Sunday, October 01, 2006

Portulaca, Pumpkin Pie and meeting People. Borgo Roma, Verona 9.28.06

It's a beautiful blue-sky day. The kind of day that only hints at autumn, that starts out a bit cool but turns into a warm and sunny one. There are lots of people out walking around in the centro of Borgo Roma. The coffee bars are filled with conversations and you see people stopping to chat with each other in the streets. Much more than there had been when the days were hot and I suppose people mostly stayed inside or did their shopping early in the morning.

My portulaca are still blooming on the balcony and the basil is still happy. In fact I had a nice compliment from Paula, the lady who lives next door about the flowers. Most people had geraniums on their terraces this summer but I had found seed packets at a nursery in Venice on our first trip there this spring and sprinkled them in the same pot where Laura and Giorgio, our landlords, had a few small succulents, knowing they also liked the sun and the heat and I've been delighted with how well they’ve produced.

I have to admit we have not met as many people here as we had hoped and I suppose the reason must be that most people work and they are mostly gone during the day. And also, I believe due to the fact that we also have traveled so much this summer and we haven't been around much ourselves.

We have met Fausto and his wife Rosa who live upstairs. They are also retired and Fausto likes to go fishing and catches and preps the fish downstairs. Two different times he has given us some of the fish he caught and with each one, a bottle of his homemade white wine. They are very friendly and greet us when we pass in the hallway and always ask how we are. Fausto is one of those men who is always busy doing something and has an outgoing and jovial personality. He speaks in Veronese dialect however and it is mostly difficult to understand what he is saying beyond the initial "how are you" conversation, but we keep trying!

Pumpkin Pie

I was happy to actually meet Paula when I knocked on her door to ask her about the cream I had bought to whip for a dessert I was making. I had told our friend Laura about Pumpkin Pie a few weeks ago and found all the ingredients I needed finally and had decided to make one for her and Giorgio to try. The cream seemed really thick and I wasn't sure if this was Ok and Paula assured me it was fine. I told her I would bring her a piece when it was ready. I brought my measuring cups and spoons with me to Italy because I knew they used the metric system and I wouldn't be able to follow my recipes without having to do conversions all the time. Finding some of the ingredients was interesting though and I had to substitute some things, like regular whole milk for the canned evaporated milk I normally use, and having to search around for the ginger (zenzero in Italiano) that I eventually found in the giant supermarket. I have not been able to find vanilla extract, but a product that says it is (in Italian) "aroma" - a flavoring. I don't think it's the same as the extract but have used it in a few other recipes and they seem to turn out OK.

Because I am a lazy cook sometimes, I often buy readymade piecrusts. I looked for something similar and found a product that worked pretty well, in the refrigerator section of the supermercato, that I just rolled out and put into the pie pan. They are definitely into shortcuts like this here and since I don't have a huge kitchen and all the rolling pins etc for making a pie this worked out perfectly.

Bob even found cut up pumpkin at the grocery store that had already been skinned and I must admit that even with the tiny tabletop oven we have in this apartment, they turned out pretty darned good! Let me know if you want this recipe. It's really easy to make and is so much better when you use fresh pumpkin than the canned stuff and a world apart from anything you can buy in the grocery stores. At least my family thinks so and I've been making this pie since my kids were little.

I brought a slice over to Paula and she invited me in for a cup of coffee! I found out that her son lives and works in Brazil and her mother who is elderly and in very poor health lives with her. She certainly has her hands full taking care of her and I think she was happy to have someone else to talk to. She put the pie in her refrigerator to save for when her husband got home from work.

That evening, we brought the one of the pies to Laura and Giorgio along with a container of the cream I had whipped and they called the next day to say they enjoyed it. They don't do pies like we do in the states, but something flatter, called "crostata" that is more like a big cookie crust spread with jams or fruits that has a criss-cross pastry design on top like you might find on a blueberry pie in America. They're yummy too, just different.

An apartment on the Amalfi Coast!

We decided to take an apartment in a town called Vietri sul Mare, on the Amalfi Coast for the final five - our last months in Italy! I will have to tell you all about that in another post.

Bob hasn't been feeling well this week but I think he's just tired and is getting a cold. There are still some places we plan to visit before we leave here at the end of October but there is still plenty of time. A month. We had to laugh about that, on the one hand you could say "we only have a month left in Verona!" But on the other hand, how many people can actually take a one-month vacation! So we consider ourselves very fortunate that we are here enjoying this beautiful country at our leisure.

Ci vediamo,
Rosemary e Roberto

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