Saturday, January 16, 2010

Feasting in Mondragone

Salvatore and Rosa's lovely home.

One of the nicest things happened to us on the day before we left Italy to come home. We had met this really nice man at church who is good friends with Laura and Robert and the boys. Within the past few years Salvatore has married a lovely lady named Rosa. They are a really neat couple and love to have people over for dinner. Cooking is Rosa's forte.

They grow nearly everything they serve or make it from scratch and Laura and Robert were so excited that they invited all of us over for dinner. The kids had been over several times and knew we were in for a treat. This was an amazing experience and a crowning event in our trip.

When visiting another country what could be better than to walk into the home of some local residents and see how they live and entertain first hand? We were saying that if this were to be included on a tour, it would cost a fortune. But there are some things that money cannot buy and this was one of them.

We loved them before we even met them because they adore our kids and grandkids and for their willingness to do this for us, perfect strangers. It was so Christ-like for them to want to do this and the scripture..."I was a stranger and ye took me in" ran through my mind several times while we were there. What they prepared was a feast of love and selflessness, as much as it was a feast of authentic Italian cuisine.

Mondragone is a tiny town about 30 minutes from the autostrada. This is another thing that rarely happens on a tour. Getting off the freeway and seeing how and where people really live is a must. You just cannot get the real flavor of a country without it. We passed thought other little towns, orchards, vineyards~the real Italy and it was a delight. The way was not straight as it wound through hills and valleys into the belly of Italy. Rick Steves' books and videos "Europe Through the Backdoor" took on new meaning on this 2nd trip to Italy! You just cannot hit only the high spots and know where you have actually been. Also you will never know what you could have potentially learned from the broader experience.

Rosa, a little younger than Salvatore, has spent her entire life in Mondragone. She still owns the family home of her parents and grandparents just a few blocks from where she is now living. She still tills the earth and plants her garden there in that soil that has been her family's for generations. It is rather immense for one woman but, this is her life and her passion.

Laura and Robert wanted to help them pay for the meal but they wouldn't hear of it, so we decided to bring them a nice gift. One for Rosa, something for her kitchen and for her entertaining.

We found this beautiful divided dish and platter for her in Nove. She seems thrilled to have them! We also brought them some things they cannot get in Italy like Ben-Gay and Bayer Aspirin. What? The things we just take so for granted, folks, are real treasures to others around the world.

Rosa does not speak English and we of course, do not speak Italian. And yet we had a positively marvelous time with her in her kitchen learning how to make REAL Italian sausage. She made learning about what we were eating a big part of the meal and experience.

Laura does speak beautiful Italian although she says she just speaks a little. She says she speaks it well in certain areas of conversation like, church, buying cheese, getting gas, etc. But to us she sounded like a native and Grandma Gloria said she couldn't get over her perfect accent. And don't forget Ross, who is a natural and is always tutoring Laura on her pronunciation! Salvatore also speaks some English so between all that, Italian hand language and a real desire to communicate~we did fine.

Here is the chopped, not ground pork that Rosa started with and to it she added finely minced fennel, dried hot peppers and salt in perfect proportions. There may have been something else to but it escapes me at this time. Then she taught us how she tightly stuffs and then ties the sausages. Next she takes a sewing needle and pokes the sausages many, many times to remove the air from them.

First she showed us how and then let us do it also.

Gloria stuffing the casing

Laura tying the links


Just a bowl of home grown garlic
on the counter
in Rosa's Italian Kitchen!
Yum, the sweetest flower of Italy!

Salvatore then lit the barbecue and Rosa cooked the sausages outside. The aroma is beautifully indescribable~sorry, ya just had to be there! Their BBQ was interesting. You start a wood fire and let it roar. Then when it starts to form coals you shake them down from the fireplace grate and under the cooking grill. No briquettes in Carinara!

Italian women spend a lot of time
preparing their Delicious Food.
No short cuts for them, they take
great pride in wh
at they serve.

While we waited for the sausage to cook she also showed us how she cooks Italian broccoli which is nothing like the broccoli we know. It is more like a somewhat bitter, green leafy, spinach type of vegetable and very good. While that was simmering we took a stroll through Salvatore's garden and orchard in the backyard.

Salvatore started his tour of the garden by telling us
his property use to look like this...
and pointed to his neighbor's yard!
Then he showed us his Paradise. :-)

Salvatore explaining his
garden and answering questions.

Everything is done with Tender Loving Care!

Robert is such a lover being self-sufficient
through home growing, etc..

I know he is teaching the boys something cool here.

Love these little boys who entertain
while adults have their fun!

Check out the size of that warty looking lemon!
A special kind of lemon that is 100% edible.
Grandma Gloria loved this as she
is an avid gardener herself.

Salvatore teaching the boys how to
make a scallion stem into a whistle.

Roses are interspersed between
the veggies and fruit trees.

Part of the dessert for dinner

They proudly fly their Italian flag over
their little piece of heaven on earth. Laura said
they often fly an American
one as well
when the they invite the kids over to visit!

The dinner was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Rosa had been cooking for days for us. She enjoyed the element of surprise as she went back and forth to the kitchen bringing out new dishes for us until we though we would pop. Seriously, I have never seen so much food at one meal. This beautiful large table is large for a is essential!

The olives were the most beautiful large olives I had ever seen.
I have never seen any this color before
with such brightness and beauty!

She served this pizza cold

And this focaccia bread stuffed with goodies
was amazing and also served cold.

She served the Italian sweet peppers
which are my absolute favorite! They are cooked
differently in the north
and south
and both are delicious.

These are just the things I personally put on the table before the meal began. Two and a half hours later we had completed the meal. is nearly impossible to eat for that long. I have been trying to figure out where she had all the food stashed that she brought out for us. The table also had that beautiful crusty Italian bread, big chunks of Parmesan cheese, home made salami and prosciutto, it was unbelievable! I cannot even remember it all.

The first course was 3 large stuffed manacotti with red sauce, then seared pork with carrot sauce and sauteed mushrooms and entire plate full and you are starting to get the picture, right? The next course was the sausage and the broccoli, the next course was a beef pot roast with a special red sauce. We were dying because she was the one to serve it all so you couldn't take just a little. And she was piling it on and it was delicious and over the top and I seriously did not eat until dinner the next night.

The sweetest thing was the way she gave it to us with all her heart and she and truly wanted us to enjoy every morsel with gusto. She would watch our faces when we tasted everything and say, "Buono?" Molto Buono!"

And yes, it was more than delicious and given with such love. And you could tell that Salvatore was just so proud of his wife as he beamed and ate all his food! How he did that, I am not really sure, but he did. And the other thing that made this day so special was that Spencer could eat everything Rosa prepared from her home made and home grown ingredients, with no fears. He had a wonderful time and that made us so happy.

It was a very blessed day and we will never forget it. These sweet strangers have now become cherished friends. We love you, Salvatore and Rosa! As we said "Grazie, Grazie"...and I can still hear them saying, "Prego, Prego, Prego!" "Ciao, Ciao!" echoing in my mind. Oh, and did I mention we went home with a carload of food and produce from the garden? Mamma Mia!


thE toKen aSian said...

WOw- your photo shows your trip to be amazing. Am I jealous??

CRAIG and DIANE said...

What an experience....but what was for dessert?

Bonnie said...

The dessert, following suit with the rest of the dinner was delicious fruit from their orchard and they also served a special Christmas dough ball (better than it sounds)cake an they also had some roasted chestnuts. I think I was about comatose by that point I think I ate one tiny tangerine and one nut....:-)

BECKY said...

Hello My Sweet Friend, Oh how I have missed you! It will take me awhile to go back through all of your amazing Italy posts, but I just devoured this one and it was truly scrumptious!! Bon, let me just say I am so glad to have you for a friend. Your warm, gracious, loving heart shows through in all of your writings, and just blesses me so. I had tears in my eyes while reading this because you have such a deep appreciation for what is good in life. I know you leave an indellible mark of joy and love wherever you go, and even with language barriers I'm sure your hosts felt it emminating from you. You are a precious soul, Bon.

I am so thrilled that your trip was so wonderful and rich. I can't wait to read more, but even if I never got to it, I feel that you captured the essence of it in this post.

I, too, am developing a deep desire to slow down, savor and treasure all that life holds. I also want to help people refocus and be encouraged when life throws them a curve, and to tell them about the great love of my unfailing God.

You have added so much to my day today! Thank you for that, Bon.
May your day be filled with God's best as you seek to please him and meditate on what is lovely and worthy of praise!

Love you LOADS!!