/hope)? Or were they already thinking, as early as all that, that one day they’d have a queen called Margherita, and they’d name a pizza in her honor? (Red/tomato sauce, white/mozzarella, green/basil).
In Italy on this day in history? The aforementioned Dante does his stint in 1300 as prior, embraces White Guelf-ism, and is soon afterwards kicked out of Florence for picking the wrong color (Black Guelfs were the New Black).
(Let’s all praise the Powers that Be that he was kicked out. If he hadn’t been, would he have felt the urge to put a whole lot of his fellow Florentines in hell? Would he have written his ultra-divine Commedia? If he hadn’t had an axe to grind, would we still have Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso?)
Today I would like to raise a tentative flag, a success flag. It’s looking as if The Puppers are just about housetrained. Given that they are well over seven months old, one could be inclined to mutter under one’s breath “About f’ing time.” Two little experiments related to running short errands and leaving them uncrated leads to this absolutely astonishing thought. Both times we returned home to find nothing – and I mean nothing – on the floor. Even Wilma, the Submissive Pee-er, did not leave a little submissive puddle this morning.
Indeed, this is a cause for celebration. Or it could be, if we thoroughly trusted these evil, cunning, rotten Puppers. So we’ll put the celebration on hold, and perhaps combine 4th of July festivities with continence successfully achieved.
Of late, lots of action, relatively speaking, in our part of the world. The Pups have had a veritable field day with wild life. Just the other day, Rosie flushed a badger on her morning walk, and Lulu shredded her second garter snake (she must be reminded that garter snakes are our friends). Many visitors have passed through, including the lovely Heather Souvlaki, R.N., and our equally lovely niece Mme. E., R.N.
The weather’s been crapola, though today the tide seems to have turned. In fact, at the beginning of the R.N. Duo’s stay, the weather was so crapola that we made meatloaf for dinner and invited them, and the Scallion’s Mum, down. A couple of days ago, while sipping a most wonderful pinot grigio at a local boite, the barwoman turned to me and glowed about the weather: “è settembrina,” she enthused. That means the weather’s a bit like what we get in September (literally, "It's Little September."). I did not point out – though I was tempted – that in September, most of us have fading tans. Tomorrow marks the middle of the month, and most everyone around here is pasty. We look like the English on any English beach in August.
Perhaps the weather has caused people to act oddly? Just the other day, in Caffe Paszkowski in Florence, I observed strange behavior on the part of four North Americans (it would be so very satisfying to say that they were Canadian but, as they did not have their requisite identifying marker – the maple leaf, mind you – on their persons, it seems safe to conclude that these four came from south of the (Canadian) border) ... at any rate, the parents and son (with, presumably, girlfriend) were seated at two tables inside the place. These two tables are for locals, regulars, who want to sit without paying an upped-up service charge.
Both of these tables sported beautiful fruit cups, waiting to be gobbled up, and I thought, “How odd. I didn’t know that Paszkowski does this of a morning.” I looked at the counters, through the glass cases, looking for evidence that I could buy one of those things, too.
Impossible. This dawned on me as I watched the young man eat spaghetti from a plastic container. Paszkowski does do a lovely light lunch at lunch time but, as this was 8 o’clock Sunday morning – a time well removed from lunch – the only possible conclusion to be drawn was that these four lousy tourists thought it perfectly acceptable to eat last night’s leftovers at an historic Florentine bar since they ordered cappuccini to accompany this.
I should have waved the flag.
The following meatloaf recipe is very freely adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “Polpettone alla toscana” from her Classic Italian Cooking. Once you make meatloaf her way, you’ll probably never make it any other. (At least, I don’t.) She rolls the loaf in breadcrumbs, and then gently cooks it stove-top. It is sumptuously succulent. She also uses dried porcini to give the loaf’s sauce great depth. To my mind, this is one of the best meatloaf recipes, ever.
Mine’s a little different. “The loaf should be firmly packed, not loose and crumbly, so that when it is cooked it can be cut into thin, elegant, compact slices,” writes Marcella. If you do her recipe, you can slice it into thin slices. If you do this one, you’ll probably be reduced to scooping it up with a spoon.
Since I posted this, Marcella and I have exchanged some fun correspondence. I haven't really told her this -- though I'm sure she'll read it here -- that she really was my Julia Child. Though I respect and adore J.C. (we attended the same college, for starters: quite a bond in itself), Marcella Hazan was my entry into cooking fantastic Italian food. Her recipes are lucidly written, very tasty recipes. And here's what she has to say about my meatloaf recipe:
(From Marcella Hazan): "Thank you for the complimentary words. All recipes, mine included, accommodate another cook¹s tastes (or foibles). It¹s okay about making
crumbly polpettone, but I suspect it¹s more a question of laziness than of predilection. Polpettone is not hamburger."
Oh ... she's so, so right. Love my foibles, and cook from her.
Polpettone settembrina in giugno (September meatloaf in June)
1 lb. ground beef
½ lb. sausage, casings removed
4 slices prosciutto crudo, finely chopped
2 slices mortadella, finely chopped
¾ c. freshly ground Parmesan cheese
1 egg, preferably organic
A solid cup of best-quality bread crumbs
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 c. red wine (white, if that’s all you’ve got)
1 lb. button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T. butter, divided
2 T. olive oil, divided
3 c. canned plum tomatoes, chopped
In a large mixing bowl, toss the ground beef, sausage, prosciutto, mortadella, and Parmesan cheese. Don’t overmix.
Heat 2 T. of the olive oil and throw in the chopped red onions. Cook ‘til absolutely soft. When cool, add to the meatloaf mix.
Now heat the butter and olive oil and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook ‘til all the liquid they could possibly throw off has been thrown off.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven. Form the meat into a loaf-type vehicle, and gently roll in the bread crumbs (which you’ve placed on a flat surface). Brown the loaf on all sides in the Dutch oven. When that’s done, add the red (or white) wine, the tomato sauce, and mushroom mixture. Put a lid on the oven, and forget about the loaf for about 50 minutes.
Flag Day stuff from www.wikipedia.org
Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook, New York, 1973. Do note that our copy of this is in several pieces. Do also note that I apprised Marcella Hazan of this fact in fairly recent correspondence. She suggested I get a new copy. I told her that the fact that it was in pieces (13, I just counted) was evidence that she writes very very good cookbooks.
Caffe Paszkowski, Piazza Repubblica 6, Florence, 055/210 236.
This from Terracotta Sculptress and her Something Secret to Eat, who has had great difficulty posting on the blog (as have others; I shall look into it):
Dear P, As usual, wonderful post! Thanks for the M.F.K. Fisher info...where have I been?
You're lucky, you're half as unfortunate as we, since the Scallion is 50% English. I'll have the babe bring back several bakers dozens of Ranch dressing for you addicts in July. My secret? A half bag of Ronzoni wagon wheels, a small jar of Prego spaghetti sauce, and a can of Kraft Cheddar Parmesan cheese (the nuclear orange kind.) Overcook the pasta and drain. Simultaneously dump sauce and cheese into pot. Stir, but do not reheat. Eat with chopsticks. It has comforted me during my PMS for years, and pray it will do the same for my menopause.
Thank you, Sculptress!
Stupendous photograph of roses in our backyard courtesy of The Scallion.