Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cheesy Dreams

Now it's not quite as cold in Italy as it is in the UK but I'm still sitting here in Rome with a snivelling cold watching Sky News instead of being out enjoying la Dolce Vita on a Saturday night.

Admittedly it was snowing the other day in Puglia, but that was up a mountain, and it rained a lot, and it was bloody freezing on Thursday, and I brought the damn thing with me from the UK...etc.

But it's all worth it because just before I temporarily lost my sense of smell and taste, I rediscovered the magic mozzarella, first passed my lips many years ago and too long absent. You know mozzarella? That rubber ball in the plastic bag filled with milky water that can be used for pizzas, crumbled into salads, sliced for accompanying tomato, avocado and basil? Well in Puglia you'd barely recognise it.

Firstly it's always a lot softer, even the common stuff, and has a slightly more acidic quality to it. But in the rarified atmosphere of Slow Food, Agrimuseums, local producers and organic farming that has gripped Puglia as much as anywhere else, the top drawer mozzarella is in a different league. It's called a Burrata.

The ball is meltingly soft and inside it's stuffed with a stringy/soupy/creamy/buttery mix that has a flavour like nothing else I've ever tasted. Somebody brought me one back from Matera many years ago and, having never seen one before, was about to put it in the fridge to firm it up. Fortunately I was stopped.

Later that day, when asken how the mozarella was, I simply said "finished".

On top of Mont Saint Angelo (while flurries of snow blew outside) we were fed just the mix itself, without the cheese ball casing. That was even better. And in a variety of farms and restaurants I dug in as if famished when offered a tiny morsel. "Ooh, you like it, take another". I didn't need asking twice.

It apparently began as a way of using scraps of leftover mozzarella but I don't care about that, all I know is that it's one of the tastiest cheeses on the planet. Sadly, unlikely to be tasted in the near future as it has to be consumed within 24 hours - at 48 it needs chucking out - and the race to get fresh Burrata to London in that time is likely to affect the price. Er, adversely.

Which brings me to the world's best ricotta, also from Puglia.........

No, enough with the cheese, I've got manflu. I couldn't even smell Stinking Bishop if it was stuck under my nose right now. I need to go and suffer somewhere. And dream of cheese.

Monday, December 07, 2009

People On A Train

So I'm hunkered down on a train on a cold, grey, miserable winter's day, and we're not exactly racing from London to Brighton, it's stopping at places you've never heard of, like Three Bridges, when this guy gets on and sits opposite me. I'm already distracted from reading the Guardian - this being Climate Change Day or something I've bought the paper version for the first time in months - but a nearby man/woman person is talking loudly into his/her mobile about being at the bookies that morning. He/she is talking in that earpiercing, annoying, Estuary nasal twang that sets my teeth on edge.
"Yeah,ee dunno whaaat ee waas farkin tarkin abaht" he/she is bellowing, in a high pitched squeal, while I'm buried in The Media Section, trying to figure out what OfCom's position on News International should be, or why the Libel Laws in this country are fucked.
"Aaaah says to 'im, if YOU don farkin gimme that tenner I'll, so to God, I'll....." at this point the recipient of the news made a suggestion which I couldn't hear so I moved further down into my coat and scarf and tried to keep reading.

But the new guy had other ideas. I could feel him staring at me.
"Isss juss started..." he says, noticeably slurring. Since this was just after noon, I assumed the man was ill and looked up. He was dressed in short shorts and a tee shirt. Both tight and shiny.
"What has?" says I, trying not to appear rude.
"Th fkin rain," he slurs, barely audible.

He was pissed. As a newt. At noon.
And he was dressed in shorts in midwinter. And he appeared to be Italian.
"What?" I says, not too sharply, but sharp enough to show that I wasn't really going to engage, but was not impolite enough to totally ignore him. You never know, he might have been ill.
But he wasn't. He was totally bladdered.
"thefkn rain, jus started, Now. There. It's fkn wet. Fck".
I looked at him. He looked at me.
Mr/Mrs Bookie Customer was bellowing.
"eee jus was a waanka, a total wanka, an ah sez to im like ,wha..." but the other end interrupted again.
I decided to ignore everything, and sure enough, the world's drunkest Italian (I've never seen one before,) went away to engage at the next seat where a couple of lady shoppers giggled and held their breath at the audacity of this swarthy runner (for that was what he said he was) swaying and swearing all the way to his stop, somewhere even I've never heard of, never mind you.

And so back to the comfort of The Guardian. I was engrossed in every detail, including a short piece about the BBC, about BBC Worldwide in fact.
"That's funny," I thought to myself, drowning out drunken Italian and 90DB Estuary Mobile, "It's as if I've read this piece before"
And sure enough, I had. Or rather, I'd only feckin written it! As one of the anonymous commentators on the Guardian Media Online I witter away about everything from puddings to politics when I've got a short gap to fill between games of Bejewelled Twist, and occasionally they lift the more enlightened pieces and print them in the dead tree edition. Without telling.
There's apparently some small print in the online contract which allows them to do it, so it's all kosher.

So there's me beaming away at the three pars which I never got paid for, and I look up. The Italian is using the seats as training bars and the he/she is now talking to his/her mate sitting opposite, at the same decibel level, about how the person on the phone was also a fahkin idyit.

Somehow I don't think either of them would have been impressed with my coments about BBC Worldwide in the Grauniad.