15 March 2011

The Hostess with the Mostest

The greatest thing about exchange travel is staying with a host / host family. I have had so many incredible opportunities around the world being hosted by families in New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Swaziland and now Italy.
My host Lorella and her two kids A. and G. are wonderful! A & G. are so cute and shy in speaking English, but they do quite well with it for their ages and years of study. Lorella is an English teacher so we have very little trouble communicating. Plus sometimes I just use some of my Spanish and that helps fill in any gaps. (Italian and Spanish are related).
She is really bending overbackwards for me. So very nice!
For example....
Yesterday we drove out to the Quatro Castella (4 Castles) region. The area of Mathilda. - As soon as I learn more about Mathilda, I will post here - she took me to the Canossa Castle. Well it was closed (apparently being a Monday, it is always closed on Mondays - but it was also just closed for this week). So we went into a nearby shop where the shopkeeper tried to convince us to buy everything...
My favorite story from the shopkeeper:
A woman was visiting Reggio Emilia from Atlanta, GA. This woman was  here for a convention of knives. Well the woman bought an 80 Euro bottle of a very old vinegrette that is still made in the same fashion that has been being used in the Mathilda region for thousands of years. Then because the woman liked the smell so much, she dabbed the vinegrette on her earlobes and wore it as perfume!
[you can be the judge as to if you buy this story or not!]

Then we drove on towards a small medeival village. Village is really not the right word. The word in Italian is Burgo. Think 'Burg' in German. To be honest there is no true English equivalent. Well we were walking through the narrow roads of the couple of houses, and the kids were being silent as the signs requested, no small feat for an 11 and 13 year old and all of a sudden we began to hear it: huyuh huyuh. It's breathing was laboured and the bark was faint. I felt so bad for this dog, feeling the need to bark at us. He sounded like he was taking his last breaths. I was reminded of how I sounded when I had my pulmonary embolism! I hoped he would stop soon without dying on us. Then he was joined by a robust bark bark. But he still continued. Poor dog felt the need to guard his yard and let us know he was there. I just wanted to tell him not to worry.

On the way back, it was time for my first Gelato. We stopped at 3 different places until we found one that was open. Oh delicioso! I had nutella and hazelnut flavors. Wonderful!

Lorella had told me that she was not much of a cook, but she wanted to ensure that I had good food here. Monday night she organized that we would have dinner with her sister and Tuesday night that we would have dinner with her brother.
Monday night's dinner with her sister and her brother in law was lovely. They cooked a very nice fish and salad. Plus the cup of coffee they made afterwards may be the best cup of expresso I have ever had in my LIFE. It was an enjoyable evening and was full of (as the German's say) gemutlichkeit. Plus desert... more gelato (I think they may have heard that I like it!)
Tuesday night we were with her brother's family. The food was amazing! Lorella's sister in law is not only an incredible cook, but also does amazing things with plants. I saw some of the cacti she is growing in their apartment - wowowowow! They were taller than I! There was so much food..... first a pasta course with two types of filled pasta - one with spinach and the other with pumpkin (Zucca). Both were good, but the Zucca was simply heavenly! Sweet and just wonderful! Then she brought out salad and cheese (plus some meats for the others). Five different types of cheeses: Parmesan (it is not real unless it comes from this region of Italy - and wow is it amazing!), Brie, Mozerella and two others that I do not recall the names of. The bread that we had to go along with it (same bread we had last night as well) has a name that translates to 'normal' or 'common' bread. It is anything but common for an American. Very light and fluffy. It has a nice crispy shell but a soft center. It is handmade and the shapes are quite unique - some look like roses, others like braids, and still others like a branch of a tree. For desert was once again fruit salad and gelato. Incredible! As I said, her sister in law (who spoke almost no English) was an amazing cook. I'd like to take her home with me!

Being hosted is simply wonderful!

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