Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Wednesday is market day in Cervinara and almost without fail, if we are in town we will go to browse through the stands and to pick up a few staples.  We start going down the main aisle directly across from the entrance to the grounds.  On the right we find the stand that sells fabric, then a small fellow who sells children's hats, some shoe vendors, household items and detergents.  On the left there are the clothing vendors, with a surprising variety of items hanging there ready to be tried on or purchased.  Whether for men or women, there is always plenty to choose from.
At the end of that first aisle we turn left, past the market equivalent of the dollar store, past the tables where random used clothing is tossed around, all for a euro.  Women paw through these items in search of something that might fit the need of someone in their family.  It's not unusual to find like-new clothing for a song.  Of course there are also the pocket book stands with knock-off Chanels or Coach purses, as well as no-name but nicely made bags and suitcases.  In other words, there's something for everyone at the "mercato". 
We have our usual vendors and they know us and what we want.  Clams from the pescivendolo to make spaghetti with vongole (our menu every Wednesday, just for the information of those who might be planning a visit), big, fat, green olives (they call them "bianche" or white olives here), and the random fruit or veg that might look good at the time.  Our fish monger remembers us but is always too busy to chat.  He just bags up our kilo of "veraci" and we are on our way.  Our olive fellow on the other hand knows us well and we always look forward to a quick conversation and joke or two.  That is, until today.
It was hot this morning and we decided to change our route.  Rather than stroll through the stands where we knew there was nothing we needed, we went the back way to the food aisles.  On the corner is another fish vendor whom we have never used.  His clams were a euro less.  Why not?  Who would know?  And so, we cheated on Geraldo and bought our clams.  From there, it was a slippery slope.
We headed down the aisle and saw another vendor, one from whom we had bought some prunes once.  We decided to get some more prunes, then I saw that he had lentils in big bins and I bought a pound of them.  Then Mike noticed the salted anchovies.  Yuck!  I never eat them and he'll have to fix them himself, but we ended up purchasing a few ounces of those buggers too.  We refused to buy olives, knowing that our regular vendor was right up the pathway.
But the damage was done. Our olive man had seen us consorting with another vendor.  He was hurt.  Why would we buy anchovies from the other guy when he had them too?  Didn't we see that he had lentils and every other dried legume known to man for sale?  What was the matter with his prunes?  Weren't they good enough for us?  Oh my!  He scooped out our usual order of olives without offering us a taste.  He didn't respond when Mike asked him to mix some fresh water with the salty brine.  He took our money but didn't send us off with his usual hearty good byes.  This was bad.
We will be back next week, strolling through the rows of bancarelle and making our usual purchases.  We will not cheat on our olive friend.  I don't know how long it will take for him to trust us again.  Adultery is an ugly sin, and we were caught in flagrante delicto.  But I hope that by the end of the summer all will be forgiven and we'll be back in his good graces, joking around and enjoying some free samples.  Until then, we'll be on our best behavior.  Honest!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Italy is a feast for the senses, and Cervinara is no exception to that.  Every day we are flooded with sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that keep us wanting to come back to our little town.  We returned here just about a week ago and we have been soaking up all that these hills have to offer.
I've written before about the sights of Cervinara; the churches, our castle tower, the mountains covered with lush vegetation.  These have not changed.  But yesterday, as we were having our car checked out, I marveled at what surrounded me.  In the parking lot of Top Car there is a small patch of unpaved land, and we watched as one of the workers took a ladder and climbed to the top of a cherry tree planted there and harvested a bushel or so of luscious fruit.  The red orbs contrasted against the green leaves, the green leaves contrasted against the crystalline blue of the sky, all provided a treat for the eyes.  (The really cute mechanic who worked on our car did too!)  But as I sat on the wall of the driveway and basked in the warm sun, it came to me just how lucky I am to be able to enjoy such a mundane activity as having the tire pressure checked in such a lovely spot.  Jiffy Lube...nah!
I've written about the sounds of Cervinara; the church bells that announce 6:00, noon, 18:00, the chatter of the folks in the bar, the whir of the weed whackers and the droning of the ladies reciting the Rosary.  But today there was something so sweet in the sounds of the kids kicking the soccer ball around Piazza Ferrari, their voices celebrating their freedom from brought tears to my eyes.  And this year there is the sound of water as it courses down the "torrente" from the mountain top.  Usually this "river" is dry now, but due to a very wet spring we have the lovely sound of water gurgling down the hill.
I've written about the food of Cervinara; the chestnuts in the fall, the cherries and strawberries in the spring, the peaches and melons in the summer.  But what about the smells?  You can almost guess what day it is by the cooking aromas that waft out of every kitchen at 1:00.  Sunday means a ragu, with sausage and meatballs ready to be poured over pasta.  Fridays we find the smell of fish frying or grilling.  Thursday, in preparation for the leanness of the Friday menu, there is very often a baked pasta; lasagna, cannelloni, or perhaps gnocchi.  Mondays, to compensate for the richness of the Sunday menu, is the day we smell a chicken simmering in a pot on its way to being made into a lovely broth for homemade soup.
There are other smells as well, not always so pleasant.  In the evening as a bit of dampness descends on our valley, we have the pleasure of the intense smell of manure that is being spread on neighboring fields.  There is also the pungent odor of the herd of goats that comes off the mountain to graze.  It's strange how I can sense that same "gameyness " when I bite into a delicious piece of chevre.  Of course there's always the stink of the cigarettes that invariably show up in any public place.  That I could certainly do without.
What's left but touch?  Here, there is a hardness to every surface.  Houses made out of concrete covered with stucco.  Floors of tile or marble.  Cobblestone pavers under foot.  There's something unforgiving about the materials used for every day living, but perhaps that is why everything is decorated with flowers; to soften the harshness of the houses, to sweeten the smells of every courtyard, to add color and brightness to the gray of the concrete walls and buildings.
Yes, I find Italy and Cervinara to be sensational, in every sense of the word.  We are happy to be back and hope that someday someone who reads this will come and be immersed in the same richness that we enjoy every day.