Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Bittersweet Memory by Sabina (Jenny's Level 9)

This is a bittersweet memory. I was 16 and I was living with my grandmother at that time. My grandfather had passed away the year before. There were the two of us, just me and Grandma Maria, in a huge, cold house in the old town centre.  
Maria was a strong woman from a noble Sicilian family. She was proud and obstinate. She was a fine cook too. There are a lot of family recipes that remind me of her: pasta with sardines, baked swordfish involtini, stuffed artichokes, potato pie, eggplant caponata, glazed chicken…
She used tons of extra-virgin olive oil when cooking, because she had grown up in a large estate cultivated with olive trees, symbol of the aristocratic status and of a glorious past.
That year, right after her beloved husband's death, she went from being an active, independent woman to slowly succumbing to old age. I couldn't realize this because I was just a teenager dealing with the issues of my own age, never-ending homework and first crushes. 
I remember that one day I came home from school. I was skinny and my school bag was heavier than me. After an hour standing at the bus stop on a cold winter day, I was chilled to the bone and starving. Finally at home, the rich smell of broccoli, wafted to my nose. Well, there is a thing with broccoli, either you love it or hate it. I was simply smitten!  My Grandma had cooked one of my favourite dishes, pasta with broccoli soup. Yum!  I'm particularly fond of this soup, so simple yet tasty. There are few ingredients: broccoli, broth, garlic and cut spaghetti, and they combine so well.
I could almost foretaste the crisp tender florets as they gently melted on my tongue and I could feel the warmth pervade throughout my body.
So, imagine my disappointment when I saw something strange on my plate. Floating on the broth surface, just between the drops of olive oil and the grated cheese, there were little insects, or greenflies.
Oh my Gosh. Yuck. That was disgusting. What could I do? Of course I couldn't tell her. She had cooked for me and I really didn't want to hurt her feelings. Or she could have replied something like: "o ti mangi questa minestra o ti butti dalla finestra!" , which basically means "like it or lump it!".
The problem was that my grandmother hadn't cleaned the vegetables accurately because she couldn't see well and maybe the water was too cold for her hands, so she might have rushed this step of the recipe.
So, as I was very hungry, there was nothing else to eat and my Grandma had already eaten half of her pasta, I quickly decided not to say anything. I just tried to rescue the tiny insects with my spoon, and put them aside on a napkin, without making her realize what I was doing. A very clumsy scene! Then I had an idea. I said: "Grandma, I'd like to learn how to cook, you should teach me".
She was excited. From that moment on, I started to wash all the vegetables, and she showed me how to cook them. We made a great cooking team, I may say.
Now, I really love cooking. I cook mostly for my husband, who unfortunately is averse to the very smell of broccoli. Anyway, whenever I can, I cook some pasta with broccoli soup, just for me. It is soft, warm and comfy and it makes me think of my Grandma.
By Sabina  - Jenny's Level 9

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