Monday, May 28, 2007

The Roman Food Orgy



Yesterday I attended my nephew’s cresima (Catholic confirmation) ceremony, followed by the traditional Italian banquet lunch.

I know we Americans are gluttonous beasts who love a good excuse for hearty pig-out. Everyone at my house would lie down on the floor of the living room and sleep after Thanksgiving dinner, beached whales gasping for air, even though in the back of our minds we were already contemplating tomorrow’s leftovers… the cold turkey sandwich, my grandmother’s Texan cornbread dressing, and my own personal favorite- cold cranberry sauce.
But nothing from my overstuffed American past comes close to an Italian banquet luncheon. I rarely see traces of Ancient Rome in modern Italian culture, but the banquets I’ve attended over the past fifteen years are truly something out of Caligula! The only thing the restaurants lack is a vomitorium.

When you sit down to an Italian banquet, the best you can hope for is arriving at the end of the meal with only the zipper of your dress popped open; the worst is the proverbial prayer at the porcelain altar… and plenty of alka-seltzer. What is mind-boggling about these luncheons is not the size of the servings, but the number of the portate, or courses. The luncheon yesterday was not particularly abundant, as far as these things go, and I have seen and been company to far more exaggerated food orgies over the years, but just to give you an idea, the dishes, in order of their appearance, mercilessly plopped in front of me with my sister-in-law (footing the bill) and mother-in-law (mangia Jenny!) sitting across the table from me…


Antipasto:
prosciutto crudo, pancetta nostrana, roast beef with spicy mustard, three different frittata, stuffed eggplant, polenta with aromatic lardo, grilled bell peppers, stuffed olives, bruschette


First course:
caramelle (homemade traditional ravioli) in butter and sage sauce with tons of grana padano, asparagus and speck risotto, homemade linguini with gorgonzola and walnuts


Second course:
Stuffed wild hare roasted with pancetta and sage, beef filet with arugula and radicchio, polenta with a plate of six different cheeses (these are served on a round plate which you turn in a clockwise direction, eating the freshest cheese first and finally arriving at the most aged cheese, enough to make your sprout chest hairs right then and there), potatoes roasted with rosemary and thyme, mixed greens


Dessert:
Tiramisù, chocolate mousse with mint sauce


Fruit:
Carpaccio of fresh pineapple and strawberries

Wine a volontà (all you can handle)
Double espresso
Grappa, limoncello, sambuca, cognac…

I'm the second from the left, passing out with my face in my plate of chocolate mousse.


The entire ordeal lasts about four hours, and the incredible finale are the thin, perfectly dressed, composed Italians getting up from the table and doing a lot of cheek kissing, after they have polished off every morsel and emptied every glass.


Then there's Jenny, the americana, finally running to the bathroom to say a prayer, try to clean the several layers of dribble off her fancy never-worn blouse, throw water on her face to escape the sugar and alcohol induced blur, which of course causes the mascara that she never wears (so she forgets its even there) to run down her splotchy cheeks, and hope that no one notices her burst zipper.


The beyond belief ending as she walks back to the group of mingling, totally in control of themselves Italians is her broher-in-law squeezing her shoulder and saying, "Dai Jenny, andiamo prenderci un bel gelato!"


Translation- Come on, Jenny, let's go get an ice cream!

7 comments:

sognatrice said...

I hear you! Yesterday I went to my OH's nephew's communion...I'm still full. If I have time today, I'm going to post on not only the courses and courses of food but also the other peculiarities that never cease to leave me with my head shaking...like the caravan of cars (can't we all just arrive separately?)!

Hope you're feeling more empty by now ;)

Jennifer said...

That sounds like a wedding! Delicious, but a lot of food.

We had a first communion earlier this month and luckily, given the number of small children, the hosts decided to have us order off the menu. Two or three courses, plus dessert.

Then we came home and took naps!

Marloes said...

So the proverbial: When in Rome do as the Romans do..doesn't always go down all that well?..:o)

Jenn in Holland said...

Oh, my-my-my-my-my!
I seriously can't believe all of that is served at a single gathering! Seriously? I say again. OH.MY.
Loved the description of your escape to the bathroom to try and recover from the fun and gluttony.
And then a gelato? Oh, my-my-my-my-my!!

Cate said...

What? it's only food. Please write about all the gold the kids get as gifts. My husband is still in absolute awe how much jewlery my son received for his bapism. Speechless.

Brillig said...

Ummm, I think I gained about twenty pounds just reading this post...

anno said...

All those thin Italians (with the enormous dark eyes and beautiful skin) just kill me. Just reading about these calories is going to require some serious time on the treadmill to counteract their effects!

 

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