Happy anniversary, love. You’ve made a lot of good things in your life - like roads and bread and kids. And you make me happy every day.. well, you know, not all day every day, but every day for sure. I love you.
In honor of my dad on this here father’s day, I’ve spent the day doing stuff he loves...
Like making granola
Given that we’ve been away for a couple of weeks, I did spend a huge chunk of my day cleaning, which is one of his favorite activities.
And talking to people.
This is, hands down, my dad’s all time favorite pastime. For those of you who don’t know him, let me clarify. He’s not a Chatty Cathy or anything, I mean he doesn’t talk just to hear his own voice. He likes engaging people, usually strangers. Yeah, he really likes talking to people he doesn’t know. Going to a restaurant with him means that, like it or not, you will get to know the people at the next table and the waiter will probably invite you to his next party.
This used to drive me nuts. As someone who really only likes interacting with people in limited doses, the thought of engaging when it wasn’t really necessary totally puzzled me. Until last weekend.
Yeah, I was walking with my dad in Treman State Park where we were staying. Well, david and I were staying there, not mom and dad, they were in a hotel in town. David’s daughter Emily got married there to a cool guy called Matt - different story, different blog post when I have some photos. Anyway, my dad wanted to show me the waterfalls that he had found earlier on a walk. While standing there he found the only other people in a mile’s radius and struck up a conversation. It was brief, the people were nice and happy to engage - this isn’t always the case, as you can imagine, but this time it was. They took our picture and are going to email it to my dad. As we were walking away dad stopped, he paused and said, “ya just have to do that! You just have to talk to people! You have to! It’s so important.” I’m pretty sure he meant the universal ‘you’ as in ‘one’ but he said it with such conviction that I took it personally - as advice from a father to his daughter about how to live life.
I said it used to bug me when he did that, but it doesn’t now - now that he’s explained that it’s just something that we must do. Truth be told, I’ve been doing it all my life anyway, even before he told me it’s important. He modeled that behavior into my psyche - definitely a case of nurture over nature. I thought of my dad’s words today when I stopped to chat with neighbors that I hadn’t seen in a couple weeks. It felt important.
So, dad, happy father’s day. Thanks for all you do for me, all you give me, and all you teach me - particularly the value of engaging with people. It is important.
Luckily, David harvested grandma’s oregano on the last sunny day.
Yeah, ok. That’s not grandma's oregano. It’s not even oregano, it’s thyme. Here's the oregano....
Yeah, it's still not Grandma’s oregano though. I’ve blogged before about my grandma’s oregano. My grandma passed on to that kitchen in the sky several years ago but her oregano lives on. Here’s how:
My uncle mike was clever enough to have taken seed (or maybe actual plants?) from her extensive backyard garden back in the day. He now carefully grows shit-loads of the stuff to dry and share with family and friends in jars and in his awesome cooking (something else he was smart enough to take from grandma before she passed). A few years ago he shared some of the seeds with me for our orto. Awesome. Worked like a charm. How romantic the idea of growing my grandma’s herbs here in Italy, her native home. Not to mention this oregano is just really f-ing delicious. Yes, there is a difference in oreganos.
Uncle mike detailed for us exactly what to do so that we can harvest seeds from one year to the next so as to have a constant crop. Flash forward to this October when my parents muled over the 3rd or 4th batch of grandma’s oregano seeds, I’ve lost count. Yeah, we haven’t really been able to get that whole seeding process down yet.
With great enthusiasm my dad and I got right to planting those those seeds he brought from his mother, by way of his brother to his daughter in Italy. Dad dug and hoed and leveled a beautiful spot in the herb garden. We gently sprinkled the seeds and then watered them right way.
So excited and proud of ourselves, we sent photos to uncle mike...who promptly squelched our dreams “you can’t plant that in the autumn. They’ll never survive the winter.” Hmm, we hadn’t really thought of that. And damn, if he wasn't right. It didn't grow. Well, it sprouted, but well, that's about that. November came and the cold and well, that's why you don't plant shit in the autumn.
So, Uncle Mike was right. I do hate it when Uncle Mike is right so I've sort of told him that it DID grow. I even took photos of a new crop of regular ol' Italian oregano that David planted (in March) and told him it was Grandma's.
We were listening to our favorite Sunday morning radio program, the bbc’s “easy like Sunday morning”. It’s a fun and random compilation of easy soft pop/rock/folk songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s- a lot of Chicago and Gordon Lightfoot and George Michael. Just the exact right amount of corny for me, and of course I know all the words to every song. Immediate winner. The program ends with a segment called “in praise of god” which is a live broadcast of part of church service from a different English country church each week. The program goes from cheesey dj-ing radio to preaching without missing a beat, which only enhances the randomness of the show. Fantastic.
This week’s “in praise” started with a hymn. Yep, actual singing from a congregation of what I can only imagine to be primarily white women of a certain age. You know, sung completely off-key and with a strident sense of duty. It’s odd how something can be so powerful and so unenthusiastic at the same time.
This brings me to mother’s day.
Hearing that hymn transported me to a church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin circa 1978 where I found myself standing between my mom and her mom, my grandma Sally, as they belted out that very song. Golly what I wouldn’t give to be standing in that pew this morning.
For my mom, thanks for teaching me unenthusiastic power, faith, duty, and how to sing.
How great thou art
It was from our friend and fearless leader - Delia, the president of Maberga. (That she is, or WAS I should say, president of our consorzio has very little nothing to do with the story. I just like saying it).
For those who don’t read Italian or really blurry very small print, that says “how are you? Are you home tomorrow, I want to come see you and bring you some artichokes.” "Thanks! Unfortunately we aren’t. Guess where we are?!” Yeah, we were in Venice - different blog post. This one is about artichokes.
So the other day, true to her word as all presidents are, we found this hanging on the fence
I stared at them for a couple of days. All I could see was a memory —a huge pan of perfectly cooked artichokes, swimming in their own juices, and more than a little olive oil, resting on my auntie Jan’s stove top waiting for every Easter dinner in the years I was growing up. It was sort of like magic...they were just there. Thinking that one must be magic to make such delicious artichokes, and knowing that I am personally NOT magic, I've never tried making them.
yeah yeah, ok. that's bullshit for the fact that I totally took the amazing food I had growing up for granted and am too lazy (and spoiled) as an adult to learn to cook.
So, to the Serpe Family hotline - home of all advice on food and everything else, solicited or not, - I went to learn to make artichokes.
ARTICHOKES - the recipe
In case you couldn't follow the written recipe, here it is in photos.....