Fall market

by Laura A

View of the Alps near my apartment.  It doesn’t look this clear every day! But to get an idea of how big they are, consider that they’re an hour’s drive from here.

Today is a föhn day, and one of those rare days when Torino really looks like my welcome photo above, with clouds just peeking over the back of the mountains.  While crossing the avenue on the way out to take out some drycleaning, I looked to the left and got a startling view of the Alps with snow. The wind is blowing so hard I can’t keep my shutters open. In fact, you can hear them banging all over the neighborhood. My laundry outside is whipping around itself and rolling up on the line, but it’s drying quickly!  Meanwhile, I’ve been inside cleaning while listening to Brahms on the iPod.  I am utterly silly over Brahms’ chamber music.

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This weekend I met a woman who is a paralegal for Bob’s firm and we went shopping for food. This is the follow up to some arrangements we made earlier in Busca.

I met Carolina outside Eataly on Via LaGrange and we went to Porta Palazzo, the main market. The entire time we were walking there, she was explaining how the same conservatory teacher mixup happened to her son that happened to Sarie, but it turned out to be a good thing, because the new teacher was great! In the middle of the conversation, she’d stop in the middle of the street because she wanted to emphasize some point. It took quite a while for us to get to the market this way, but by the time we arrived, I understood a lot more about the conservatory.

(Update after I posted this:  Sarie was actually quite happy with her first lesson with the new teacher today. So maybe this bureaucratic mistake will turn out well!)

At the market, she wanted to show me a special apple stand. People were swarming all around it–even my friend Jacqueline!  I put some of my favorite kinds of apples in my bag, but Carolina didn’t think those were enough, and kept putting other kinds in that I’d never seen before, and pears. “Oh, you’ll want these. Get the ones that are more golden.”  When I got home, I noticed I had a couple that I didn’t remember picking up at all.

Carolina also found raw, just-picked olives, another fall specialty. Again, she wanted a particular kind.  They looked like big cranberries.  When we got back to her apartment, she fried and salted them and they tasted like grilled radicchio.

While standing in the market, she explained how to make potato, winter squash and chestnut gnocchi.  She made sure I bought the right kind of potatoes and squash for them. Later when she realized I didn’t have a food processor, she said to leave out the chestnuts for now, but I have the squash gnocchi on my menu for this week.  Since Italians don’t tend to use recipes, but just tell you how to do something, this may take more than one try on my part.  That’s fine.

On the way out, we got cachi (a squishy fruit something like a kiwi and mango that I only later realized was what Americans call a persimmon), and fichi d’india, which are apparently a cactus fruit.  Then we passed a  stand with some large yellow melons.  Carolina didn’t seem to be as familiar with these, but they’re just coming into season (probably from Sicily), so we got some. Turns out they’re even better than the summer ones! In return, I showed Carolina where the Arabic men sold cilantro, which she wasn’t familiar with. So at least in one small way, I was able to contribute something to the cultural exchange.  Even though I really can’t imagine it going with Italian food.

Back at her house, Carolina whipped up a risotto while one of her twin sons treated me to a piano concert. He’d had enough of all the discussion being about the other son’s instrument, violin. He played Chopin quite well, and didn’t quit playing even when his mother warned him that the risotto needed to be eaten right away. (Italians aren’t as shy about their playing skills as Americans are.) Sarie joined us just for lunch, and the conversation turned to skiing. We still haven’t been, and we want to!  There was a lovely, shiny chocolate pudding for dessert.

After lunch, Carolina took me around her neighborhood: to Eataly, to a particular cheese shop where I got goat’s milk robiola, and to a pig butcher (yes, only pigs), who was closed for siesta, and then we did some window shopping. Somehow, by the time we did all of this, it was five o’clock. I’d had a lot of fun and had been speaking Italian for seven hours. I was exhausted and energized at the same time. But it was a day well spent, and our family is going to be eating fruit for quite a while!

Top to bottom: Various kinds of red-gold apples and pears, squash for gnocchi, fichi d’india, a caco, half a yellow melon (that looks a little too lemony in my photo), and yet more apples and pears, including the kind that you’re supposed to buy more golden.

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