Friday, October 3, 2008

Learning Italian with the butcher (not to be confused with butchering Italian)

I live in a small town. I walk down a hill, by the farm behind the cemetery, and with a couple of steps I find myself at the heart of the borgo. I walk by the bar, the bank, the gelateria, I walk up the street to the baker, and around the corner to the butcher. I wave hello to the farmacist, the owner of the merceria (for all your sewing needs), and the old ladies at the newsstand. I walk these streets as my own but I know I am a visitor, a foreigner, una straniera.

I am ever more aware of it when I open my mouth to try and speak. The words flow from my mouth in weird arrangements of real and fictional words. I keep a smile in my face, convinced that this will help me be understood; and in the fantastic italian way of things, it does! I manage to buy the bread I like while answering questions about my dog, I buy the cough remedy we need -the one the pharmacist insists is better, and saving the best for last, I go to the butcher's for my Italian lesson, my private cooking lesson, and ... let's not forget ... my meat!

My dear friend Debby introduced me to the butcher, from that first day, he always stops whatever else he is doing to personally help me. The other worker steps aside and lets his boss do the talking, and talking he does! He will talk about the weather, the nearby trails, the must-see places in the area. Once he gets comfortable, he will talk about the products he sells, the fresh eggs from the farm, the cheese with no preservatives, the sausages he makes himself, or the fabulous ravioli that is also made on the premises. If I ask the right questions I get recipes for the different cuts of meat, can you imagine? I have to focus and listen attentively as he speaks fast, and he laughs a lot at his own jokes. I pay more money for his meat than what I would at the supermarket, but it always feels like a bargain!

Who would have thought that such a small butcher-shop in such a small town would open a world of possibilities for me?

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