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New World to the Old World

(post, Judith Klinger)


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Straddling two worlds gives you perspective.  I go back and forth between New York and Umbria, Italy and now its time for me to be in Italy and to say good-bye to New York. 
I’m already longing for red and blue berries bursting with a sweet crunch and the taste of the sun. I’m already missing sweet corn, freshly stripped and taking a bite out of the raw ear to test the sweetness before I plunge it into the pot. I’m missing the sounds of back yard bbq’s and picnics by the lake.  A whole fresh trout wrapped in herbs and roasted over a fire, or the hiss of a plump hamburger hitting the grill. I won’t be hearing, smelling, tasting or eating any of these things this summer. 

Instead I’ll wake up to the bells ringing and know that if I’m still in bed when the first bells ring that I’ll be late for the market and I won’t find parking and it will be hot as hell. I’ll greet neighbors, push old ladies out of the way for the best fruits (it’s a push or be pushed world here at the Umbertide market, even the nuns know the art of the pointed elbow.)  I’ll marvel at the number of different kinds of lemons, wonder why Italians don’t like limes, laugh at the funny man who cuts everyone a slice of his juicy melons. Trade pleasantries with our cheese man and his wife, and watch as the artwork on the walls of his stall gets more and more sophisticated as his kids grown up. I’ll watch my husband flirt with the pretty flower seller and marvel at just how many flowers he buys from her. I’ll make fava beans until I get sick of the double shuck that they require, I’ll wait with everyone else for the first tomato from Sicily and then the first tomatoes from our garden, I’ll stand in line for the tender spring artichokes. Speaking of Sicily, will there still be rich blood oranges in the market, or is it already Valencia season? Each season brings its unique flavors and abundance. Pretty soon the late spring air will be scented with lime blossoms and sambucco flowers and I’ll have forgotten all about my yearning for sweet corn as I anticipate the arrival of pimento peppers. 

We have a small strawberry plant in a window box on our back balcony and most mornings it gives me a small berry or two and when I taste that berry, I’m back home in my New York, but the ringing bells tell me that I am in another world entirely. 

What a lucky girl I am to know the flavors of these two worlds.