Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Archives: the cuisine of Puglia's Gargano peninsula


NOTE: I'm reposting entries from my time in Puglia -- one of the best trips I've ever taken.

Let's talk about food, shall we? Specifically the meals we had in the Gargano region of Puglia, in southern Italy.

Not trying to make anyone jealous -- in fact, maybe by posting these photos, we can tempt America into fully embracing Italian cuisine! (We are getting there, yes, but some more work still needs to be done)

The meal up top -- a simple but delightful bruschetta -- was on offer at a bar at a beach near Peschici. I posted the photo to show you its killer location, and to make a point: the Italians are eating spaghetti and bruschetta and drinking house wine and enjoying many other gastronomic marvels at their beaches while we Americans eat hot dogs on the boardwalk! What's up with that?!

It sure made for a wonderful day at the beach. Just because we were not near a great restaurant did not mean we had to suffer through some subpar beach food.


We managed to squeeze in one more restaurant listed in the Gambero Rosso guide. It was La Collinetta in Peschici (if you are keeping track, that's our fourth meal of the trip at a restaurant listed in the prestigious guide).

You see in the photo above I just had to order spaghetti alle vongole one more time. What's not to love? Tomatoes, clams and spaghetti cooked al dente.


What else? Oh right, Il Nostro Inviato had orecchiette, the classic Pugliese pasta dish that's almost always homemade (in this case it was al pomodoro). Sorry that the photo is not National Geographic quality. But you can almost about make out the name of the restaurant on the plate so there's a slight silver lining!


We also ordered calamari fritti, which were as always buoni buoni buoni! And I ate scampi alla griglia, which were also quite good.


It was not the best meal, and we felt slightly rushed. But it certainly was adequate. We of course also ordered a bottle of local wine: Primitivo Salento IGT Rosso 2005 Tenute San Marco. Excellent!

Can't beat Primitivo, which is beginning to appear on wine lists outside of New York and other large American cities.

And we finished the meal with limoncello made by the owner's wife.

Those are the food highlights of our time in Peschici. I will leave you with a photo of a very ordinary meal...which gives you an indication of how well we ate on the trip. Here was the lunch we enjoyed one day on our little patio at the Locanda della Castellana: local crusty bread, local tomatoes, prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala. Can you beat it? No you can't.



Grazie per averci seguito! Arrivederci!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Elena Ferrante's La Frantumaglia and wounds

I'm a big Elena Ferrante fan. In particular, I like two of her earlier novels -- The Days of Abandonment and The Lost Daughter.

But the words of Ferrante that have captivated me the most aren’t, in fact, in her novels. It’s something she wrote about writing in the book La Frantumaglia, a collection of interviews and manuscript drafts curated by Ferrante’s publishers. There, the reclusive Italian author says what distinguishes The Days of Abandonment from other books she’s begun writing but abandoned is that it “put fingers in particular wounds of mine that were still infected.”

Wounds of mine that were still infected. I underlined the sentence, then bracketed the paragraph. In my journal, I found myself returning to those words, in the original Italian: ferite (wounds) ancora (still) infette (infected).

How does one write about the ferite ancora infette? How does one locate them?

You can read more about this at Asymptote Journal's Blog where my essay on Frantumaglia was published recently. Go here.




Friday, January 13, 2017

When you write a fan letter to a translator

I nearly called it a "love note," which may be an exaggeration, but after I returned from a conference on literary translation in Oakland last year, I found myself with a new habit on my hands, thanks to the books I'd spirited away from the conference. Namely, I found myself reading over and over a book of poetry by Eduardo Chirinos, which had been translated from the Spanish by G.J. Racz.

The Spanish is on one side, and the English translation on the other, and for fun (literary translation world fun!), I've been reading the Spanish version first and then marveling over the word choices the translator made (and also finding out in some cases what the poem really means, since I am not fluent in Spanish).

And since I was having such fun, and since I also felt like I had uncovered a new micro-hobby (is that a word?), I decided to write an email to the translator, to thank him for bringing this wonderful work of Spanish poetry to English-speakers like me. It's particularly important given that Chirinos died last year age 55. (Someone needs to keep his voice alive).

So what happens when you send a note like that to a translator?

This happens: Racz ("Gary"!) insists on sending me two other books of Chirinos poetry that he's translated.

When I return from my Christmas holidays up North, a little package of books is waiting for me -- like Santa had to come back because he forgot a gift.

Maybe I'm a bit TOO into the "small things," but honestly I am thrilled!

Send a translator a love note, and who knows what might happen? He or she just might send you another book.

(And a book for a book-lover is the paper equivalent of chocolate.)

Thank you thank you thank you, Gary.

And thanks also to the American Literary Translators Association for a lovely conference and for stocking the book room with so many wonderful titles.