Today was a stressful day.
I was left alone to cook dinner for the first time today. Yesterday was a trial run of sorts, and today might have been one of the same had Calleo’s niece not been doing her French income tax all day. As it was, she was unable to help and I took matters into my own hands.
The way the kitchen is set up is not ideal. For example, nothing was clean when we arrived, so I spent most of today cleaning utensils, lining drawers, and generally organizing a very confusing space.
Breakfast began late today and was sort of self-serve. Usually I have to have the oatmeal (the same every day) ready by 7:30 am with yogurt and fruit. Calleo likes unsweetened yogurt with a selection of fruit every morning. Luckily, there is an absundance.
Lunch is light, usually comprised of leftovers from the night before. Today we had leftover pesto pasta, a caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella, and some pasta con pomodori (tomatoes) that I whipped up rather hurriedly. We supplemented it with fresh melon and some leftover chicken from last nights dinner.
Dinner is a very complicated (perhaps to excess) meal. White wine is served on the terrace at 8 sharp. The first course, pasta, is served piping hot at 8:30. Then, once everyone is done, the next course is brought out on separate plates. We have a schedule for serving and clearing that we are starting to practice and will have down pat by the time guests come. For example, I as the cook will always serve the pasta (first) course. Someone else will clear it while the second course is warming. A different person will serve the second course (vegetables and meat, on a new plate) to each person at the table. We even go so far as to do the proper “serve from the left and clear from the right,” thing. After the second course comes the salad course, served on the same plate as the meat and vegetables were on. Believe it or not, the salad is the part with which I am struggling the most. I’ve never made complicated salads for myself or had requests to make them for others. Luckily the Calleos are easy to please and quite enjoy the only salad dressing I can guess at making (broken balsamic vinaigrette a.k.a oil and vinegar). After salad comes fruit and cheese, served on a separate plate for the second and salad courses. Then, finally, dinner is done and cleared away. We also have a schedule for dishes doing, but an Aunt of mine (and practiced chef) once taught me that a good cook always does her own dishes. As as result the others haven’t had a lot to clean so far apart from the plates upon which we eat. I don’t know how long I can keep that routine up, but I’ll do my best.
Tonight I tried to make a simple penne with pancetta pasta for the first course but ran into problems from the start. First, the pancetta did not cook like bacon even though it appeared identical to American bacon. It became rubbery and tough when seared, so I cut it into tiny cubes and cooked it until it became crisp. I couldn’t visualize how the sparse recipe would yield any kind of edible product, so I began to improvise a sauce. The grease and some extra melted butter I combined with rosemary and then added flour to make a rue. Once the flour was toasted I added milk little by little to make a thick cream sauce. I added salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika. I was quite nervous about the whole thing until I added the salt and the tastes came together. Right before we ate at 8:30 I reheated the sauce that I’d completed earlier around 5 and added back the cubed pancetta and some grated parmeggiano reggiano to add richness. It turned out quite well, actually. Everyone was surprisingly impressed. I was relieved.
I also made sausages, steamed green beans, and sautéed zucchini and onions. The rest of the meal was simple. I hope in the future that the pasta dishes don’t give me so much trouble because I won’t always be able to rely on easy-to-cook meats like sausage. Tomorrow, for example, I will have to put together an actual meat course (most likely roast chicken) that will take much more work. I will counteract this by making a pasta I’m quite practiced at by now (carbonara). I hope it goes well.
We also went to the beach today, a different one than yesterday. This one was more volcanic- blacker stones and different water quality. It was lovely, to me, but infuriating to Zizi. She’s grown up here, and remembers the same beach without kiosks for food or privatized sections that charge people money to rent lounge chairs or umbrellas. Italy has a law, apparently, that all beaches are supposed to be public. It annoys Zizi beyond compare that people have decided all over the island to claim the best parts of beaches and start charging people money to use them. I don’t know the difference, but I can appreciate the frustration. The two places we’ve gone so far have been heavenly. I’m quite looking forward to tomorrow’s afternoon adventure.
I am exhausted to a degree that doesn’t match the amount of work I did today. Perhaps I’m crashing from the strong cappuccino and two cups of earl grey tea I had earlier today. Italian coffee really does the trick!