Musings on Italy, Brexit, and the inevitability of change

I’m late posting my weekly article. . . must be due to the fact that we are one week away from Puglia. We are heading to Italy next week! For the first time, we are going to this region of Italy which is the heel in the boot. We are renting a Villa with some friends and anticipate sitting by the pool, enjoying the beaches, and exploring the local food and culture. All of Italy is laid back. . . but from what I hear, the South even more so!

The Brexit thing has also got me wondering. . . wondering about change, the pace of life, and the human reactions to difference. Marco and I have watched Italy slowly come to terms with people like us living our lives the way we are meant to live. Eighteen years ago we walked the streets of Cremona with angels wings on our t-shirts. . . he with one wing, me with the other. The quote was this. . . “Siamo angeli con un’ala soltanto.. e possiamo volare solo restando abbracciati…” (We are angels with only one wing. . . we can fly only when we stay in an embrace).

We always say that Italy is 20 years behind the US in gay rights. Vermont was the first State to have civil unions in the year 2000. So, it’s about right that 16 years later, Italy has just passed a civil union law that allows Marco and I and people like us to have a contractual relationship with the rights and privileges that go along with it. We are happy. . . but still long for the day when our marriage and our son will be fully recognized in Italy.

And. . . Brexit. . . and Trump. . . are more signs that change is difficult. . .  The arc of history moves towards more inclusivity, acceptance of difference, and ultimately love and kindness. The pace of change, however, causes many to fear – to hate –  to lash out – to react – to shout – to vote – to scream that it’s too much too fast and we need to slow things down!

My favorite professor in seminary, Harrell Beck, had a quote that I love. It is something like this. . . “change is inevitable, but growth is a choice.” We are in a constant change state from the day that we are born. Each day is new. We have new cells. Every day there is some new thing that we learn, a new adaptation. But, we can choose to grow through these many changes or we can fight, stomp our feet, resist reality, and stay in our stuck ways!

Back to Italy. . . Marco and I are sometimes in conflict with Italy. We lament the slow pace of change. We are frustrated by the bureaucracy that cramps creativity. We joke about the length of time it takes to perform simple tasks of daily life. We notice the inefficiencies of systems. At the same time, we love the slow. We yearn for the simple pleasures of the stroll along the  corso. We love the history of our ancient City of Cremona with its unchanged beauty.

We are going to Italy in one week. We will enjoy the balance of life: enjoying the fruits of our labors in our careers, celebrating the inevitability of change, finding meaning in the moments of every day, grieving the hateful reactions to change, enjoying the meaningful relationships in our lives, savoring the pleasures and tastes of Puglia, and finding life in the moments of every day.


Pan-roasted potatoes 

So, here’s the last part of the Sunday lunch I shared a while back. . . pan-roasted potatoes. We don’t eat potatoes that often, but this is our favorite way to prepare them. As with many of the recipes in the Bella Vita Blog, my suocera (mother-in-law) taught us how to do this.  It’s easy, quick, uses simple ingredients, and they taste great!

Simple cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Heat some olive oil on a non stick pan on medium high heat. Then, place the potatoes in the pan and don’t stir until the bottoms get a golden brown crust. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and ensuring that the potatoes are cooked nicely (about 15 minutes total). We usually use just sea salt as our seasoning, but, in this photo we use herbs de Provence. Feel free to changed the seasonings based on your preferences. Other possibilities include adding some garlic, perhaps Rosemary, or keeping it simple with salt and pepper.

Here’s the full Sunday lunch once again:

Buon appetito!

The difficult art of the simple

I was talking with my friend Jessica today about clearing clutter. It seems that it is all the rage now. . . smaller homes, mindful living, and tidying up (à la the best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Declutter and Organizing” by Marie Kondo). Jess was saying how she recently decided to change a habit that was hanging over her head on the weekends. Each day, coming home from work, she would grab the mail and throw it into a pile. Then, when the weekend arrived, she would dread the duty of going through that pile. Now, her new habit is to come home, collect the mail, and quickly rifle through it, deciding what she needs, what she can  shred, or what she can deal with right away.

This is one example of the difficult art of the simple – – de-cluttering our lives and the spaces in which we live and move and have our being. Our stuff can weigh us down and block movement and energy toward positive goals. Sometimes we cling to things, needing to tend to them, store them, and manage them when we could be enjoying moments in time. And, we can get caught up in the collection of trophies for display when we know deep down that life is about so much more than the stuff we collect.

This blog extols the virtue of simplicity in food:  simple ingredients, subtle flavors, real good food but not too much of it! Our lives and our health are enhanced through a focus on the simple. A focus on real foods that are the freshest possible and the most local. Eating the right combinations of foods that our bodies need without all the preservatives and chemicals that destroy our health. A mindful approach to eating that eats for enjoyment and nourishment without eating to excess. The dish pictured here is one example.

It is a simple but elegant meal. It satisfies in its citrus sweetness paired with the salt and strength of the ginger. The asparagus also has its own unique flavor that gets a subtle makeover by boiling in water mixed with orange juice and ginger root. The fish and citrus and asparagus not only fill the mouth with flavor, but the body is happily nourished with vitamins, minerals and protein without cluttering up the intestines with crap.

The recipe is found here and is also located in my Pinterest account (The Bella Vita) so that you can save in any way that works for you!

Buon appetito!

Beauty and the feast

We were talking with our neighbor, a retired Tufts history professor, just the other day on our roof decks. The topic was Italy, our upcoming trip, our condo in Cremona (they stayed there one time), and travel in general. John said that he tells people. . . “if you have only one country to visit in your life, go to Italy”. He went on to describe the beauty, the history, and the food.

For me this is all summed up in beauty and the feast! The beauty of Italy is the terrain itself. It is the historical architecture. It is the warmth of the people. And, of course, the beauty of the food and its wonderful tastes. A walk in most villages, towns and cities of Italy will reveal beautiful displays of fresh foods. In Cremona, the fish store is smelly. . . but is a work of art. The cheese shop is worthy of a Rembrandt still life. The outdoor market is the stuff of poetry and art!

The beauty of a meal in Italy is about the people; family and friends gathered around the table enjoying fine food and wine, laughing together, discussing ideas, enjoying silent moments of focus on flavor and presence, and, yes, planning the next meal!

The vegetables pictured here are the centerpiece of a meal. The colors are a feast for the eyes and the flavors a pleasure on the palate (click here for the recipe and a short video). It’s a simple way to prepare an amazing array of healthy and tasty vegetables. The sweet of the onions, leeks, and shallots along with the savory of the broccoli and cauliflower, and the earthy goodness of the mushrooms and root vegetables.

The other day we enjoyed a meal with two beautiful people, my nephew Jeremiah and his new fiancé Marie. It was a wonderful reason to celebrate beauty and the feast. The roasted vegetables on a large platter in the center of the table for all to reach. We also served an Italian sausage, some bread, and a nice red wine from Piemonte. The colors, tastes, textures along with the conversation made for a bella vita!

Buon appetito!