Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Friday Night Out

A summary of tonight:

Traditional music session in a small village. In a room above the library. Beer in plastic cups and ten musicians playing music from ten different countries. I got my permisso di soggiorno today, which means I am OFFICIALLY a legal and able to work and such resident of Italy and Aosta. Playing for 4 hours with fantastic young musicians. Drive back to town. Eat fresh baked cream filled croissants at 1 am from the back door of a bakery in a sketchy alleyway behind the supermarket. Go to ArtCafe. Drink beer, traditional instruments decorate the walls. Ancient mandolins and girondas. Also a mountain dulcimer (yes, as in Appalachian mountain dulcimer). Obscure 70's and 80's music pulsing. Punks, goths, anarchists, a hippie chick, and a very drunk guy who looks just like 'Shrek' in a striped pullover. Someone has a hand drum that they are pounding away on to the music while dancing. A guy who looks like he escaped from a mental institution is drumming on Shrek's head as well. Hippie chick dances on the table, and all the guys are mesmerized. There is a sparkly red hat, and someone being carried upside down so that their feet are nearly at the ceiling. We dance around, drink our beers, and try to ignore Shrek, who keeps trying to grab at us. Herve drove me home and we arrived exactly on my birthday, at 2 am on March 27. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

That sums it up.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A summary of my culinary adventures of the past month

My mom, Barbara Swell, was teaching a week long cooking class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Western NC. She was teaching her class about the similarities in the food cooked in the Alpine regions of Italy and in WNC (lucky for her, she's been able to learn a lot about Alpine food because of the direction my life has taken!), and thought it would be fun to cook polenta with the class. She also had the brilliant idea of having a 'Skype cooking lesson' with the Italians, and it ended up being a blast. We ended up having a polenta party where we cooked polenta over a fire, and made a number of traditional toppings, and did it all via Skype with the students at the Folk School. We were stirring the pot, explaining the history of polenta, eating cheese, drinking wine, and playing music. Basically a typical Wednesday night here in Aosta! The students really got a kick out of it. Here are some photos of the evening:

Next, I started to experiment with home made pasta. It's basically one egg for every 100 g of semolina flour, with a pinch of salt, and I like to throw in some dried or fresh herbs. I made a really tasty dish for Valentines Day (picture is below) with the home made herbed pasta where I mixed it with a butter saffron and blood orange sauce, broccoli, fresh mozzarella, and drizzled it with a balsamic reduction with a dollop of pesto on top. I also highly recommend the wines we drank with it, shown below.

I continued with the lemon cake pie experiment, but wondered what would happen if I replaced the lemon juice and rind with blood orange juice and rind. While it was tasty, the chemistry just didn't work out quite right, as it didn't separate in to the cream and the cake like it usually does. It was kind of like a creamy cake instead, haha. I think that it needs more acidity than an orange can provide.

The next fun thing I made was lemon curd and crumpets. For some reason I had a craving for them, and obviously gave in! I had only tried making crumpets once before, and it didn't work out so well, partially because I have no crumpet rings. However, this time I had a brilliant solution: cookie cutters. I happen to have cookie cutters in the shape of gingerbread men and women, as well as a leaf, and those worked perfectly, and made them adorable, as well! The lemon curd was divine. The recipes I used can be found here for the lemon curd and here for the crumpets. Yum yum yum! Actually, I think I might have to make some more of both today....

And finally, Genepy the bunny also likes to eat, and particularly likes carrots. Actually, she likes everything, but we think carrots are more healthy than beer and jelly beans (both of which she will steal from me given the opportunity)

Bringin' on the Swing

I have a lot of catching up to do. Every day things happen that I think, 'oh, I must write about this!!!' but then I get distracted. So for write now I will write about one recent adventure, and then catch you up on other exciting things!

So, upon moving to Aosta, I came here with a goal of starting a swing dance scene here. I have been an avid swing dancer for going on 9 years now, and have had the good fortune of not only dancing in many parts of the world. I miss dancing. I haven't gotten to do it so much in the past three years due to a collision of unfortunate circumstances, but I am desperate to jump back on the lindy hop wagon. Years ago I started teaching Gianluca to swing dance, and he picked it up very quickly and even though I haven't taught him much lately, he somehow manages to not forget how to do anything. We started telling our friends here about lindy hop, and showing them great videos that tend to inspire people to want to start this dance. Aw heck, I'll post links to them here, too, because they are just that much fun.

ALHC 2005 Skye & Frida

ULHS 2006 "Liberation" Fast Finals

We got a group of 3 couples together this past week in the house of our friend Herve's parents. Now, teaching to Italians is a VERY different experience. I've taught classes in the US, Sweden, and Ireland, and they all tend to listen and concentrate and not cause too much ruckus. Now, one thing I've learned about Italians is that when you get a group of them together is that they cause ruckus. Lots of it. It is nearly impossible to have anything but total chaos at any given moment. However, despite this, we managed to teach them a huge amount and they did very well! I had to completely drop my usual teaching methods, since having people quietly listen, watch, and do things together was out of the question. Basically I taught and then everyone did what they wanted and then we danced with them and said if they basically had it or not, and then they continued to do what they wanted. But somehow it worked. And during all of this, Herve's dad escaped away for a minute and then as I was proclaiming, 'This is the most important thing! Please watch and listen for just a moment,' he appeared with glasses of wine that he offered us while we were dancing/teaching, because that was obviously (to an Italian, anyways), the best moment to drink wine.

So yeah, it was chaos. People dancing randomly. Drinking wine. Playing with a baby. Laughing and shouting. Basically, it was a blast and we had a tremendous amount of fun, and despite all of the distractions, everyone did fantastically and learned a lot and I think they all have the potential to become good lindy hoppers. Totally not what I'm used to, but a lot of fun.

Mission: Bring Lindy Hop to Aosta, potentially successful in the future :)