Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Market, To Market...


During a quiet week before Romeo and Juliet became crazy, Jason and I acted on the impulse of filling our host mom’s refrigerator.

We are staying with a single mom who lost her job last year, and is stringing together a living for herself and her 10 year old son, Andreia. Not much older than me, Mariana, but she is very much our Italian mom, feeding us and even doing our laundry. We’ve looked for ways to help out around the house. She likes it when we do the dishes. She also showed us how to brew coffee in the caffeterie, so we set up colazione on the mornings we are up early.

Jason works as a chef back home, so filling Mariana’s refrigerator was also a way to check out the Mercato Centrale. In the northern center around San Lorenzo, among the open-air marketplace, cafes and stalls, this iron and glass building of the mercato loomed and we ascended the stairs.

To date, the closest I had been to a great Italian-style market was a small one on Providence’s Federal Hill. Compared to this, the one on Federal Hill was ship in a bottle. We were there a long time, and never even made it to the second floor. We dawdled among all the stalls selling cheeses, fruit, vegetables, meats, funghi, fish, Tuscan take-away foods like porchetta, and sweets.

When we were over being spellbound, we started to make selections. In my shaky Italian, we asked questions and ordered things. Clementines and peaches. Sliced meats. Bread. A sweet for Andreia. Some vegetables.

And when we brought it back, we discovered Mariana had gone shopping, too, and the refrigerator was now overstuffed.

Several days later, an actor by the name of Garth Laughton, who lives in Florence, showed us another marketplace at San Ambrogio. It is smaller and less of a tourist attraction. The indoor market features numerous stalls and a trattoria for eating right there. Outside the building is an open-air farmers’ market with fresh produce, wines, cheese, olive oils, as well as art and clothing and even a small flea market.

That actor led us to his flat, and cooked us a delicious lunch in a kitchen with a view of the Duomo, and we ate it with a very charming red wine that cost 4 euro for a liter. If I try bringing wine back to the states, it might be this stuff – we have very good fancy wine in New Mexico already, but for good table wine, this is hard to beat.

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