Admiring Life’s Strong Ones
I am sitting in a roof restaurant in Kensington on a warm August night. The balcony is framed in flower boxes. Between them I see the tops of red double decker buses flick by in the street below. Whiffs of specialty pizza, gnocchi, and polpetto di meinzo caress my nose as they thread their way to other customers’ tables, while I await my Paccheri a Core e Mamma, and continue gazing on these beautiful people.
And they are. Their beautiful flawless hands are manicured. Their cut-and-blow-dried hair (@ £265 per session – I checked!) is flawless. Their clothes are designer. Their laughter is effervescent. Their conversation tinkles with the chilled champagne glasses and cutlery. All perfect for a summer’s night.
But as I watch them, I am remembering another conversation taking place around the corner on the surgical ward in the hospital, where, in the heat, two bare-chested men sit on their bed edges. One is my husband John, his bruised black-purple-red chest is cut, stapled and sewn as doctors seek to renovate his heart. The other is Next-Bed Mike, a huge gentle giant of a man with surgical gashes across his back and side, his magnificent torso already housing crushed arthritic vertebrae and now-suspected of lung cancer. Mike’s pain the night before caused him to scream in excruciating agony. But there is no self-pity in either of them now. They aren’t even talking about themselves. They are marvelling at the astounding mystery of the universe and how we are created from the same elements that make the stars. They are delighting in the amazing discoveries of science that bring the farthest of space down to the centre of being human. They are gasping in surprise at the miracle of it all.
I remember these two as I sit in my perfect London setting. And others who are forced to be unexpectedly brave in Life’s events, and who go on discovering its riches anyway. And to them I raise my glass of Monte Pulciano and wish them well.
Paccheri a Core e Mamma my version
Some of you scan these recipes as Read Only. Some of you live in a place where Italian ingredients are easily accessible. But for others like me you need research, a 27.2 mile drive to an obscure shop with an inconsequential name that opens into a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of Italian goodies.
Despite the effort, I have been eager to explore this recipe, because it fit so completely into that summer night. The pasta is almost as big as lasagne pieces, and the meaning is “slap in the face”. I’ll probably serve this at our next Learning Celebration supper. It’s simple. It’s a make-ahead. It keeps hot in a slow cooker. It’s a no-brainer. My overnight visitors inspected the purchases.
Amounts of ingredients are sloppily loose: Saute a sliced Italian sausage – preferably spicy — in olive oil until crisp then add a couple of chopped onions with smashed garlic cloves, and cook until tender. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until nearly done. Add two cups or so of dry white wine and cook down by half. Add double cream and cook until it makes a good thick gravy. Add grated pecorino cheese, two tablespoons at a time as it is powerful stuff. Stir until melted. Sprinkle on a teaspoon or more of truffle oil.
Serve on boiled pasta, pecchari if you wish
[notes from trial: next time I might try adding dried porcini mushrooms in truffle oil. The grated pecorino is a lot stronger than I expected. Add it by tablespoons to your taste.]