Something Fun to Do?
Space and time to oneself, I have it… in abundance; I do love it. Days pass where I putter in unflattering playclothes and start projects in series, not getting the loose ends put away until the end, making messes, talking to myself and the cat, nibbling my foodicles every two hours. So, when the man broached the subject for himself, that he does not have it… not any, I empathized. He’s right. Of course I can try to stay out of his way, but it’s not the same. Certainly I could get out of the house for a day now and then. He said, “Go do something fun with the girls.”
Hmm, what would be something fun? A more perplexing question than it would seem. Starting cold, nothing came to mind. That was sort of depressing; there is no place I want to go spend a day. No place closer than Munich makes me as happy as my own studio space. So I thought to determine what I would do were we at home, then find a passable analog here. That was fully depressing: no big malls to wander and window shop and enjoy the immense Christmas decorations, no Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics to take artsy-craftsy classes, no coffee shops with couches and wifi to while away an afternoon, not even a good library ~granted, I’d be in the children’s section reading Italian, but even our local library is cold, hard, gray, small, and uninviting. I suppose I could get on a train, ride it for 4 hours and come back. But the more I tried to imagine spending a day doing “something fun,” the more desolate it felt. What, go to some little Italian village, wander around looking at the same sights as every other Italian village, eat the same meal that’s offered in every other restaurant in the region, just to be out of the house and kill the day? Swallowing my pride, I wrote to several girlfriends for advice. While none of them seem to have my dilemma, they were sympathetic to the whole situation. The responses ranged from, “Yeah, beats me,” to “Come up to our house for a weekend.” Which I have just done. It was good.
Saturday morning the man drove me to the train station (the buses being so unreliable as not to be trusted for such things). The northbound train took me through all the quaint little whistle stops along the coast, including Lavagna. Every time I see its sign I make the little joke, even if it is just to myself. See, trolls in Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld are made of rock, so I can’t help but note that Italian trolls must eat lavagna… lava… lasagna. Get it? I crack myself up. The man will be pleased to realize he’s missed my joke… for once… until he reads this post! I crack myself up again.
It was a pleasant enough journey and Welcoming Friend had given me very clear directions to her house from the whistle stop in their village. I wore my big, black serious London Fog full-length rain coat and the wonderful duck boots, also carrying what opened up to be an enormous umbrella. Just stepping into her home was a comfort, redolent of warm spices and other good things.
When the rain broke to a drizzle, Friend, her son, and I went for a stroll about the village. Very quaint, no surprise there, even in the damp gloaming of late afternoon. She’d heard good things about a restaurant called Soho, so we went to check out the menu. Foolishly I thought it might be… different? Hope springs eternal in the heart of an expat. It was not only the same old Ligurian menu, but from the starters, first, and second courses, there was exactly one (1) vegetarian dish. Friend’s circle includes a number of non-creature eaters. She took a business card just in case of others. We found a pastry & ice cream shop / restaurant / bar which is on the schedule for next visit as it is the most appealing establishment I’ve seen this side of the border in ages. It is brightly light with Venetian chandeliers; the walls are a crisp light aquamarine; the glint of glass and gilt is just rich without being gaudy. And the sweets! Oh… but not wanting to set a bad example for the boy (who, frankly, is after my own heart, content to live on cookies and chocolate) by suggesting an eclair before dinner, we peered but did not enter. Having trod half the town ~2 streets~ we returned to the flat.
Soon the rice cooker was fired up, the pans brought out, and the spices were blooming their hearts out ~ fenugreek, garam masala, onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, tumeric, curry leaves, tamarind, and chilis. Friend, being a modern gal who had a career and other interests, is only recently learning to cook for herself. Perfect! She’s making basic dishes which I can follow, understand, and possibly recreate at home. I take very busy notes as she prepares dinner. Eager to help, when it is time to roll out and fry the rotis, I jump right in. And stick the dough all over for using too little flour, then too much and it turns to a sticky paste in the pan. I am relegated to poking them with the wooden paddle and flipping them over as they puff up, which is really quite satisfying. I will try again and make the mess in my own kitchen because those simple little breads, hot off the griddle, are fantastic.
This is something fun. I no longer feel that I’ve just found a way to be out of the house for a while. The family has made me feel welcome, even to the point of being a diversion for themselves on a rainy, gray weekend. Breakfast and lunch the next day were equally informative and delicious, duly documented for future experimentation. And for a perfect send-off back to the land of sadly uninteresting food (maddeningly, the city is called La Spezia, The Spice), we had a locally available treat, hot chocolate pudding. Yeah, powder from a packet, add milk and sugar, cook on the stove-top, but it is excellent comfort food and something I can run out to the local grocery, pick up, and make right now. And that is fun, too.