When Laura’s mom, Marisa, called me yesterday morning and asked if I wanted to come out to the agriturismo I was thrilled. It was a rainy day and all that I had on my agenda was yet another homework assignment for my Italian class. I told her I’d be ready at 10:30 and went to change. The last time I’d worked at the farm, I’d gotten bleach all over my clothes, so Laura told me to wear something old whenever I came over. Her usual attire involves sweatpants and a t-shirt. I mention this because as soon as I’m strapped into the car with Marisa, she tells me she needs my help because she’s cooking lunch (il pranzo) for thirty guests. I don’t stop to think about the work that will be involved in this undertaking, but instead, I look down at my hoodie and yoga pants and panic. In February I was enlisted to serve the guests and the thought of thirty people seeing me dressed like this is not making me happy. Marisa tells me not to worry.
The kitchen is in a state of organized chaos when we arrive. Laura is nowhere to be seen, but I can tell she’s been putting the dining room in order. I pitch in, finishing the tables and setting up a site outside for guests to have an aperitivo when they arrive. The rain is holding off, but it’s gray and damp. The party is for a baby’s christening and is scheduled for 1:00.
I spend the rest of the preparation time helping with the crostini and other prep work. Marisa is, as usual, preparing a feast. There are four different types of crostini ranging from a chicken liver pate to sausage and cheese, mushrooms with mozzarella, and the last one was butter with something, but I didn’t see it being made so I have no idea what else was in it. Laura’s grandmother was in charge of the crostini and demonstrated the proper amount to put on each piece of bread. I’d done this same job in February so I passed this test with flying colors. I tried not to gag when I did the sausage one. It’s raw sausage mixed with a cheese called strachino and after it’s on the bread it goes in the oven for a short time. It comes out looking as raw as when it went in and when I sampled one in February I just couldn’t get over the raw pork thing. I get slightly queasy when I see people munching them.
As the guests begin to arrive, so does the rain. Marisa and I pull the table that I’ve set up under the eaves of the building and guests file inside and have their cocktail. Laura made some sort of puff pastry filled with ham and mozzarella to put out as well as snacks. I worried that the guests wouldn’t be hungry for their meal as they chowed down on their pre-pranzo munchies.
When everyone was seated, we plated the crostini and Marisa served. Thankfully, I was allowed to stay in the kitchen and work in yoga-panted obscurity.
The next course was their homemade pici pasta with Marisa’s ragu. Then came the meats. Roasted chicken, rabbit and pork. There were also roasted postatoes and salad. And just when I thought these people were going to have to roll out of there, Laura comes into the kitchen with this humongous fruit tart that she’s prepared. It was as beautiful as it was delicious.
As the clock struck 5:00, guests were finally getting motivated to leave, and we finally had a chance to sit in the kitchen and eat a bite of the delicious food ourselves. But as soon as they left, we got back to work and cleared the dining room. Loads and loads of dishes were done and by the time Marisa dropped me at my door at 6:00, I was exhausted. If I hadn’t had to take Cinder out I would have stayed to help a little longer because Marisa had to gear up to feed eight guests of the agriturismo for dinner!
I was just settling down to relax when Laura called me. She was outside my house and when I went out into the pouring rain to see what was wrong she rolled down the window and thanked me for helping out. Then she handed me a container of food. A very sweet gesture. When I got inside I looked to see what they’d given me. It was crostini…mostly sausage.