Saturday, 27 November 2010

Spot the Canaries in Southern Italy

Last Saturday night my husband answered the door to welcome our guests wearing his own homemade version of Madonna’s cone bra – instead of cones he wore protruding plant pots covered in glitter. A rural Madonna. After the initial shock it seemed the guests warmed to him. The idea was Italian-American and we were hinting at the theme of our first wine tasting – wines from Southern Italy.

It was the first time I’ve entertained (along with David) for 12 people around a table, and I felt my inner Mother Mitzi came to life as I spent the whole day buzzing about in preparation. However I did feel the benefit from all the planning ahead as an unexpected calmness arrived just as the guests did. A good group of people makes all the difference. Your little mistakes won’t be held against you. The effort, the act of making something for someone, giving to the people you care about and whose company you enjoy, is what tops the cake.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."

One tasty by-product of our efforts was a handmade pesto (courtesy of chef Nigel Slater) with watercress. The recipe can be found here, With a borrowed pestle and mortar I crushed these ingredients into a green nutty sauce to be mixed with warm pasta. I supplemented the pine nuts with cashews to save on cost and traded the parmesan for grana padano and this recipe became a keeper, and justification for buying my own pestle and mortar!

As far as the theme of the night, Southern Italy, in addition to these 4 wines we sneaked in two from Tenerife, (a Spanish Canary Island) and hence, the title. Our guests had to decide which two were the oddballs among the bunch. Several of our friends were hot on our tail.

It occurred to me that quite of a few of the elements of the night formed a heart-warming convergence of people we’ve met, places seen, and experiences had. We served an Italian wine made the Negroamaro grape, a type of wine we first tasted in Rocco’s restaurant in Corfu. Rocco and Hilary introduced us to this wine from Rocco’s place of birth – Puglia in Southern Italy. My dress for the night – a thrift store treasure dug up in Kannapolis, NC from Value Village – was used for the whopping second time, being first worn (by me) at the Halloween party in 2009 thrown by some much-loved friends. (Thank you Amanda & Sarah for giving me a reason to buy that frock and bestow upon it an extended life). David’s bra incorporated flowerpots, giving a due nod to gardening and my father-in-law who has supplied me with a surplus of pots for my endeavours.

This time, I did manage to finish the night without showering anyone with liquid from improperly opened bottles. Hooray!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dusty Keys & Sun Drop Cake: Another Trip Home

Last Saturday night, I sat around a table with a belly full of chili, cornbread and Sun Drop pound cake. Like every November 7th, it's my Daddy's birthday; dogs are smearing cold noses on the door and daylight savings is distracting us with colored leaves before his elusive exit. I see him now: creeping down the hall, pointer finger to mouth, careful not to wake his sleeping sunlight mistresses. But there we were in the sunroom, tissue paper and candle wax leaving evidence of year 57, a year I hope to walk with half my dad's bouncy step. Through the windows we could see the bonfire he built at dusk, settling into cherry wood embers, asking quietly for more fuel.

I stood up to stretch. My mom and my friend, Vanessa, were knee deep in childhood stories, adding a tear or two to the pile of tissue paper and dripped wax. (Anyone who knows my mother, knows she could coach the heart out of a light pole.) I looked at my dad in the midst of all this estrogen and had to giggle. What a man!

I relocated to the living room, where our old piano sits and uncovered its keys. Growing up, piano lessons came once a week, and I associated this spot with stress, with making my fingers do the right thing at the right time. I knew if I played The Entertainer loud enough, my hard-of-hearing grandmother would come into the room, bend her knees a bit like she saw them do on the Lawrence Welk Show. I loved to see her dance. And I knew she loved a chance to listen.

But this night, I laid my stiff fingers over the keys and remembered their sounds: together, separate, in a row. Like the words I gather when writing poems, I realized that each sound has infinite potential when pushed by emotion. And this wood and ivory piece of potential had been sitting quiet for too long. However many songs I'd memorized sitting there, I'd never sat there with their sounds to make something new.

I see it now: a brisk walk up my stairs, a cup of green tea and honey, warm light in the corner, a keyboard. Maybe it's my Winter project, a reason to stretch my creative landscape. Year 25 isn't too late or 57, for that matter. Maybe Daddy will take up dancing while I play. A little girl can hope.

xx Corrie Lynn