A gentle breeze rolled down the hillside, sending silken ripples through the canopies, which were pointedly struck “just for their celebration”. Underneath, the guests meagerly tapped and trotted their lame tarantellas, mere moments prior to the massive deluge of vino that was about to besiege them.
Unmotivated by anything other than the promise of getting slopped-up, he sat there, arms folded, legs effeminately crossed – eager to show off the fashion statement he had osmosized somewhere in the eternal city – denim, black loafers, no socks. The exposed ankle flesh, unbesmirched by the sun’s gaze, radiated vibrantly in the open air of the Tuscan evening.
He silently held faith that no one would notice the gleaming, still-fresh wound on his lower cheek – “one of the joys of manhood”, their freckled, blonde-and-blue tour director, Chris Daley, joshed.
The inconvenience caused by what has gone on to simply be referred to as “the shaving incident” of the night prior, forced him to retire earlier than the rest of the group. In truth, he simply needed some time away from their nearly-geriatric ways.
The bleeding finally came to a halt, thanks to a remedy from the local faramcia. “Puttans use these to keep their you-know-whats tight”, his father beamed, forever reveling in an opportunity to create these inappropriately awkward father/son moments. He then revealed the trinket from a tiny shopping bag, scattered with faux-Italian headlines. The paper vessel was the type of novelty carryout one might expect from an old country store, if only “old-country stores” were a thing in Italy.
A quick lesson in the proper application of a styptic stick and back to his fresh, taut and clot-free self.
“Don’t look at my vagina face”, he silently wished, as he got up for yet another refill. As he approached the denizen in charge of dispensing, he couldn’t help but consider what must have been going through her head. The falsehood of it all.
“You midegans really think this is our everyday? Our existence revolves around our unending desire to eat, drink and be merry? Prancing around barefoot, listening to Pavarotti? Holding hands, savoring gelato off of the same tongue-depressor-like spoon, while posing nude for portraits? Look, there are no Medici here. La dolce vita doesn’t exist and the one you fancy knowing was made by a creepy-ass pervert. Did your parents and grandparents immigrate to your country just so you could borrow a nostalgia that never existed? That magnet with those colors of our flag you so proudly display on the ass end of your Accord, Maxima or if you’ve really made it, Lexus, yeah that one with the reflective material, its upside-down for fuck sake! It’s GREEN-white-and-RED! And that wasn’t even made official until we had staked our independence some 50-60 years after your ancestor’s sorry asses left their blighted village ‘just south of Napoli’. Fuck that story about the first pizza. Basil, cheese and tomatoes are fucking delicious – it was bound to happen. Look, you had your time to shine. Don’t believe us when we refer to you as ‘peasan’. We’re going to go through with these motions tomorrow and then the day after. Oh that? That my friend is a how you say piccolo fee for the use of our special knife and fork from my mom…err mama mia’s own-ah collectioné. God dammit you morons, thats not dancing. And would you stop with the hand gestures already? Enough! All we want is your fucking mon – – Ciao, rosso o bianco?”…
“Si”, he replied.
“Red or white, signore?”.
“Oh, scusi . Umm, let’s go for red. Grazie” (fuck, she looked right at it).
As he sauntered back to his post he could not help but admire the care with which the family-style platters and hand-crafted bowls were arranged on the seemingly endless banquet tables. He grabbed a plate and a fresh set-up, then got to work.
As a newly-outed ovo-lacto vegetarian (or when his naive insistence on “necessity” would sometimes have it, pescatarian) the offerings were quite accommodating. Capers, olives and fresh, hard cheeses over here and the omni-present Caprese salad over there (which strangely was never made available during their stay on the island of Capri). Green beans and roasted zuccha, onions, red peppers and artichoke and what is that, asparagus? Alright. Orzo and orchetti. Faro and farfalle. Just then something had caught his eye. It was wrapped in Saran, hitherto undisturbed. A dormant Vesuvian mound of what appeared to be some sort of “they won’t know any better”, native mischief.
Bread salad is supposed to consist of bulky, rigidly irregular hunks of stale Italian loaf for it’s base, not perfectly symmetrical cubes of wonder bread.
They knew. It was probably a dare. The chef had done his part, but the servers, perhaps for fear of getting reamed out by the pale, native-Italian speaking tongue of the tour guide, tucked it far out of sight – out of sight for most. “I’ll show you midegan”, he mused, piling on a spiteful “thank you portion”.
He sat down just as his mother once again beckoned him to come join her on the dance floor. As she returned to the festivities, the image of her momentary dejection was eclipsed by a mouthful of the petty prank posing as panzanella. A deep pull from the stemware allowed the dry chianti to temporarily wash things away. As expected, he was slowly becoming Jesus Christ.
Frances and Salvatore would hate all this shit.
My sister brought over a loaf of Pastryland bread (awful name, pretty good bakery) that was leftover from Sunday’s post-harvest feast. Because I don’t usually partake in non-whole wheat stuff, I decided to cut it up and swathe it in tomato and vinegar.
PANAZANELL SALET (sic)
-large mixing bowl
-coo-cha(d) aka stirring spoon
-6 or 7 slices of day-old or even more aged, crusty Italian bread, cut into irregular 1″ pieces
-4 tomatoes, deseeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
-1/2 red onion, cut into 1/4″ pieces
-5 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
-3 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
-4 swirls of extra virgin olive oil
-5 shakes of balsamic vinegar
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
(Optional: diced green peppers, zucchini or black olives)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir gently with cucchia(d). Be careful to not overwork bread or it will break down and get soggy. Wrap in Saran and refrigerate until chilled through.
Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh parsley. Serve as part of “salad night” with other cold antipast selections.
Yields 4-5 servings.