31 May 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day: the beginning of summer, barbecues, long weekend, the swimming pool finally open...

Here in Belgium, Saturday was the commemoration of the end of WWII. As every year, we were invited to the ceremonies at the American Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, about 10 miles from our house. This is only one of the many cemeteries for Americans who died in the Allies' drive through northern Europe into Germany and in the Battle of the Bulge. There are bigger cemeteries at Liege and Bastogne, but this one is big enough—7992 Americans are buried here. 7992 sons and brothers, fathers and fianc├ęs, comrades and friends. 7992 families not started, 7992 lives of hopes and dreams lost so that the people of Belgium could have their hopes and dreams. Here, in the Ardennes, where the battle raged, where the occupation crushed so many lives, people don't forget. Here, where people still remember seeing the GIs liberate their town or village, they don't forget. There are those still living who remember bringing the bodies to this hallowed ground. They looked at the faces of the fallen, those who had died to liberate them. They don't forget. Here, Memorial day doesn't mark the beginning of summer. It marks the end of hell.

28 May 2010

Grilled Scallop Appetisers

Scallops. Can we ever get enough of them? We love them, with their delicate, sweet flavor. They also cook very quickly, which makes them a hit at our house!

We had some wonderful scallops in January, and still have fond memories of them and the friends who gave them to us. This time we grilled our scallops and drizzled some old balsamic vinegar over them. We ate these with rice, as a first course. They were a perfect way to start a meal.

24 May 2010

Chocolate Pound Cake

When I was growing up, there were some special desserts that my grandmother made. EVERYONE'S grandmother made them. One of them was chocolate pound cake. This is one of those recipes that is closely guarded and only given to the younger generation when they marry, as a part of their trousseau. It's an incredibly lovely cake, with a texture like silk and a deeply chocolate flavor. It was often served alone, unfrosted, with perhaps some fruit. When it wasn't served plain, it was frosted with a fudge frosting that was basically fudge spread over the cake before it hardened. It's one of my fondest memories.

20 May 2010

Olive Pesto

This month’s issue of La Cucina Italiana has an article on pesto, and recipes for lots of different kinds. When we think of pesto, we normally think of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan. Those are the ingredients for the classic pesto, Pesto alla Genovese. But pesto can be made with any number of ingredients. The name ‘pesto’ comes from the tool traditionally used to make it: a pestle (and mortar too). In Italian, the word ‘pesto’ means ‘to pound’, which is what you do with a mortar and pestle.

17 May 2010

Home again...

We're home. Tired, with our suitcases filled with dirty clothes and our heads still full of Italian. And my camera full of photos! We drove back through France, having decided that the St. Bernard pass was not for us―it was still foggy and raining up there when we left. Torino is surrounded by the Alps, and they are normally visible from all over town. We only saw them as we were leaving. But never mind, we'll be back. We still have lots of Torino to explore!

14 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 13 The Shroud

Today after class we went to see La Sindone, the Shroud of Turin. It’s an ancient relic, much studied and much disputed. Some say that it’s the image of Christ, that it was wrapped around his body after he was crucified. Others say that it dates from the 12th or 13th century, and was probably from the last head of the Templars who was tortured and crucified as an example to the others. Still others say that it’s a total fake.

13 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 12

When you think of Torino, or Turin, what comes to mind? The Shroud? Fiat? Mazerati? Maybe the fine wines of the Piemonte region? Truffles? All of those are here, but there’s something else amazing, that would be among the last things I would have thought of when Torino is mentioned. Torino is the home of one of the world’s finest museums of Egyptian artifacts. I know.

12 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 11

Today it was drizzly while we were in class, but it stopped by the time we were finished with class. We didn’t have another class after 2 o’clock today, so we decided to take the car and explore the region a little bit. We headed south, to Alba, about an hour south of Torino.

11 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 10

If you’re ever in Torino, you absolutely positively MUST go to a place called Eataly. It’s down near the Linghotto complex, and easy to get to with public transportation. It’s a foodie paradise.

10 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Days 7-9

On Saturday we didn’t have rain. It was cloudy and a little chilly, but it wasn’t raining. So we went to the market, of course. On Saturdays in Torino, there is a market. OK, there’s a market every day in Torino. I’ve read that this is the largest open air market in Europe. It’s certainly the largest I’ve ever seen. And on Saturdays it’s even bigger. You’ve already seen the section that sells meat—indoors. Saturday we explored the rest of it. There is a section dedicated to fruit and vegetables, of course:

07 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 6

Today we finally had some sunshine! WAHOO! After school, I went for a walk while Dan did some work on the computer at school. I wanted to show you a little bit what Torino looks like. It’s really a very pretty city—it has an architectural unity that you don’t often see in cities. Paris has it, Washington DC has it, but not a lot of Italian cities have it. Here it’s because Torino, while an old city, was largely built or re-built in one era: the baroque. Many of the buildings have porticos, called portici (POR-ti-chee) in Italian. All told, Torino has 80 km of portici! You can go for a looong way without getting wet (except at the intersections). This week we're very grateful for the portici.

06 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 5

Rain. It’s still raining. So, today we’re going to visit a market.

05 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 4

Today it rained all day. It didn’t just rain, it poured. All day. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about the school, since we didn’t get any photos of Torino outside.

04 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 3

This morning when we woke up, it was still cloudy. After breakfast, though, it started to break up a little and we started to get a sense of the view from our balcony. The light was splendid, and I took this photo of one of the hills to our east. I’m not sure what the church on top is yet. I’ll let you know when I find out.

03 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 2

We woke up to a light, drizzly rain. Ew. Not the best weather for crossing the alps—especially if you want to get some awesome photos! With the rain came fog. Lots of it. But when it lifted (partially) we had some splendid views. This one is in Gruyere, just south of Bern:

01 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 1

8 am: We’re off! The sky is cloudy, perfect for driving. There wasn’t much traffic. As we doive south, the first hour or so was in Belgium, with familiar countryside all around us.