We were at the hotel for dinner. L. had just flown in from a business trip in Denmark. She had gotten on the wrong bus from Rome’s Termini Station and Instead of passing right thru our town, where she could’ve hopped off, it took her down thru L’Aquila and more of Abruzzo over to the coast and up to San Benedetto, where she found a cab to take her here, adding approximately an hour and a half to her all ready lengthy day of travel. We thought some handmade taglietelle with truffles might help.
Now, I really like this dish, but I try not to eat too much pasta. In the past year, I’ve gained five kilos. Doesn’t sound that bad, but a kilo is a little more than two pounds. Pasta isn’t solely responsible, but since I rarely ate pasta at home, I’ve tried to cut down on it here. I really want all the clothes I had shipped half way around the world to fit me again. The locals never believe there could be a correlation between the amount of pasta eaten and way one’s clothing fits. Nevertheless, we told Daniele we wanted the taglietelle for two, that I wasn’t having any.
We sat down with a bottle of Rosso Piceno and as Daniele placed the taglietelle in front of us (I was given a stern look in response to my protests and a small plate anyway), F. and E. walked in. We waved them over to join us.
We had been discussing Thanksgiving, which is this Thursday.
F. said, “I don’t unerrrstand.”
“Well, you get together with your family and friends and you eat.” Must sound sort of strange to them. This is what they do every day.
“But you must be thankful,” he spat out.
“You don’t must. You just….are…..”
“Why? What if I don’ wanna be thankful?”
Well….because….”Oh!”, I explained, thinking I’d found something he’d understand. “For the…” I grabbed my dictionary and started flipping through it. “the, um, raccolta.” Surely that would make sense. Growing up as he did, with farmers and hunters all around, he could understand being thankful for the bounties of the harvest.
“Eh. I don’ wanna,” he said. I’m very proud of teaching him that phrase. He uses it perfectly.
At that point, E. brought up the Fourth of July and then, again, the time he met John Travolta from Le Febbre del Sabato Sera at the world premiere of Grease in London some thirty-odd years ago, continuing through his usual repertoire. L. got up to go outside to smoke.
“Don’ catch the bus!” F. called after her, cheerfully.
When she returned, she continued talking, but had changed the subject to Christmas Eve and trimming her tree.
This subject wasn’t all that much different from the Thanksgiving topic. It involved people getting together and eating and drinking, but for a totally different reason.
It’s difficult enough to follow dinner conversation with five people and three bottles of wine. It is more difficult when some of the participants speak little Italian, one of the participants speaks a little English and the other runs through the names of London’s tube stations every few minutes. There tends to be some miscommunication.
“Yeah, so, I’m thinking of having you guys and some other people over like the week before Christmas, maybe a buffet, everyone brings something, we eat, we drink, we decorate my tree. It’ll be fun. We can…”
“Yourrrr house?” F. interrupted. “Beforre Chrristttmas?”
“Not the vigilia?”
E. broke in. “Odio la vigilia. Io, Biancha, Antonio, mia suocera, cosí,” he said, hands folded in his lap, looking like a bored school boy awaiting punishment outside the principal’s office.
“No, no. Not Christmas Eve. Like, a week before. All of us. And E. you bring the wife and bambino,” L. said.
E. nodded vigorously. The idea of a night out around the holidays, staring at someone other than his mother-in-law sounded good to him.
“Ok. But I don’t can eat turkey,” F. continued. “I kill one when I am young for my grandmother and now I don’t can eat. Don’t like.”
“No, no. No turkey. Turkey is for Thanksgiving. We talk now about the week before Christmas. Maybe sabato before. We eat whatever.”
“No? Why no? It’ll be fun!”
“Eh. Don’ wanna. Don’ unnerstand. Don’ wanna be thankful,” he grumped, shaking his head in disgust and turning his attention to Francesca who was carrying over a flaming bowl of chestnuts. Finally, something he could understand and for which he was thankful.