Change Comes From Within...
...and also you need it to get a shopping cart!
Quite Frankly... my plan was to write what I think about whatever happens on any given day.
Plans change, don't they? So logically, I decided to write about change.
They say that change is hard; that change is good; and what's more, that change is inevitable.
For me, change was hard at first; soon it became very sloppy but lately it's been perfectly wonderful.
I see the value in what C.S. Lewis said, "It is very hard for an egg to turn into a bird but it would be much harder to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We cannot go on indefinitely being just ordinary, decent eggs. We must hatch and fly or go bad."
While not exactly 'flying', my charming wife, the ever-lovely Ora and I have undergone some big changes since moving to Italy. This was due to the influence of the pastoral southern Italian culture where 'things' do not change so much as people change to suit 'things'. What do I mean by 'things', you'd like to know? Well, I'm very happy you asked.
We have changed to embrace the obvious. We now measure our trips in kilometers, not miles; our temperatures in Celsius, not Farenheit; and our money in Euros, not dollars. But changes have been subtle as well as well as obvious. For instance, animals here make different sounds than they do in the United States... or so I am told. Roosters, they say, chant "CHICHIRICHI", (keekeereekee) to greet the day. Now to American ears, it may sound as if they still yell "cockadoodledoo"... exactly as they do in the U.S., but no... that would be wrong. I have been assured by local fowl experts that roosters are notoriously monolingual and since these are 'Italian roosters' they must in fact, be yelling "CHICHIRICHI" and not "COCKADOODLEDOO". Frankly, I never realized that rooster crosstalk was so cunningly nuanced.
Not to be outdone, Italian dogs insist on barking "BAU-BAU", (bow-bow) and not "bow-wow" as is the convention in the USA. I have listened intently, wide-awake in the middle of the night, when the canine grapevine is most active, to detect the dialectical doggie difference between their 'bau' and my 'wow'. I haven't yet been able to discern it but I'm reasonably certain the locals recognize exactly what's being barked and they would tell me if anything changed.
My charming wife, the ever-lovely Ora and I recently adopted an adorable Italian puppy. Why, you might wonder? Well, I'm very happy you asked.
She was anonymously gifted to us one night via a cardboard box. It's been about six weeks now and we are teaching her (the dog, not my charming wife) to say bow-wow, like a proper American Jack Russell Terrier. In spite of our efforts to change her, I suspect that she still barks with a severe bau-bau accent. Needless to say, in Italy it is immensely difficult for me to sing even a single verse of 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm'.
Let's address all the recent changes that Italians have made to their traditional Italian food here in Italy. In a word... none. Other words come to mind... zero... nulla... niente. In fact, do you know what they call 'Italian Food' in Italy? Well, I'm very happy you asked. They call it 'food' - and what you may think of as authentic 'Italian Food' might not really exist. For instance, there is no Spaghetti Bolognese. Bolognese sauce (ragù alla Bolognese) comes from the north of Italy but the pasta we all call 'spaghetti' originated in the south. So the dish is actually 'Tagliatelle Bolognese'. But to change from traditional tagliatelle and replace it with upstart spaghetti would cause a riot. Blood, or even worse, wine could be spilled. Don't dismay, because the red sauce stains on your favorite shirt will never know the difference.
The amazingly fresh chicken uniformly available at every Italian grocery store is very tasty indeed. PLUS - Italy is home to the world-famous king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano, (the USA's so-called Parmesan). However, there is absolutely no such thing here as 'Chicken Parm' which is actually American as apple pie.
In this continuing quest for change, you should also forget any dish named after anybody called 'Alfredo' or 'Boy-ar-dee'. And by the way, there is NO 'Olive Garden Cooking Academy', NO Italian salad dressing, NO garlic bread, and NO, NO, NO pepperoni pizzas. Please consign to oblivion everything that the crack marketing team at Totino's Genuine Pizza Rolls has told you on TV. There is simply no such thing as 'Italian Fast Food'. Convenience driven, microwavable, plastic-packaged and frozen pizzas aren't to be found. I know. I've looked. What we have instead is beautiful, fresh, locally grown food that makes eating in Italy a delight. Meals last for hours, with the finest food and wine in the world.
There are three sure-fire ways into my heart. What are they you may demand?
Well, I'm very happy you asked.
1) Buy me delicious food
2) Make me delicious food
3) Be delicious food.
The food here is grown, prepared, and enjoyed s-l-o-w-l-y. Lunches and dinners are leisurely, unhurried affairs eaten with one's family and friends. What we have is unique regional cuisine like bruschetta- a chunky slice of country-style bread toasted over an open fire, rubbed with a fresh clove of garlic while it's hot, and brushed with the best olive oil... a quick sprinkle of salt, maybe a crushed tomato and leaflet of basil... ecco! The bruschetta is ready! In mere minutes, every pizzeria is able to produce a steaming hot, crispy crust 'Pizza Calabrese' topped with spicy Calabrian salame baked in a ferocious wood-burning forno... or melanzane parmigiano, a layered eggplant lasagna baked until it is buttery soft and tantalizing. Wine is always encouraged of course. And afterwards, it's expected that you will treat yourself to something especially tasty... a pastry or two, maybe a fine gelato, at least a sumptuous chocolate. But always, it is obligatory to sit and relax; to linger at the table. One must never hurry when it comes to food... nor most other things either. In Italy it is not about 'saving time' it is about 'savoring time'.
So yes, we have changed. My charming wife, the ever-lovely Ora and I have embraced the Italian culture along with all the little things that make all the difference. The Italian culture has embraced us right back. (I did mention that change got sloppy didn't I?) While we spend much more time in Italy than the USA these days, both cultures, both countries, feel comfortable. Change has put us at peace and we don't feel like visitors anymore. Calling two places home is to know that people are more alike than they are different. America in its diversity has countless 'Little Italy' communities but nothing compares to the real deal, 'Big Italy'.
Speaking of change, we now never leave the house without a pocketful of change. Spare change comes in handy here. Customers eagerly offer exact change to clerks; coins are used to pay tolls on highways, buy a newspaper or magazine, or pay postage due at the post office. You even need a coin to release a shopping cart at the grocery store. All which reminds me of a story: Not having any small change, a well-dressed customer sarcastically hands a $20 bill to a tie-dyed, new-age hot dog vendor. 'OH MASTER, MAY I RECEIVE ONE WITH EVERYTHING?' says the dapper customer. Not missing a beat, the hot dog vendor takes the $20, hands the customer a hotdog and responds, "CHANGE COMES FROM WITHIN GRASSHOPPER".
At least change can make us all smile in the same language.
Frank is an award-winning advertising professional, now retired, from Denver, Colorado who is living the sweet life in southern Italy. In addition to a successful career in advertising, he had stints as the owner of an old west saloon, a film and stage character actor, a certified Santa Claus and a university professor... all of which, he says, are 'remarkably similar'.
He now focuses on traveling, honing his skills as an Italian chef, and writing about Italy as he and his charming wife, the ever lovely Ora, renovate their home in beautiful Basilicata.
Their journey back to Italy started 100 years ago when their ancestors first arrived in the United States. Frank and his wife had dreamed of completing the circle of immigration by returning to their ancestral roots in southern Italy.
Their collective memories of the traditions, values and Italian lifestyle drew Frank and his wife back many, many times until they finally bought their house in Italy and moved there permanently.
In honor of the past, and in anticipation of the future, their lovely home is named, 'La Casa Cent'anni', (The Hundred Years House). 'Cent'anni' is also a celebratory toast of goodwill.
So, "Cent'anni" to you, and to us, and to the next 100 years!