Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ban the Horse Drawn Carriage in Rome

The so-called "botticelle" that is, the Roman horse-drawn carriages are not a tradition of transport for people, but represent a degeneration of what was their original meaning and purpose. In fact, the "Botticelli" owe their name to the barrels: the carriage pulled by animals in 1800’s was used solely for transporting goods, and barrels in this case. There was never a "tradition" of tourist transport, therefore, as misleadingly one wants to make the tourist believe.

Nowadays there is no need to justify the use of animals for transport or freight, let alone people. Tourists can have, in Rome in 2009, many means of locomotion, extremely comfortable, fast, with accessories for every need, and far cheaper than the carriage. As well as transportation that does not cause suffering to horses.

Horses are obviously subject to a state of continuous suffering, being forced against their will to haul extremely heavy loads every day (more than one ton, the empty carriage weighs 800 kg ...). The working conditions are inhumane and the animal is brought along fast roads (like the Tiber) where the proximity of cars, speed and the roar of traffic so terrific, with the serious consequence of accidents, often fatal, while the horses are often forced to travel on uphill on cobblestone pavement which is slippery and uneven. These cobblestones, known as Sam Pietrini creates further discomfort when a horse is forced to stand on them without movement, often for many hours. The conditions worsen in summer when the hot sun makes the effort even more unbearable. And yet, the drivers pay no attention to laws, nor are laws enforced.

In times past, the horses traveled on isolated and relatively quiet roads in Rome. Today, the crazy traffic, chaos, smog, the sounds of horns, the speed of vehicles and scooters whizzing close to the carriages, etc. .. make this means of transport absolutely unfit to the conditions of congestion in the city. The carriage is so configured a practice that is deeply anachronistic and certainly cruel to horses, and is thus there is no longer any reason for them to exist today.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

La Panzanella-Bread and Tomato Salad

It has been over a month since we designed and ordered our kitchen.  A very long and frustrating month it has been.   I have hosted a lovely lunch outside under the Gazebo, had my first swim at Lago di Nemi, and enjoyed amazing strawberries at the Sagra delle Fragole.  At the same time, I have no place to put any of my kitchenware.  We have lived here since the end of April, but I do not yet feel unpacked or settled in.  There is a lot to do.  Most of what I want to do with this house and property are landscaping and gardening projects.  I am looking forward to the enormous potential of this place, the land, and I am forging a friendship with my neighbor down the road.  She is incredibly generous and kind.  I am blessed in this regard.  The apricots and figs are finally ripe which means summer has officially begun in these parts.  How great would this time be if I could make amazing meals for the people I love?   The terrace and the gazebo were the real selling points for the house, besides the enormous size of the kitchen.  I am so anxious to get started, to put my kitchenware away, and get cooking!
     Luckily, I live in the bread basket that is the Castelli Romani.  I have bread from Genzano or Lariano available to me, there are local veggie and fruit stands so I am buying the freshest produce.  Summertime, in this case, means we don't need a lot of prep to make a nourishing and delicious meal.
   I am always amazed by the plates of the region that have their roots in total poverty.  They were born out of the concept of making due with what we have.  Sometimes, these families might have only some stale bread and a few vegetables at hand.  Nowadays, people pay top dollar for these dishes in the priciest trattoria of Rome and beyond.  Panzanella is a great example of this food culture.  Ettore and I debate whether this is a true Laziale dish or if it comes from Campagna. For me it is from Lazio.  Irregardless, is there anything more heavenly than the sweet combination of ripe summer tomatoes and basil?  Panzanella is so simple, so filling, and utterly delicious.  I have made it a few times because all that I need are the following:  A cutting board, a bread knife, ingredients and a bowl.  There is no cooking involved, and it can makes a lovely lunchtime meal.  It is light, fragrant, and cool.
    Thank goodness for dishes like this!  Without them I would be still living on pizza and take-out.

Panzanella-Bread and Tomato Salad

  • 1/2 loaf of crusty, stale, rustic Italian bread, sliced into 2 cm pieces and then cut up messy into bite size pieces(about 10 slices from the loaf)
  • 1/2 kilo ripe cherry tomatoes sliced into quarters
  • 10-12 sprigs of basil broken into small pieces
  • 6 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I like the fragrant oil from Alatri
  • about a 1/2 TBSP of coarse Celtic sea salt
  • about three turns of the pepper grinder for pepper
  • In a Large Salad bowl, put the sliced tomatoes and basil and stir everything together
  • Add the olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Let this mixture stand without bread for at least an hour.  Room temperature is best, but also in the fridge would be fine.  This will ensure a much more fragrant salad as the tomatoes and basil will have time to marinate in their own juices for a time.  I also add about a TBSP of water.
  • After and hour, add the bite size bread pieces, stir everything and let it sit for a few minutes so the breadt absorbs the flavors and juices.  If you need to add a bit of water and more olive oil and stir again.  The bread should be moist, but retain its bounce.
We enjoyed this with a lovely chilled Frascati, although I think it would have been nice with a Rosato

Buon Appetito!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kitchenless Cook

Well, this is my kitchen, folks.  I haven't been able to cook for over a week now so I am going stir crazy.  I feel like an addict trying to overcome the overwhelming desire for my drug of choice.  I find myself pouring over cookbooks, I buy magazine after magazine full of recipes I want to try.  The kitchen never arrives.  They are missing one part, so therefore, the kitchen that should have arrived by the 28th of May. is still not here.   We designed it and paid in full the first week of May!  We gutted the old one thinking it would just be a day or two before the magic would begin.  Alas, I have been forced to eat out, buy pizza, eat vegemite sandwiches for dinner, and sometimes, go to bed hungry.  My inner Buddha drives me to be patient, I know this is just a short amount of time in the scheme of things, but, I can no longer bear to look at the empty walls and the hideous tiles of the previous owner.  I think I have eaten enough pizza for two Roman legions.  I want to have people over for lunches outside in the gazebo.  At this point, they'll all be lucky to get a cracker with a sun-dried tomato.
   In my spare time I write up menus for make believe dinners and lunches I will host.  I think the lack of creative outlet in the kitchen is starting to make me hallucinate.  I wonder about last suppers or what I would serve to The Golden Girls.
I express myself through food and wine.  I make lunches and dinners according to how I am feeling that particular day.  And right now, I am craving a giant bowl of fusilli with a sauce made of roma tomatoes, onion, lots of red peppers from Calabria and some basil.  I could eat at least a kilo of the stuff right now.  You guys can decide what that says about me.