Wednesday, April 6, 2011
La cucina americana: Brunch
Tuesday, April 5
What is typical American food, anyway? We have invited three Italian cousins—Grazia, Marta and Gianfranco—for pranzo, and we want them to experience something American, since they eat Italian food 365 days a year already. The first things that come to mind are hamburgers and hotdogs, and for sure we don’t want to do those. Of course there are casseroles, meatloaf, steak and potatoes, but we are not keen on those ideas either. Then Lucy comes up with an idea that seems strange at first, but then it grows on us, and pretty soon we have become enthusiastic about it.
She asks me to remember the breakfasts they used to have at the lodge at Snoqualmie Falls. In fact, maybe they still have them, but in any event, these meals are not quickly forgotten, because one delicious course followed another, and pretty soon all guests had to unloosen their belts because the food was too good to refuse. And who can deny that Americans are big on hearty breakfasts and brunches, so having a multi-course brunch would qualify as a typical meal. It would also be completely different from Italian habits, because a customary Italian breakfast would be a brioche and a shot glass of espresso, and nothing else, all downed in about five minutes while standing at the counter of a bar. So it is decided. First course: oatmeal, topped with hot spiced apple compote, walnuts, raisins and whole milk. Second course: blueberry pancakes. Third course: omelet with mushrooms, cheese, onions, green peppers with secret spices from chef Paolo. Fourth course: fruit salad. Dessert: Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cooks (a recent addition to the shelves at EsseLunga) and gelato (our one concession to the Italian menu).
We eat in the piazza right outside our apartment door, and the weather is perfect. How do our Italian guests like their American meal? They say it is great, and they point out that they have eaten everything and had seconds on some courses as proof that it was buono. We know, of course, that they probably would have said this even if it wasn’t great, and we will never know for sure exactly what they thought, but the meal goes smoothly and we have a great time talking. Afterwards we talk about our families, and they help me identify a few people in old photos that were brought from Italy to America 100 years ago. We are invited to their house for pranzo three weeks from now, and everyone gives hugs and kisses and says, “Ciao, ciao, ci vediamo” several times before our guests leave and we go inside to rest, tired but content.
Seated: Grazia, Marta, Gianfranco. Standing: Head chef Lucia