Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Family stories: another list

The companion volume to Alexander's Roots is a book of family stories for children. Some of them are apocryphal, including a splendid story about an evil old aunt who provides "very healthy food" consisting of things like "very plain pasta with pallid slimy mushrooms" or "a pile of Barlotti beans, boiled until they were mushy and served with small pieces of stringy chicken, all skin and bones, and some soggy onion. None of the food was ever browned or caramelised or crisp: it was always colourless: even the salads were made with pale, blanched chicory with a bitter taste...For pudding there were always under ripe bananas, already peeled and cut into chunks." The children, we are told, "hated all this pale tasteless food and longed for savoury grilled and roasted meat, savoury salami, fragrant orange fleshed melons and black grapes with a bloom on their skins and melting figs and juicy peaches with furry skins". Worst of all, this woman beats children with a wooden spoon. Towards the end of the story is a wonderful description of lunch for eight hungry children:

"After what seemed a very long time, Giacomo and Uncle Orlando returned to the dining room. Giacoma was bearing an enormous dish of food. There were tiny artichokes preserved in oil, pink prawns, grilled aubergines with black marks from the grillade, shining red tomatoes, brilliant red peppers, mozzarella balls with herbs, eggs halved and stuffed with anchovies, Barlotti beans livened with tuna, roasted green peppers drizzled with olive oil, potato salad and many other delicious morsels. "Enjoy your antipasti, my children," said Uncle Orlando Norsa. "There will be some properly succulent pasta to follow, and then grilled veal cutlets with fried potatoes. And there will also be some changes round here. From now on your mother will take her meals alone in her bedroom until she is feeling better."

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