Milestones, Memories and Meals

So, the news is out – it’s my birthday.  And, well, it’s kind of a big one.  I’m not depressed about turning 30, not really, I just sort of worry that maybe all the fun is over?  Ah well, I’ve tried not to give it too much thought.

However, I have found myself thinking over the last few weeks about the milestone events in my 20s, and wow, there were a lot of them!  I could list them all out for you, but I don’t really need to.  There is a particularly happy one I’m happy to tell though, and as you will see, it is one that has also shaped my low-key birthday celebration plans.

Me and a few of the girls from our TRI-S Italy 2004 group posing on the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze

In my senior year of college, I took  a TRI-S trip to Italy with a group of about 20 students and faculty from AU.   During those 10 fabulous days, my friend, Katie, and I were lucky enough to stay with an Italian family on the outskirts of Ostia.

As we went out each day and saw the amazing sights of Rome, Florence and Pompeii, we returned every night to a warm kitchen with an open fire burning and the television set to the latest soccer match (there was a fierce rivalry between Roma and Napoli at the time… although I’d wager a guess that things have always been that way).  Our hosts, Maria and Luigi, would be smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso as we all politely smiled at each other and tried to converse, despite none of us knowing how to speak the other’s language.  They had three handsome sons – Antonio, Rafael and Vincenzo.  Their extended family of sorts included several curious neighbours who, instead of using the front door,  simply knocked on the window overlooking the dining room table and, when admitted, climbed in through the open glass for a visit.  These visitors sort of perpetuated my American ideas of Italian men… they were the sort who drove fast cars and wore gold crucifixes and snuck cheeky grins at each other while they pinched an unsuspecting ass.  (And I sort of liked it. OK, I really liked it. :))

Little 21 year-old me, surrounded by Italian men and loving it.

I loved nearly every minute of staying in Italy, but it was those comfortable evenings in Maria’s home that made me want to stay forever and ever.

Our last night there, Maria insisted on cooking us a real Italian dinner.  It is seriously a meal that will live in memory until the day I die.  Katie and I sat down at the table and were soon blown away as our host brought out course after course of incredible food.  First, there was a creamy seafood risotto – I had never eaten risotto before and wasn’t entirely sure what creatures had been stirred in to the rice, but it was lovely.  Then, a platter of fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and salad was brought out.  Still a picky kid, I didn’t care much for tomatoes, I’d not had a lot of cured meat in my time and I was somewhat lactose intolerant… but I tried everything to be polite.  Wow.  I’ve never turned down a tomato since (or prosciutto! or fresh mozzarella!)  Then came a roast, I think, or some kind of unctuous meat course.  I think there was then another course, but I can’t quite remember? We were washing all this down with some of the nicest white wine I’d ever drunk, and it came from a barrel on their back porch! They brought it to us in a large water pitcher and I think we went through at least a few of those pitchers a night.  As I got up to take some plates into the kitchen, I caught Maria with her back to me, bending over a tray.  Her son, Rafael, was practically dancing around her in his slippers and gave her a big passionate kiss on the cheek.

It was Tiramisu.  Oh dear God, it was an amazing, fresh, lovely, creamy Tiramisu.  Maria brought it out and served up generous portions in front of our glowing faces – guests first, then family.  It wasn’t exactly ike any Tiramisu I might have had in the States – it was a softer set, more gentle and homey and less sweet.  It was lovely, and an amazing way to end the trip of a lifetime.

30th Birthday Tiramisu

So… for my 30th Birthday and as a goodbye to my own Roaring Twenties, I’ve made a real Italian soft set Tiramisu.  This is something I’ve always wanted to try and while it’s relatively easy, it can also be tricky.  It’s also an adults-only dessert really, as it’s full of raw eggs and booze.  Mine turned out a bit sloppy, but it tastes amazing, a coffee-and-cream lover’s dream.  I hope Maria would approve. 🙂

Birthdays should always be delicious, don’t you think?

Note:  I wish I had more pictures to share of that wonderful trip, but the album containing all my originals is locked away somewhere in the USA.  These are the few I was able to find in the meantime.

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