Wood Working: Going overseas, we were compelled to push on to find peace, quiet and quintessential foodAnother installment of Poor David’s Almanac, being a disquisition about what he and his spouse and his friends Kermit and Sharon learned on a 17-day trip to Italy:
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Another installment of Poor David’s Almanac, being a disquisition about what he and his spouse and his friends Kermit and Sharon learned on a 17-day trip to Italy:
Do NOT lose weight before you embark on a Delta Airlines flight for adipose tissue protects you when seated at the rear of the plane.
Our seats were so small one had to wedge his way into the seat, providing as much or more security than the required seatbelt.
By all means book your flights on Delta because these days the airline provides free beer and wine on its overseas flights.
We were also pleased to discover Delta provides adequate number of stewards and stewardesses, who rarely snarl when you ask for another bag of six pretzels.
Do NOT under any circumstances book a flight that requires that you change planes at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
On our way home we were patted down and checked for passports, for dynamite, for cuticle scissors and various implements of destruction at the airport in Florence.
We boarded the plane, flew to Paris, where we debarked and were herded into a small room, where two Gallic nincompoops checked to make sure we had passports, which had already been checked in Florence.
They read each page of each passport as if reading “The Story of O.” This took one and one half hours and we would have missed our connection had not my long-geared wife raced to the plane that was about to slam the door on us.
In fact, do not, under any circumstances, ever go to Paris.
Once you arrive in Florence, you will soon discover that you should never go there either. We’ve been going there for a quarter century and the city with all its marvels — the Duomo, the Ghiberti Doors of the Baptistery, Santa Croce — gets busier and busier, more crowded with people and autos and buses and motor scooters, making finding what you need well high impossible.
It’s hard to believe, but Rome is easier.
So when you arrive in Florence, get the hell out of there as fast as you can. Just grab a car and follow the Arno River north or get on a four lane and barrel south to a more travel friendly place.
Like Siena, also busy but more manageable. From there, head out into the country.
For many years, we have stayed at Tenuta di Cerbaia, an estate located in a huge chestnut forest outside the little village of Sovicille. It’s still quiet there.
Come and watch the wild boars race along in the rolling fields, competing for chestnuts with the Romans who flock to Tuscany during autumn, drink inexpensive wine and admire the quiet and the clear blue sky occasionally marred by a jet stream of a plane headed for Florence.
Hungry? It’s difficult to order a bad meal in central Italy.
They work hard to grow the food they serve and wouldn’t think of abusing it during preparation.
Pasta is a sure thing.
Order Tagliatelli con Cinghiale sauce — noodles and wild boar sauce — whenever it’s available. Or Pici, “spears,” hand rolled, dumpling-like strands of pasta served with black pepper and butter.
Be sure to order pork.
Italy hasn’t caught on to the trend of “the other white meat” nonsense perpetrated on us by U.S. pork producers.
In Italy the chops still have a bit of fat and are NEVER overcooked. Ask for it a little pink, “rosso.”
While you’re at it, stuff down all the “salumi” you can manage, because you‘ll never get it this good from Hormel.
“Salumi” is any cured pork product.
There’s prosciutto crudo— uncooked ham, salami — unctuous and loaded with fennel, copa — spicy pork shoulder.
And then there’s mortadella, my favorite and Sharon Paulson’s, too. It’s simply high quality pink bologna — originating in Bologna, Italy — that’s spiked with nutmeg flavored fat and sometimes pistachio nuts.
Layer it on bread and wash it down with a tumbler of Multipulciano Vino Nobile. Take a nap.
If you’re old and creaky as I am and you’re in one of the fabled hill towns, like Assisi or San Gigmigano, take a cab or a shuttle rather than ending up in a rural hospital with a heart attack.
That happened to author Bill Holm when he was in China. After the attack the Chinese doctors offered to try their hand at open-heart surgery.
Bill said, “I’ll pass. Just give me some nitroglycerin and I’ll go home to Minneapolis.”
Finally, look forward to your return trip home. We flew to Paris on the weirdest plane I’ve ever seen, an Avra. An 85-passenger machine with wings on top, with four jet engines dangling and a fuselage that reminded me of my high school choir director’s bulging rupture.
But the flight was fine and the food better than the stuff they packed on the plane back in Minneapolis 17 days before.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.