I can't believe it is May already!
I feel like I just got here. Alas, I have less than a month left before I must return to ALMA and do my finals. On the 10th I have to submit my list of ingredients for my final two dishes and I think I'm ready.
Yesterday Arcangelo left for France amid tears from his grandmother and jeers from the rest of the staff. It was sad, Arca was fun to have in the kitchen and he was definitely a leader, eventhough he and his mother often battled for dominance. In true Italian style his parents stocked him with the biggest care package of food I have ever seen in my life. I kid you not that there were 5 wheels of different cheese, 5 different sausages, a whole pancetta, an entire case jammed full of different dried pastas, three loaves of home made bread, six bottles of olive oil, six packages of risotto rice, five jars of different jams, three of honey, two plastic bags full of sugar, and various other treats. It ended up being nearly three huge cases of food. Just a little taste of home I suppose.
Last night I had another adventure. After work the new stagista Mierko asked if I wanted to do something in the evening. Seeing as I spend most of my Sundays and Mondays alone I jumped at the chance and we planned to meet around 9. He came and picked me up and we ended up going to his home town of Lanciano, about thirty minutes from Guardiagrele. The main street is closed to car traffic and was full of people taking strolls and mingling outside of caffes and pubs. We walked around, grabbed a slice of pizza and a glass of wine. After that we noticed that there was a free rock concert going on in the park closeby. We checked it out, there were a ton of people there. The music was decent enough for a free concert, rock and roll, a little bit of a The Killers vibe to the band. I couldn't understand a word they were singing but I don't think the words were the point anyways.
Mierko was getting bored so we decided to hit the road after a little while. did I mention that he said hello to just about everyone on the street. Lanciano is a tiny town and just about every inhabitant was on this one street for a Sunday stroll. We even ran into his mother at one point, a little awkward seeing as I was this strange girl accompanying her son. Anyway we drove for a little while and contemplated driving an hour to Pescara to go clubbing. We were almost decided when we thought better of it, it was already half past eleven and hardly seemed worth it. So instead, Mierko drove us to, get this, a bowling alley and arcade! We spent an hour playing arcade games. He smoked me in air hockey but I got the last laugh in the basketball shoot out. No one can step to an American sorority girls hand-eye coordination. After all, I spent four years honing my skills in beerpong tournaments. Plus, Italians have notoriously poor hand-eye coordination.
We left the arcade around one in the morning and went back to the city center of Lanciano to grab a late-night bite to eat. I ordered a hamburger with ketchup, mayo, and tomato (or at least that's what I ended up with after the lady behind the counter became confused when I requested "il normale" the normal). It was delicious! I miss good old fashioned American food sometimes here. Pizza is fantastic and I have a deep love for pasta but every now and then a girl needs a burger and a coke. We ate our food on the road since we had a long drive back to Villa Maiella. We talked and found out we both love asian food, dancing and Lady Gaga. Mierko promised to take me out again next Saturday when he returns to work. He is a culinary student and will only be working at Villa Maiella for the weekends while his classes are in session. So we made a plan to work Saturday night adn then go to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, followed by clubbing in Lanciano.
I should mention at this point that Mierko speaks exactly zero English and the entire evening was conducted in Italian. I give myself a little pat on the back for this one. Usually I am a little timid about using my Italian since I have such an obvious American accent.
The entire evening Mierko was gracious and kind. He was friendly but not once made me feel uncomfortable. He made no passes at me, perhaps some mild flirting but you can't blame the kid for trying, after all, he is Italian. I think this is much better actually, than finding some Italian Casanova who wants to sweep me off my feet. I know that that is what most people assumed would happen when I came over here, God knows I let myself get swept off my feet often enough in the States, so why not while I'm living in a romantic Italian village?
I prefer this, finding genuine friends who can show me around and keep me company. I have little interest in finding an Italian leading man to round out my European fairy tale. The more I learn about the men here the more I am certain that I am quite content on my own thank you very much. I am loving my job and dreaming of my own future, and I am finally coming back to being myself again after my gut-wrenching break-up with the last loser. So now I have a friend, and a guide to the area, and a fellow cook to talk with! He's actually very talented as well, he worked for two seasons at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Abruzzo and takes his work very seriously. He wants to take me to his old restaurant to eat for free, an opportunity I will definitely be taking him up on in the future. I respect him, and he is amazed at the journey I took to end up where I am now. He was very confused when I told him that neither of my parents, nor any family members were cooks.
I'm looking forward to next week and I just hope I am not being naive about his intentions. I guess we will see, but until then the future is looking bright.