Tag Archives: Italy

Pig and Pepper

I walked into the pizzeria and asked to look at the menu. Quickly scanning the ingredients, I rejected each pizza as soon as I recognised a word that translated to a type of meat. “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope … maybe?” It was only my second week of living in Italy; I’d studied Italian for seven months and learnt a bunch of words but not all the words and there are just so many words.

Verdure – green – that sounds vego-friendly? Most of the ingredients seemed OK except this one: peperoni. I mean… that’s straight up meat. I glanced up uncertainly at the cameriere.
“Verdure”, I pointed at the menu, “é vegetariano?”
“Sí”, he replied.
“Ma… peperoni? É carne.”
He looked confused and said something to me I didn’t understand.
“Io non mangio carne. Le Verdure é vegetariano ma peperoni é carne. Non mangio carne.”
(Pepperoni is meat. I don’t eat meat.)
He seemed impatient and muttered something else. Never piss off your chef, I thought, or they’ll spit in your food. I reluctantly ordered the Verdure.

 

When it came out, I stared at the Verdure pizza. It looked fine. Pulling open the menu, I mentally drew lines connecting each word to a topping until there was only one topping left. And then… it clicked: capsicum. Peperoni was capsicum. Like Peppers. Peperoni. Capsicum. I looked up and grinned at the cameriere who had already turned away, glad to be done with this troublesome customer.
“É vegetariano!”

 

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Ramandolo

It was the 1980’s when the young Italian followed her husband across the world from the north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia to the city of Sydney, Australia. She eventually found work of her own in the lower-north-shore suburb of Neutral Bay and spent her weekends hanging out in Kings’ Cross. Just before she returned home a few years later, somewhere across town a little girl of Indian heritage would move to the country with her family. But the two wouldn’t cross paths until 22 years later, when the girl, now a young woman, would turn up in her small but pretty village, Chialminis, to sing Sunday mass with her Triestino choir.
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La Chiesa di Sant’Elena Imperatrice in Chialminis where the Sunday mass took place.     Photo Credit: http://www.natisone.it

The entire village of about 50 people attended both mass and a concert held after a coffee break at the local cafe-bar. At the end of the concert, their conductor proudly elaborated on the choir’s diversity and international-roots; the now-elderly Italian woman asked to be introduced to the young Australian, before she’d even left the stage. There was plenty of time to talk as the town had invited the choristers to join them for lunch. The two women sat down together and exchanged stories in an awkward mix of Italian and English. Each had had very different experiences of Sydney, but both had bought groceries in Leichhardt (a suburb that still hosts a large Italian community). Meanwhile, the village served up a feast – including vegetarian pasta specially made at the last minute for the young woman – and plenty of their locally produced dessert-wine Ramandolo. The locals and the visitors would take turns to sing folk songs amongst the rounds of food. When the day came to an end, the two women bid each other adieu with the usual kisses on cheeks. Five minutes into the drive back to Trieste, the young woman and her fellow singers stopped to buy bottles of that sweet white-yellow wine. She would share it with her friends and colleagues at the astronomy department on her birthday that year.
Even after she left Trieste, the young woman couldn’t shake the feeling that she had been gifted a memory from someone’s life to protect, of which only she could understand the significance. She would recall this as one of her favourite days out of her three years spent living in Italy. Years later, she would find herself scanning the dessert wine section in Sydney, hoping (but not really expecting) to discover a bottle of Ramandolo, so that she could drink in honour of a woman named Lucia.