Playing Truant in Sabaudia and the Frying of Foods

Here are some photos of food stalls at the Sabaudia open air market yesterday.12345This is my mother buying some artichokes.

8When is the last time you saw chocolate coins?6And this is the wild cicoria mix of which I bought rather too much (too much in that I now have to wash it and trim it and all that that entails, oh woe is me!)

But let me begin from the beginning …

I don’t know about you as regards television watching but I hardly ever find the time to do so and when I do, it is mostly serials and reruns or travel and living programmes that I turn to. The kind of viewing that does not require much energy on my part, light entertainment as it were, when I want to veg out a little in the course of a busy or sometimes stressful day. There is something reassuring, I suppose, about knowing how the script will inevitably meander to a satisfactory conclusion, be it Friends, Sex and the City, or Modern Family.  A few years ago I had to ‘lie low’ for a few weeks following surgery on the top part of my back, and it was the TV Poirot and Miss Marple series that engrossed me the most, with their beautiful costumes and period settings and good ol’ fashioned proper English spoken.  When a friend called me from Canada to find out how I was doing and I told her I was watching Poirot on TV lying down on the sofa, I got her seriously worried, however, because she misheard me and thought I had said that I was watching porn on the sofa.

I spend so much time reading articles and what you on the computer, for hours on end sometimes in the course of a single day, that I find it difficult to read an actual book unless I’m on holiday.  I pretty much turned into a book worm the minute I started learning how to read, and am a fast reader too but nowadays by the time it’s bedtime and I start reading whatever book I have decided to delve into, I am physically tired.  I read a few paragraphs or pages and find I have to give in to my drooping eyelids and turn the light out and go to sleep.  The following evening, I pick up where I left off and on occasion find that it takes me a couple of paragraphs only to discouragingly discover that I had already read that part.  Sigh.

We were discussing memory with my husband and children a few days ago over dinner after having watched snippets of a TV commentary together on the depiction of violence in recently released films such as Revenant and Macbeth.  I tend to agree with the tongue-twistingly named Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr’s definition: ‘meaningless pain porn’.    And the question she poses is one I have I too have mulled over for a couple of decades now: ‘this empty, violent movie will scoop up awards.  What does that say about society and our attitude to violence?’ (here is a link to the full article should you be interested in reading it: I call this the ‘counter-Greek theatricals’.  The ancient Greeks, you see, decried the portrayal of violence on the actual stage.  Even though their plays certainly didn’t shy from the telling of brutal acts, the violence and murder would invariably be committed off-stage – it was the polite thing to do. Much as I love him, Shakespeare did not take a leaf out of the Greeks’ books, uh uh.  And Macbeth is, of course, one of the bloodiest if not the bloodiest of his plays.  I studied it at school for my GCE ‘O’ Level English Lit and used to be able to quote large chunks of it but, as mentioned, my memory is just not what it used to be. My daughter asked to me quote something and the very first thing that came to mind was Lady’s Macbeth’s lament ‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand’ … and the second was the cry of the murderer killing  Macduff’s son: “What you egg? Young fry of treachery!”. ( I don’t know why but I and some of my school friends used to think that line was really funny.)  Thinking about it after dinner, I realized that the very first quotes I was able to recall were tied to my sense of smell (perfumes of Arabia) and to my sense of taste (‘egg’ and ‘fry’) … so it really must mean that my brain/memory is obsessed with food !

Oh, and did I tell you that I love fried food? And that I coined the phrase fried-food-fanatic (FFF) and that I am so pleased to have been vindicated by recent articles dismissing the notion that fried foods are bad for you?  And, just to dig my point a little deeper, that some oncological protocols in Italy ask patients who are about to undergo chemotherapy to eat some fried foods for a couple of weeks before the treatment?  This is so the eating of the fried foods will ‘stimulate’ the workings of the liver – in other words, if a liver is kept ‘exercised’ it will work better at dealing with the toxins that are a sad byline of the chemotherapy.  I am not saying that one should eat fried foods every day … nor that they can be fattening etc.  I am merely stating the obvious: a little of what you fancy does you good.

A propos of which … yesterday I took the day off.  My mother asked me whether I wanted to join her and her brother, my uncle Toto and his wife Pina, for a jaunt down to Sabaudia.  This was day before yesterday and the temperature had spiked up to a lovely plus 14°C and the day had been a sunny one.  Truth to tell, I have lots to do and masses to catch up on but I said yes to her invitation without even thinking about it.  Can I tell you? For most of the day I felt like a naughty school girl playing truant !  I just loved the sea air and the light and the sense of freedom I managed to regain, over my use of time if nothing else.

Sabaudia is a sleepy time in Winter … and the little wooden shacks that serve as cafés and bars and restaurants don’t  make an appearance on the beach until at least June I don’t think.  The options were San Felice or Terracina … My aunt and  uncle knew of a cheap and cheerful place that serves really good freshly caught fish just yards away from the shore.  Was I game? Of course I was … and what an experience.  It was absolutely jam packed, for starters (on a Thursday in January!) and is the best school-cafeteria-style establishment for eating Fish that I have ever come across.  One doesn’t go there for the ambiance, that’s for sure.  But yesterday it appeared more glorious to me than even a michelin starred restaurant would have done – because I felt so free, and so happy and was having a nice time with my mother and my aunt and uncle.
9 The place is called Da Ernesto.  There it is, lying at the foot of the Monte Sant’Angelo … the mountain where an ancient Temple to Jupiter resides (read here for more info if you like :  That dark brown large ‘thing’ in the middle of the piazza is a sculpture (sculpture???) in memory of the Italian statesman who was kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigade terrorist group in Italy in 1978. The sun had gone a little AWOL and all in all … the admixture of ancient history and gory modern architecture and pseudo-art with palm trees swaying in the wind and a good hunger coming on made it all a little surreal … though not unpleasant, I hasten to add.10 And here are the customers … all ages .. queueing up with their trays and ordering their lunch.11 Lots of fish to choose from …12
14 15 16 17 18 And in the event, I went for antipasto and a fritto misto (fried seafood).  19 This is the upstairs dining hall … where we enjoyed our meal.20 And this is the view of the outside, through a blurry window.  In the distance is the promontory of San Felice Circeo, one of my favorite places on earth … not least because it conjures romantic memories of the best kind.21 We went for a little walk after lunch … and after coffee, I thought it would be nice to go to the Circeo, driving to the furthest end … Punta Rossa.  We ended up stopping where the lighthouse is, al Faro.22 And the view of the Pontine islands was simply incredible, incredible! The big one in the middle is Ponza.  The little ‘un next to is Gavi.  To the right is Palmarola.  And to the left is Zannone.  At least I think so … 23 The photo does no justice to what it was like in ‘real’ life … the sound of the waves, the beautiful breeze … the sheer atmosphere of the place.  Only later, today in fact, when I was uploading this photo did I notice a couple smooching in the right hand corner …. Good for them.  This is a great place to smooch …

23aAnd here is the lighthourse … the faro.  I did take a video too … but the quality is so shabby unfortuantely, there is no way I could post it.  What a shame.  The quality of light was entrancing but it was also quickening its pace of darkening.  So off we drove back to Sabaudia.
24 And here we are on the other side of the Circeo … on the beach where I spent such a lovely time last summer.25 There is always time for another cup of coffee … and further along we came to a place called La Giunca … 26 Where this glorious sunset said arrivederci to us.

Oh, it is soooo good to run away on occasion.  So good for the soul, so uplifting.

I had left home around 10 am. and got home at around 7 p.m.  So while the soul was waxing poetically the poor body was feeling a little churlish and would have preferred a non-cooking night.  Aha … but there is no peace for the wicked and so I got on with prepping some of the food I had bought and making a nice, thick batter.  I had some vegetables from the day before … so, it only remained for me to fry.

27 Fried slices of jerusalem artichoke … called topinambur in Italian. My friend Michelle Smith taught me this recipe … so quick and easy!28 Fried squid rings … calamari fritti.29 Fried anchovies … alici fritte. (Yours truly had to decapitate all these beauties before frying them).30Fried salt cod … baccalà.

And this is the story of what befell our heroine when she decided to steal a day in her life from the dirge of duty.  She didn’t get out having to make dinner but she did get to feed her family some wonderful fried food … fried in olive oil.  And she had a wonderful night’s sleep … nothing like sea air.