Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's time for a good bite of Torrone Fratelli Nurzia. Because it's winter in Holland. Days are darkening, the weather is unspeakable, rain and strong wind keep inside the lucky ones who can choose to, and I feel like a serious craving for a bar of Torrone dei Fratelli Nurzia. A 500 grams bar, not the small ones. Which means I am ready for that Christmas feeling, two months in advance. Boy, that's a serious problem.

And what it is, you might ask? It is the most deliciously soft chocolatey thing, with honey and whole hazelnuts, to munch and nibble under a blanket on the couch with a good book, or just without (and a huge jar of water next to you). One of these things that melt in your mouth (and I am not talking juicy sleazy sex here, god forbid). One of these things, you know, you just forget about calories and before you know you put 4 kilos extra all on your tummy. Which will stay there forever, and I cannot care less, because it is all worth it.

Which is what happens if I are just my usual piggy-self when it comes to torrone Nurzia (the only edible torrone in the world if you want my opinion, and anyway, I don't care if you feel differently, there will be more torrone all for me in that case). Instead of distributing around to family and friends all the good torrone (3 kg.) my mom sends me, I eat it all by myself with my beloved one - beloved one gets anyway less of it and he knows - well than the least you can expect is to move two clothing sizes up. And nobody heard me ever complaining about this.

Well, my mom got the hint by now. Last year we were discussing on the phone the yearly parcel, and I asked for small-bars packages, because easier to distribute. "Like it makes any difference", she said "you eat it all yourself anyway". She got a good point here, but I was surprised to hear she knew. How naive of me.

Now, if you look around and are a bit lucky, all you chance to find in Italy in the shops is Torrone Sorelle Nurzia. They are the part of the family gone commercial. While the real thing has forever been packed in a metal wrap and a paper box with Art Deco ladies on it, the Sorelle have lately chosen first for a plastic wrapping with at least a metallic goldicolour, and later went shamelessly transparent, logo-printed foil.

Shame, the whole experience of unwrapping an abducted bar, hidden under your bed and eat it before you are caught by cousins and brothers who did not manage to even get close the Christmas tree (were all the bounty was stored), is down the drain. They don't make that good old noise, no, it's all squaky-squeaky now.

Then the Sorelle got good deals with distribution, which means big production volumes and price consciousness and you don't need me to tell you what this all does to the taste of whichever good thing in life. For God's sake, you can buy the sorelle's Torrone at the highway supermarkets. Now, if this is not cheap.

But if I got you interested for the real thing, you go to L'Aquila, Piazza Duomo which is the big central square hosting a market every morning, you go on the lower uphill side of the square and you enter Bar Fratelli Nurzia, which is a coffee and bon-bon shop rather than a drinking hole, and there, just there, you find it. In all seasons. But Christmas time, is of course, the best time for it.

(And if you are there, and think of me, and wish to send me a little something from home, well, who am I to say no?) My mom wouldn't be happy though, she always told me to beware of strangers offering you sweets...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maybe it sounds a bit corny all that nostalgic stuff about my mountains in my last post. But today I was looking through last summer pictures Menno needed for his website on my next cooking course in Abruzzo (he wanted personal, authentic stuff, and boy, he got it) and I was just noticing how much happier Cinzia and I look there. Of course it was Summer. Of course, we were on holiday (and take my word for it, mothers' holidays are great, but not relaxing. Every year we go back home in Amsterdam just craving for a full schoolday of personal freedom to do our own things. To get some bits of these magic moments known only to mothers. When you are A-L-O-N-E. Just you and whatever you are doing that moment: cooking, working, cleaning, reading, ironing, brushing you teeth without that multi-tasking stress).

If I really want to be honest now, I should add that the part about enjoying a beautiful day at Campo Imperatore could be read on our husbands' faces as well (fathers too, poor things, need some rest, but hey, they can abstract what they do from the continuous thought about their children. I actually miss them when they are at school). But in our mom's pictures there is that little extra: we belong to this place, we changed many homes in our lives, but this is ours. Truly ours, to share with our beloved one. (Please, check if it is really like this or if I am making this up). That dreamy, relaxed, looks like we just got a Botox, but not, it's just sheer joy.

Ok I got it, I know what it was: it's just that we had left the smaller boy of two with Grandma home, and we have the certainty that whatever our big boys are going to figure out, they can never walk too far away without us loosing sight of them. Because as far as you watch around, it is just prairie, sheep and grass. We don't need to chase them, to warn them, to bother them as only Italian mother do: the place takes care of them. We just sit down and enjoy it.

Next year we are going to camp in the small canyon Cinzia knows. Never knew there is one there, but she is a geologist, that makes the trick. With all the kids and the dogs. Just like we did with my dad when we were real small. Back then, we would get out of our tent in the morning, and all around there were sheep. Their dogs attracted from our dogs, and the shepherd looking for company and a chat. I can miss the shepherd, though. Nowadays we have more chance of a ranger reminding us we did something illegal. This is the problem when the free range of your childhood turns into an official National Park.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I did it again: on a dark and cloudy day in Amsterdam, I foul myself thinking that the big blue cloud behind Central Station is one of my mountains in Abruzzo. The landscape gets suddenly more texture, more movement, it is so much more beautiful. Pity they never thought of making a couple of serious mountains in Holland. You may believe they can make everything here, when it comes to redesigning a landscape, but a mountain, really, it is not a Dutch thing. It is my thing.

Well, I cannot claim patent on using clouds as substitute mountains. My friend Mahtab does exactly the same. When you are born and raised in Teheran, a city surrounded by mountains, you just can't help it: mountains are your thing too. Which makes two of us, living in Amsterdam, and seeing mountains in the distance. Maybe there are more like us around.

Back to my mountains: the Gran Sasso from the side of Campo Imperatore. The Monte Camicia in the distance. Picolle (actually, a hill, the name says it all). Il Riccio, where my dad had a piece of woodland. All the small burghs climbing higher and higher, until you get to the huge plateau of Campo Imperatore, setting of all of the spaghetti-western and 3.000 years of summer pastures, and you go towards L'Aquila, where the mountain tops part, and the road goes just in between that open space and you feel, you know, that by going further you will end up driving towards the infinite, at 2000 mt. height. These are my mountains to me.