Ole’!

Credit Melina Hammer for The New York Times. Paella, pure and simply delicious with couscous or with saffron rice! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

My friends Eric and Eduardo are spending six weeks in Barcelona this summer. To say that I am envious is something I must confess I am. Eric and I have been corresponding and the first thing that charged to the forefront of my brainbox was Paella! If the Spanish had no other delicacy in their vast gourmet repertoire besides Paella, I would not be morose. Paella I could eat every day and be sated. The mélange of saffron rice, shellfish, white wine, vegetables, and wedges of lemon make my culinary heart skip a beat. There are meat versions of Paella with chicken, pork, and rabbit, but my Paella loyalties lie with the seafood version. The following link is to Mark Bittman of the New York Times’ Magazine and Dining section for his Paella Master Recipe.

Variations on Paella abound up and down and across Spain, much like the variations on a theme of France’s Cassoulet. It depends on the region, the available ingredients, and on the cook. Recipes are open to additions and deletions on the primary recipe offer the cook an array of possibilities. Eating Paella on a sultry summer night, drinking a crisp white wine, and listening to the soft strains of guitar music make me happy.

   Don Quijote is an exquisite Spanish restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana. The chef creates a true Paella I yearn for and for which I am willing to drive the distance to partake of its splendor. Since I am a casserole aficionado, Paella appeals to me greatly. The seafood version takes me back to the warm beaches of Spain on starry nights, as I slowly ate and drank with friends. With each bite, may Paella transport you too, to the seductive rhythms of Spain.

Ciao for now.

Time after Time

crying  angel, figure on  Ixelles Cemetery (French:   Cimetiere d'Ixelles, Dutch : begraafplaats van Elsene ), Brussels, Europe
Even the angels weep for the victims. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

  While I have been engrossed in writing another novel, I have neglected my blog for several weeks. However, recent events have compelled to focus more fully on composing this piece today.

I cannot ignore the bombing in Manchester, England this week, on Monday, May 22. Just when I think there are no words, I find I have the words.

Another sick twist that was seduced by a perverted interpretation of what being a Muslim is, annihilated 22 innocent concertgoers and injured 62 others. The desecration of life, the horror, the heartache, and the eternal question of Why swirled repeatedly through my mind. A light-hearted evening at an Ariana Grande concert that encouraged young girls to be strong, strive for a better future, and simply like themselves, then tore apart families and friends in a single act of pure evil that targeted primarily female youth.

All this cruelty occurred days before the start of Ramadan, the most sacred month for Muslims.

I think of the concerts my daughter has attended over the years, how happy and carefree she felt as she enjoyed The Spice Girls, The Backstreet Boys, and Lady Antebellum, among others. When I now look back on my daughter’s concert attendance, I shudder to think of how the parents of those young people endured the waiting and then the knowing. Innocent victims all, parents included, it turned out at the Manchester concert. As parents I believe we all wanted to hold our children closer after the tragic events in Manchester, England on May 22. Yet I wept over the senseless killings at Paris’ Bateclan and at Charlie Hebro, of the children in Syria, and of all attacks on the innocent. The Pulse Nightclub slaughter in Orlando, Florida last year, and the running down of families merely enjoying fireworks in Nice, France on Bastille Day bring the senseless deaths to the forefront time and time again.

I have prayed countless “Hail Mary” for the victims and their families. I am impressed with the resiliency of the survivors and their families. Its takes time, years, in fact, but they tend to emerge committed to a better world and improved life for their loved ones, knowing life can change in a heartbeat.

If the degenerates carrying out these attacks think they will gain an immediate place in Paradise, here is news for them: they have only paved for themselves a one-way ticket to Hell.

Ciao for now.

 

Friend Lost, and Friend Found

Circo dinnerware, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas - tangledpasta.net
Circo Ristorante dinnerware, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas – tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fringe benefit of the power of social media is how it permeates the fabric of our world.  Ever since I began this blog in June 2012, I have had a relative in Italy whom I had not seen in years contact me; a former French graduate school colleague who lives in France asked if I were this person [she introduced me to Gitanes, upon which I nearly choked to death], and several other with whom I had lost touch.

However, last weekend, a reader left me a comment inquiring if I was indeed her former undergraduate college roommate, the one who was a bridesmaid in her wedding.  Those who know me well know that I am rarely speechless, but when Jackie contacted me, I was at a loss for words.  Fast and furiously we sent messages back and forth.  We had over 30 years of our lives to share with each other.  We agreed to talk via phone on Thursday evening at a well-appointed hour.

Three-and-a-half hours later that night, we still had not caught up completely.  Next week we will converse again.  We have plans to meet face to face after we scrutinize our work and family schedules.  For the past days, I have been euphoric about our social media and phone reunion, for we had great times together in college.   Although she pursued health sciences, and I English and later music, our personalities and sense of humor meshed.  As the years rolled by, I wondered off and on about Jackie.  I thought of her living in Lexington, Kentucky, in the fabled Blue Grass state.  She now is back home again in Indiana.  Searches for me were in vain.  For years I had carried a 15-letter married surname; I legally reclaimed my name several years ago.  And so it went as we canvassed the landscapes of our lives since the late 1970’s.  Jackie would not have known that about me.

Once we commenced talking, the years melted away.  She was Jackie:  Spirited, funny, compassionate, and brilliant.  Her overriding question was, “How did we ever lose touch with one another?”  I think I have the answer:  Our lives at some point did not diverge; rather they digressed.  She had married and started a family.  I returned to the university to pursue a music degree, travel back and forth to Europe, earn a graduate degree, and relocate for years to Houston.

In retrospect, I was careless about our friendship what with my hop, skip, and jump lifestyle.  I thought about other friendships that have fallen by the wayside over the years.  Some friendships simply ran their course; others were consumed by complicated lives.   However, I have been given a tremendous gift through this blog:  The gift of renewing a cherished friendship with Jackie.

I have learned to mend my errant friendship ways.

Ciao for now.

Toujours bon appétit, Julia!

Cover of "Appetite for Life: The Biograph...
Cover via Amazon

One of my great passions is cooking.  Whether it is for family, friends, or myself, the art of cooking never fails to intrigue me.  At a young age I attempted to emulate my mother, who herself was a wondrously wonderful cook.  How well I recall the sheer joy of opening a present from Mama.  Inside the colorful wrappings lay my first cookbookBetty Crocker’s Boy’s and Girl’s Cookbook.  Since that first cookbook, rarely have I stopped cooking for any length of time.

 

Julia Child entered the world on August 15, 1912.  My father was already two years old when she arrived; my mother didn’t appear on the birth horizon until 1915.  Today Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday.    What a fascinating person she was, to say the least.  With brio I read her book My Life in France, which my daughter bought me in 2006, the year of its publication.  I have read and re-read the book multiple times over the years in which she eloquently expresses her ardor of FranceAppetite for Life:  The Biography of Julia Child, by Noël Riley Fitchstands dog-eared on my bookshelf from numerous readings too.  Other books, both by Julia Child and those written by others about her, have enlightened me too.

Cover of "Mastering the Art of French Coo...
Cover via Amazon

Yet the coup de grâce, the crème de la crème of them all is Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Heavenly is the only word to describe her Boeuf de Bourguignon.  Every time I make it, and I never stray from her recipe, it turns out perfectly:  so moist, succulent, and savory that one could bask in the euphoria of it throughout the night, along with a glass of fine vino rosso.  This recipe alone would have put her on the culinary map in my humble opinion were not other recipes from the book superb, like her Reine de Saba cake.

 

Tonight over dinner I plan to raise my glass of Pinot Noir and toast Julia Child, who so aptly counseled us:  Toujours bon appétit!  Bon anniversaire, Julia!

 

Ciao for now.