Friday and Saturday have gone by like a flash. We have our first guest now, so I’m cooking for eight. We have experienced the nightlife on the island twice, once in Capo Libere and once in Portoferraio. As a result, even though the action was minimal, I’m exhausted. Since I’ve been so tired, I’ve been clumsy and slow. My knees are bruised and my arms are burned (all the pan searing without screens makes for painful cooking). My butt and lower legs are burned (by the sun) because I fell asleep without meaning to today on the comfortable sandy beach. I also have an increased tolerance to caffeine now, which might be affecting my sleep schedule. We have strong coffee in the morning (always), cappuccinos at the beach (often), and tea at 5:00 at the house (iced or hot, always black, and without fail). I often have several cups of the tea especially because I make it and take care of the leftovers, aka drink them. It’s very delicious.
Whenever I serve a meal or tea or white wine before dinner I have to ring the bell in the picture above. It’s just outside the kitchen in the hallway between the utility closet and the living room. I can’t decide if I feel Powerful and Domestic Goddess-like by summoning all the workers to enjoy my creations and replenish their energy or if I feel Awkward and Silly calling the workers in like cattle to merely glean sustenance before going back out to the fields. Either way, the bell is loud, clear, surprisingly hard to ring on account of the string probably, and generally annoying. I would much prefer just going outside and telling all the people that lunch or tea or wine is ready.
Tonight I made the most complicated meal so far. Also, it’s been exactly a week since I arrived on Elba. Yesterday’s meal was nothing special- store-bought ravioli with tomato sauce that I whipped up to try and pretend it was fancier than it was in reality. I sautéed fresh green beans in oil and garlic and roasted a turkey breast. The first half-critique the professor gave me was that the turkey was very flavorful but a little dry and in need of some gravy. Kicking myself for missing such a critical detail, I went back into the kitchen and made gravy from a rue with the vegetable stock I basted it with, some pan juices, and lots of salt and pepper. It took me three minutes, maybe less. He was quite pleasantly surprised, and I was happy to appease him. Giacomo said he liked the turkey better without the gravy, which I thought was very sweet but probably not true. All turkey is better with gravy, at least in my opinion.
Anyway, tonight I made Penne col Sugo di Tonno e Peperoni, Fagioli in Umido, and Pollo con Pomodorini e Olive Nere. The pasta was delicious, with tuna, capers, roasted red and yellow sweet peppers, breadcrumbs, and parsley. The beans were also tasty, but I wished I hadn’t used canned tomatoes. I also think I will start cooking the bacon or pancetta before I sautée the onions because I think trying to cook the meat in olive oil makes it rubbery. Maybe I’m adding too much meat at a time to a not-big-enough-pan and accidentally steaming it. Either way, I haven’t achieved the delicious crispiness that American bacon has. What took the most effort was the chicken, even though I’ve made it before. The range is not very deep, and as a result the pans don’t fit on it well if you’re trying to use more than two. I had one big pot on trying to boil water for pasta and two other frying pans full of chicken sizzling in hot oil. I had to balance the absurdly long pan handles on peripheral objects to keep the pans flat on the stovetop because the burner covers are uneven and sloped. I managed, somehow, and emerged triumphant with deliciously fricaseed chicken and only a few stinging places on my arms from the oil splatters I couldn’t avoid. Everything turned out really well. The guest is a friend of Zizi and David who used to be a professional chef in Holland. She still cooks delicious food, just not as a job anymore. She also appreciates fine tastes, and therefore a compliment from her was worth a lot to me. She seemed to enjoy the meal and I enjoyed having made her and others happy.
Now it is Sunday and I’m finishing this blog entry later than I’d expected (Happy Father’s Day!). Last night we went into Portoferraio to watch the World Cup match between Italy and England. Italy won! We drove down in two little cars before a huge storm hit the island. We went to a bar that had the game projected on a wall across the alley protected by a wide arch. There were so many Italians lined up in plastic chairs, stadium style, watching the game attentively. It was raining so hard outside that water was streaming into the alley and pooling under their chairs. They didn’t care at all, and in fact seemed to enjoy splashing around in it in when they jumped up to celebrate Italy scoring. There were also people dressed in authentic period style clothes who had performed earlier in the evening to honor the 200-year anniversary of Napoleon coming to the island. They had stayed in costume so as not to miss the game, which made for an interesting spectacle. Unfortunately the cable went out just after the game resumed after halftime, and we decided to head home to make sure the rain didn’t turn the roads to mud before we could make it back to the house. We left the bar and walked to the car along the street that bordered the harbor. The rain was coming down in sheets of big, fat, warm raindrops. The thunder was long winded, deep, and thrilling. The lightning was awesome, in the most absolute sense. We all accepted that we were going to get soaking wet anyway and proceeded to splash through puddles and enjoy the rain instead of trying to hide from it, which ended up being fantastic and exhilarating. As a plus, I got to clean the Rome dirt off my shoes while frolicking down the street.
Now, to describe the beaches. This is getting lengthy so I’ll keep it short. On Friday we went to a beach called Felciaio (it’s shown in the photo composition with the picture of me). It was gorgeous, which the picture I took doesn’t convey well. It’s well-sheltered at the bottom of Golfo Stella, and contains a small bay on the inside formed by natural rocks and artificial. bastions consisting of huge rocks that once protected the small port. This means that the water was crystal clear and beautiful and also that we were able to jump off the higher rocks into the deeper water. Yesterday, Saturday, we went to Lacona. Lacona is one of the more popular beaches, as it’s sandy and wide. It was on this beach that I fell asleep and burnt myself. I quite enjoyed the experience in the moment, but now I can’t sit on chairs comfortably and the positive qualities of the afternoon are diminishing.
Now it’s my day off, and I get to relax. I slept in this morning, which was delightful, and I plan to play cards with everyone all day while the warm rain pours. We can’t go to the beach, but I might read my beach book (God of Small Things) anyway. I don’t have to cook anything today, and I’m going to revel in my break. It’s a no-stress kind of day! Maybe we’ll start a game of Monopoly. Either way, I’m going to have a lovely time.