Ice, Baby, Ice

A gelateria in Florence, Italy  www.tangledpasta.net

A gelateria in Florence, Italy http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

In the heat of the summer, during these dog days of summer, nothing cools the brow and the psyche like a frozen delight. Think snow-capped mountains, think winter snow in general, or think clean, shiny ice. Think ice cream. Think gelato.

NPR’s Audie Cornish conducted a fascinating interview with Francine Segan, a food historian who has tracked the history of frozen treats back to 3,000 B.C. when the Chinese mixed snow with fruit and beer. In the 10th century, Sarbat or sorbet as we know it, came to Sicily via an Arab invasion. The canny Italian scientist, Giammbatista della Porta, in 1561 experimented with ice and salt, and realized that this lowered temperature allowed for a creamy concoction, thereby creating gelato!

I am indebted to Giammbatista della Porta, who also has a very cool Italian name [no pun intended, but there it is]. The Florentines and the Romans both make indescribably delicious gelato. Since I cannot trek to Italy annually for the gelato I adore, I must settle for Whole Foods own gelato, which is none too shabby. Pistachio is my all-time favorite gelato, both inside and outside of Italy, followed by Stracciatella [which includes chocolate shavings] and Fragola [strawberry]. Italian law mandates that gelato must contain no less than 3.5% butterfat, which accounts for the fact that the incomparable Italian gelato triggers my taste buds in ways most U.S. gelato does not.

My proclivity for gelato does not exclude my periodic fondness for American ice cream. I would not dare profane this ice treat because I do indulge in particular flavors such as black raspberry, when I can find it, butter pecan, and vanilla bean. Low fat ice creams interest me not. If I’m going to indulge in frozen concoctions, I’m going for those with the butterfat; otherwise, it is like drinking skim milk, which looks like it has been waved over whole milk, and then been tossed with a bucket of water. Of course, this is purely personal preference: mine. A delicious ice creamery in Valparaiso, Indiana, called Valpo Velvet, makes smooth, deliciously rich ice cream – even black raspberry. When I’m in that charming town, inevitably I stop by Valpo Velvet’s ice cream shop, sit down and savor its rich ice cream.

While my heart belongs to gelato, in the end, it matters not which frozen treat cools a person off. What matters is the variety of choices to whet the appetite. I’m planning on a return to Italy within the next year or so. I cannot wait to luxuriate in its gelato! In the meantime, Whole Foods’ own gelato sates my gelato tooth.

Ciao for now.

 

Spirited Constellations: Travels

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback! - www.tangledpasta.net

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Spread the word:  Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback on Amazon!

MURDER. MUSIC. LUST.

Theodora D’Medici turned her floundering bookshop business into a thriving enterprise. Previously magical thinking had realized her past into her present. Now it has turned her present into the past in Italy as she finds herself trapped in a time travel with her modern-day insatiable lover and with her phantom lover.

Spirited Constellations: Travels is the second installment in a series of adult paranormal romance novels. If you like lusty heroines and provocative themes, then you will embrace Mary Anna Violi’s powerful vision of a world beyond Earth where rules of love and sex no longer apply. When Theodora attempts to come to terms with the time travel experience, and her real life lover and with her phantom lover, she finds that carnal knowledge can unleash forbidden pleasure when licentious attitudes rule.

Here is the link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spirited-Constellations-Travels-Mary-Violi/dp/1534752579/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467837355&sr=8-1&keywords=Mary+Anna+Violi

Thank you for your patronage and happy reading!

Ciao for now.

 

 

Spirited Constellations: Travels

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now published and available on Amazon! -www.tangledpasta.net

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now published and available on Amazon! -www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaViolli

Spirited Constellations: Travels

Hear ye! Hear ye! The second book in my Spirited Constellations series is now available on Amazon!

Purchase the e-book version of Spirited Constellations: Travels for the introductory price of $.99 for one week on Amazon and with Prime!

Spirited Constellations: Travels is a paranormal romance. In this second book in the series, Theodora D’Medici, her lover Danny Caruso, and her Phantom lover Giorgio Bellacqua travel back in time to Italy.

May your reading of Spirited Constellations: Travels be out of this world!

Thank you and Happy Reading!

Ciao for now

 

 

La Pizza Magnifica!

The pizza in Rome is tasty too, like pizza all over Italy and in the U.S. where there are large populations of Italians!-tangledpasta.net

The pizza in Rome is tasty too, like pizza all over Italy and in the U.S. where there are large populations of Italians!-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

I am here today to extol the virtues of that delicious dish that pairs so well with Friday Night Lights: Pizza! While ravenous high school football fans eat pizza on Friday nights, college football spectators relish it on Saturdays, and on Monday nights pro-football viewers eat it up. Yet I am neither a football fan, nor a sports fan in general, but I am an Italian who has feasted on pizza since childhood.

There are those pizza purists who claim a brick oven is necessary for a superb pizza. It is true that the wood-burning brick oven gives the pizza a particular smoky flavor, but I have dined on flavorful pizzas cooked on a grill, my brother is a master of this manner of pizza making, and on pizzas baked in a standard oven, which is my pizza domain. I readily admit I got a kick out of sitting in pizzerias in Florence, Italy at a pizza bar where I could actually see the pizza makers thrusting the pie into the brick oven on long pizza paddles. As thrilling as I found this every time, the heat emanating from the oven caused beads of perspiration to roll down my face. The pizza was mighty fine every time, washed down with local wine, and with lively conversation.

I used to make my own pizza crust, and infrequently I still do. The fact is that it is time saving to purchase Whole Foods own pizza crust, white or whole wheat, or Trader Joe’s, or, even in a pinch, the humble Pillsbury’s Classic. What I like on my pizza is a fire-roasted tomato sauce, fresh Mozzarella cheese, a bit of red pepper, drizzled with a good quality olive oil, and topped off with fresh basil leaves for a traditional Neapolitan Pizza Margherita. Underneath the dough, I have spread around olive oil. However, I also devour pizza with the aforementioned sauce, shredded Mozzarella or rounds of Provolone cheese, sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and olives. I also sprinkle a generous amount of oregano on pizza, just because. As always, I have olive oil under the pizza dough for added flavor. After all, I make pizza to suit my own palate, which explains the anchovies and artichokes that often find their way on top of my pizza. If I have guests, then I customize the pizza to satisfy their pizza preferences. Like pasta, pizza lends itself to invention; it is a creative force of food nature!

Buon appetite!

Ciao for now.

The Daughter of An Immigrant

The Pontifical Swiss Guards at Vatican City have been guarding Catholic Popes since 1506. - tangledpasta.net

The Pontifical Swiss Guards at Vatican City have been guarding Catholic Popes since 1506. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The past days I have been following the visit of Pope Francis in the United States. Each day I watch the New York Times video footage and I read the articles chronicling this historic event. Hearing the Pope speak at the 9/11 Memorial moved me to tears. Hearing him address the United Nations and seeing Malala Yousafzai intently listen to him also brought a tear to my eye, as did the Pope’s service at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and the one at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Throughout it all, I have envisioned my father and my mother with me, knowing how much Pope Francis would have meant to them.

I well remember when my parents took my brother and me to Italy and we stood in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City on a Sunday morning. We were waiting for Pope Paul VI appear on is balcony and give us a blessing. The Square was packed with people. I recall getting pinched on my derriere by a handsome Italian man after the Pope had retreated from the balcony. As I turned to see who had had the impudence to violate my person, the Italian shot me a sartorial smile and disappeared in to the throng. Emblazoned too in my memory are the tears that streamed down the face of my father. He had immigrated to the United States when Mussolini was in power in Italy. This trip was his first back to Italy since he had left impoverished Calabria behind him. My mother too felt overwhelmed at the blessing of Pope Paul VI. Her paternal grandfather had immigrated from a village outside of Genoa, Italy. She too was conscious of her immigrant ancestors.

The media blathers about how Pope Francis refers often to being the son of an immigrant. Aretha Franklin, who will perform for the Pope in Philadelphia this weekend, said in an interview that she likes how he remembers his own immigrant roots. Well, as the daughter of an immigrant, I can say for certain that the immigrant and his family took little for granted. Aside from his wedding day, my father’s proudest day was when became a U.S. citizen. This was the country that gave him a new lease on life, one where he could realize his dreams of business, family, and college-educated children. Yet the pillar of these dreams was his Catholic faith. In spite of myriad obstacles thrown in his path, he never waivered from his belief that God would help guide him through these trials. That is why I shed tears over what Pope Francis means to me, and how my parents would have embraced him, how he too is part of a continuum of the immigrant experience.

Ciao for now.

Going Home

Back row:  My mother Kitty, her sister-in-law Wilma. Front row:  My Aunts Agnes and Adelaide

Back row: My mama Kitty, her sister-in-law Wilma. Front row: My Aunts Agnes and Adelaide – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Growing up, all I could think about was how to get out of Indiana.  Filled with Big City dreams of the pulse of a city that never sleeps, that offers superb music and theater, intoxicated me.  Having traveled frequently to Italy,  not trekking each time to my father’s Southern Italian village, I lost my heart to Firenze, Roma, and even Amalfi.  My Italian was good; I felt comfortable among central and northern Italians.  In my hearts of hearts, I knew I would one day live more than just several months at a time in Italy.

That pesky thing called work interfered, yet I was undeterred.  I’d work, save, and buy another plane ticket back to Italy.  This was easier once I’d moved to Houston.  Airline bargains abounded from Houston to Italy during the 1970’s and 80’s, and I took advantage of low-cost flights on Icelandic Air.  Taking the train Luxembourg, through the Alps, and arriving in Milano or Roma made me one happy traveler.  In the back of my mind, I figured I would relocate to Chicago, and eventually live in Italy, somehow, some day.

Lake Michigan Dunes, Indiana - tangledpasta.net

Lake Michigan Dunes, Indiana – tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life has a funny way of throwing one curves.  Mine weren’t all that bad.  I married, had a child, divorced, and in between these milestones, I moved back to my hometown in The Heartland.  It wasn’t my idea, not by a long shot.  It was my ex-husband’s.  The first two years all I could think about was getting out, much like when I was a young adolescent yearning for environs beyond those of Indiana.  Gradually I reconnected with family beyond my immediate one.  Teaching again in higher education satisfied me.  The most unexpected reward though was in observing how much my parents and daughter loved one another, how much joy they brought to one another’s lives, and how I finally realized that home truly is where the heart is.  Since the beat of my heart was all about my daughter, I realized that we could travel together.  And we have, both here and abroad.  I revel in having an anchor to call home with family and good friends to fill it and share it with us.  It took many years, but I can say with a smile, it’s been good to be Back Home in Indiana.

East Pier Light at twilight, Michigan City, IN - tangledpasta.net

East Pier Light at twilight, Michigan City, IN – tangledpasta.net

Ciao for now.

Salvatore Ferragamo, Where Art Thou?

The iconic 'Vara' shoes - tangledpasta.net

The iconic ‘Vara’ shoes – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

  Entre nous:  I have a secret harbored inside of me.  The scent of leather ignites a fire within my being.  The lush, smooth feel of vero cuoio makes the hair on my neck spring to attention.  The leather-lined interior of a handcrafted sculpted Italian shoe makes my heart skip a beat.  The sensuous feeling of a luxurious Italian leather shoe wrapped under, around, and over my feet satisfies a primal cry inside my soul.  For the truth of the matter is, it offends my sense of aesthete to don a pair of non-leather shoes, except, of course, when walking on a beach, or skipping through sand.

My father nurtured my affinity for all shoes leather at an early age.  He had learned the art of shoemaking and repair at the age of ten when he was apprenticed to a master shoemaker in his village in Italy.  He railed against “those-a cheap-a junk-a shoes” made of plastic “manmade” materials.  He worked only with the finest leather.  As a result, I have worn leather shoes from infancy on, knowing that leather lining helps feet  breathe, whereas synthetic lining promotes foot sweat.

Next weekend my niece is getting married.  For months I have searched for leather shoes to complement dresses purchased for The Wedding weekend.  Having bought  beautiful nude leather shoes [leather lined, naturally], I was on the prowl for black patent leather shoes.  After months of exhaustive searching, I finally decided to shell out the big bucks for a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo ‘Vara’ pumps. Pre-pregnancy, my foot size was a 9½ medium.  Life was good.  Post-childbirth, my foot morphed into a 9¾ wide.  Life became hellish.  I had moved from Houston back to smaller town living in The Heartland where the nearest Nordstrom is 2 ¾ hours away.  Thus, I began shoe life anew through online ordering.  My feet have been caressed well by my Sesto Meucci and Attiliio Giusti Leombruni footwear.

Having read the shoes’ reviews, I noted several complaints that these Ferragamos lacked the perfect fit of yore. After discussion with the designer customer service representative, I felt confident, took the plunge, and spent $425 for the shoes.  Within 48 hours, my exquisite Ferragamo shoes arrived.  As I carefully unwrapped them, I inhaled the essence of the leather interior.  I reached for my trusty shoehorn, a vestige of when my father was alive and still working in his shoe shop.

Carefully I slid my foot into the black beauty. My little toe was cramped against the side of the toe box.  I wedged my ankle into the back of the shoe.  It felt like a tourniquet had been applied.  The left shoe had a similar, albeit less painful, effect.

As I gazed upon the Ferragamo beauties, I realized each shoe was the equivalent cost of one night at the upscale hotel for The Wedding.  I returned the Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, and ordered a non-Ferragamo pair of black leather, leather-lined shoes.  I learned long ago that comfort and style in leather footwear is critical to healthy, happy feet.

Ciao for now.

 

Buona Pasqua, Ancora

Cugina Chrissy's limoncello and chocolate raspberry-chocolate chip cakes - tangledpasta.net

Cugina Chrissy’s limoncello and chocolate raspberry-chocolate chip cakes – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Easter Sunday dawned auspiciously today:  The sky was gray and overcast.  As I was leaving for Church, rain began to puddle on the patio.  Since I had scheduled the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday in memory of my parents, Catherine “Kitty” and Frank, I realized I neglected to negotiate with the meteorologist for sunshine.  Yet halfway through Easter Mass, the sun shone, filtering through the Church’s stained glass windows.  It was a glorious omen for Easter.

My cugina [cousin] Marianne [yes, we Italians like to continuously recycle family names, which is why three-fourths of Italian women have the same first names, as do the men], invited me over for an Easter breakfast with her family.  Her father, my uncle and Godfather, is ninety-four years young, and, as our family patriarch, happily presided over my cousin’s light-as-air Belgian waffles [we Italians in the Heartland are multicultural in culinary spirit as well as ecumenical], crispy center-cut bacon, and her daughter’s delicious once-over-easy eggs.   Her husband Steve poured us shots of Amaretto di Saranno, which I poured into my coffee, thereby punching up my cup of Joe.

I was touched by my cugina’s Easter Breakfast invitation because sitting down with family reminded me of Easter Sunday breakfasts after Mass with my family.  When I was away at college, unable to get home for Easter, my mother made a point of sending me an Easter basket filled with malted milk balls, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, a large chocolate bunny, jelly beans and decorated eggs.  This year, I too filled my daughter’s furry, musical, ear-flapping rabbit Easter basket with treats and mailed it to her.   It is a worthy family tradition; it even received the Easter Bunny Seal of Approval.

My uncle’s family convened again late this afternoon for Easter dinner at his granddaughter Chrissy’s home.  My cousin follows in the family tradition of fine cooks.  She whipped up enough food to feed the Italian army:  Baked ham, potatoes, corn, green beans, and her mother prepared Italian sausage in a tomato-onion sauce for sandwiches replete with crusty Italian bread.  To top it off, dessert was limoncello cake and a chocolate-raspberry-chocolate chip cake confection.  Naturally, we imbibed vino bianco and vino rosso.  My contribution was an Italian Easter bread in the shape of a crucifix, and a bottle of hearty Chianti.

Tomorrow I am fasting. Alleluia!

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.

Decades

Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter  - tangledpasta.net

Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter – tangledpasta.net

For almost two months I grappled with the fact that I was facing another one of “those” birthdays.  I mean the kind of birthday that kicks off a new decade in one’s life, in this case, in my life.

When I turned eighteen, I was wild to turn twenty.  Nineteen felt like a mere holding pattern until I reached the magical age of twenty, thus jump starting my so-called life.  Or so I thought.  The twenties were filled with advanced degree pursuits and travel abroad, mostly to Italy and to Greece.  Actually, that decade was quite grand in its own way.

My decade spent in my thirties consisted of still living in Houston, marriage, relocating to the Midwest, motherhood, adjustment, and separation [in the marriage].  It was a decade of incredible highs [motherhood] and crashing lows [the demise of a marriage].

The decade of my forties saw me focused on rebuilding my life professionally, while simultaneously creating a secure, joyful life for my child.  There was the renewal of love with a former flame, and happiness loomed large on the horizon.  As the decade drew to a close, I became edgy about commencing a new decade in my life.  I still saw myself as the starry-eyed twenty-four-year-old with unending Italian spirit, alive with endless possibilities and vigor.  Everything came to a screeching halt when my beloved Mama suffered a massive stroke and died five months before my birthday.

I ceased worrying about “What if” and began asking “Why not?” when it came to each birthday.   As my dear Mama was fond of observing, “Consider the alternative.” I choose life.

Ciao for now.