29 December 2009

How I spent Christmas Eve

A picture tells a thousand words, and this blurry photo best describes Christmas Eve. Words like movement, energetic, chaotic, kinetic, conductive, dramatic are a few that come to my mind.  Let me try to explain.

It is Christmas Eve. We are three American women. Being in Italy, we invite an Italian man. He is brave because more than just American, we are all empowered California women. Sasha (photo) is our host. Her monolocali studio apartment is the scene. Her entire kitchen is what you see in the photo. Two electric burners with not enough space between the burners to use both at the same time if the pot is too large and about six inches of counter space and a sink. Basta and nothing more. The apartment is not designed to throw five-course dinner parties for more than two people. For those of you who do not know, you cannot blow dry your hair and run the washing machine at the same time without blowing a fuse.

Sasha is a chef and famous baker. Watching her cook is like watching a symphony conductor. With passion and emotion, she creates what she wants, what she sees in her mind.

The table is decorated creatively, with typical Italian food ingredients: a bouquet of Italian parsley, plum tomatoes on the vine and lemons that divide the eating places and more including votive candles, and bottles of cracked pepper serve as candle holders for the stick candles. Resourceful. Antipasto and crostini are served and next homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and lemon in a sage-butter sauce is our primo piatto. Oops! The electricity goes out. By candlelight Sasha prepares a salad of Belgian endive, radicchio, fennel, and Gorgonzola cheese. Eventually, the proprietor returns from his Christmas Eve dinner to turn on the power. While preparing the mussels and clams to open in water to be added to the garlic-tomato-red wine sauce and fresh pasta, the electricity goes out again. Without electrical power the rest of the night, somehow dinner miraculously comes together. And of course, there is dessert and coffee and a digestivo. Every bite is delicious.

Such a small space -- if you need to pass another, everyone has to file out of the way -- with no counter space, losing main ingredients, losing electricity twice, having the Duomo "crazy" church bells peal every 15 minutes so loud we cannot hear each other, there are many obstacles to overcome. It is difficult to paint the picture of what it is like, but it is crazy!

We overcome all the obstacles. Without electrical energy, there was plenty of electricity and energy amongst us.  It is a special Christmas Eve dinner. We are together. No one is alone. We laugh. We share. We make new memories. We agree that this Christmas Eve is unlike any other any of us has ever had, and that no one of us will ever forget.
-- Josslyn / 'Giosalina'
Florence, Italy

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