Yesterday started off pretty rocky. The boys miss friends. I mean that in the general sense. They miss having kids to play with. There just aren’t many around. The other day at lunch, Tom saw a family sit down to eat. There were four boys. “Kids!” he pointed, as if they were an extinct species in Europe. Then yesterday, Ray was trying to learn some Italian phrases. The two he practiced were, “Do you want to be my friend?” and “Do you want to play with me?” So we jumped at the invitation to have dinner at my friend Sara’s house last night. She has an 8-month-old! Sara lives in Seattle. I use to meet her weekly for Italian lessons. But this month she is in Perugia visiting her parents.
We arrived at 7:30. Sara offered the boys Coke Zero and poured prosecco for us. Tom asked to use the bathroom and got him self locked inside for a little while. Sara’s dad found the master key to the house and was finally able to let him out. A short lesson on unlocking the door ensued. Another round of Coke Zero was served, then Sara suggested we call her cousins to meet the boys. This was great news, and everyone jumped to life when 3-year-old Francesco and 10-year-old Mattia arrived. Ray and Tom started practicing their italian with them. I heard Ray use one of his newly learned phrases. Then they started playing catch. It was an absolute heartbreak when, less than five minutes later, their mamma called them home for dinner. However, we still had Sara’s baby, so we sat around and tried to teach him “Little Bunny Foo Foo.”
Soon, dinner was served. Sara made a couple traditional Umbrian dishes. This usually means lots of meat and lots of salt. We started off with Pasta alla Norcina. Tom took a bite and said it was wonderful. He had two servings before realizing this was just the first course. Sara explained how it was made:
1. In a pan, place three cloves of finely chopped garlic with a generous pour of olive oil and some salt. Add 4 oz or so of chopped crimini mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms are soft. Taste the mushrooms and make sure they have enough salt.
2. Remove 3 sausages from their casings and break them up into pieces while adding them to the pan. Cook until done.
3. Add a cup of heavy cream. Heat until warm. Add 2/3 pound penne pasta. Stir the sauce and pasta together and serve with parmesan cheese.
The second course was lombo alle erbe e pancetta. Equally delicious. It was some of the juiciest and flavorful pork tenderloin I’ve had. Sara explained how it was prepared:
1. In a food processor, blend five cloves of garlic, the leaves from several stems of fresh rosemary and sage, some salt and pepper. Rub it all over a pork tenderloin.
2. On a baking sheet, spread out 4 ounces of pancetta and then place the pork tenderloin on top. Roll up the tenderloin in the pancetta.
3. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about an hour. Cool slightly, slice and serve.
When we were on our second serving of pork tenderloin, La Signora brought down another platter of meat. As she placed a piece on my plate, Sara whispered in my ear, “I don’t like this meat; it’s raw pork.” Then Sara politely declined a serving. I’m kind of a when-in-Rome type of person, so I cut a piece off and tasted. It was great. I told Sara and she took a closer look. “OH, that’s not what I thought it was. That’s raw veal.”
The next course was salad. Sara tossed a green salad with lettuce from her father-in-law’s garden. We each had a serving then were offered fresh tomatoes and chopped red onions. As we were finishing, two of Sara’s friends came over for dessert:
Someone suggested that we sit outside in the fresh air while we eat dessert. So Il Dottore made coffee for everyone. I politely declined saying that if I drank coffee this late, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Il Dottore laughed and said that was a myth. “Coffee doesn’t keep anyone up!” La Signora dished up ice cream, and we sat under the stars. On our way out the door, Sara promised that anytime we wanted, we could call her cousins to get together with the boys. I will definitely take her up on that.