This is Part 2 of my trip to Ventimiglia. I remind you of the date: 11 September 2001.
After stocking up with Parma ham and Napoli salami (both to be the subjects of other entries, I predict) and a quick whisk around the covered market, we headed to a restaurant on the coast for lunch.
It was Pen’s treat – and I should add that it almost always is. The only way to prevent this from happening is to agree very precisely with her well in advance that she will in no circumstances be the one to settle up at the end of the meal. Even then, she has been known to slip quietly away from the table and, before you could say “bill”, she has already requested and paid it.
Unusually for me, it was not a meal where starters were in order. I can only recall what I ate which was perhaps as perfect a choice as I could have made at that particular moment: for the very first meal I ate in Italy, right by the coast, outside, at lunchtime on a warm September day. Spaghetti alla vongole. Normally, I avoid spaghetti. If I were being dishonest, I would say that it was because spaghetti are cylindrical and so the sauce falls off which simply does not happen to the flatter types of pasta. But I cannot even explain my prejudice to my own satisfaction.
The shells in spaghetti alla vongole are a good sign. If they are not there, I suspect tinned clams. You need little else other than the clams: a little greenery, some wine, perhaps some shreds of chilli. A plate on which to discard the emptied shells. A fork and people surrounding you who have no objection to your helping the clams out with your fingers. My heart usually sinks when I hear the expression a “light lunch”, but if it consisted of a bowl of spaghetti alla vongole, I’d be very happy.
This golden day ended shortly after we arrived back in Lorgues, at about 4 in the afternoon, French time. We had just settled down on the terrasse, when suddenly the telephone rang. Pen took the call in the house and came outside shortly afterwards in tears. Her friend, Monique, had told her to switch on the television.