Sunday, August 9, 2009

Panini

When I moved TeamPaulC to blogger last year, I did not import all of the old posts, I guess that I should. Anyway, one of the posts introduced theMom’s blog “Musings from the Countess of Cuisine” and lamented that theMom having a blog is in fact a sign of the coming apocalypse. From the original post on TeamPaulC, quoting Nostradamus:
“And the mighty power will be owned by the people, and the people will rejoice in the stock that they hold. … A time will come when a man of slightly tall physical stature and short blond hair shall frolic and revel in this new power, and his mother shall see his happiness and she will purchase stock in the power and start her own blog.”
We are doomed.

So recently theMom has been posting, and I went back and reread her old blog posts, and one of them triggered a memory of living in Southern Italy. First of all, a nod to Andy: “panini” is eye-talian for “sandwich”, so please, for the love of all that is savory, never say “panini sandwich”. That's like saying “for your FYI”, it makes you sound like a nitwit, and maybe you are a nitwit, but at least try to sound like you have some sort of clue, even if you don’t. When you say “panini sandwich” somewhere a baby gets punched in the face, so don’t say it.

Anyway, when we lived in Italy we lived in a small fishing village about 10 miles from the San Vito Air Base. There were maybe 10-ish (anyone?) other American families with school aged children that lived in the village, and on school days we would all walk down to the piazza (but we just called it “the circle") to catch the school bus to the air base. There are many stories related to catching the morning school bus, “kid jumped from tree and almost died”, “uncle Pat gets drenched (or “its a blow-hole stupid!”), “its raining! how many kids can we cram into the phone booth?” etc.

Well the local alamentari was maybe 200 yards from the bus stop, and predictably we would stop in and get some supplies for the day; you know, candy, gum, and sometimes lunch. If we were running late, theMom would toss us a couple mille, and say “grab a sandwich at the alamentari for lunch”. So as a respectful 9 year old, I would dutifully go to the alamentari and get my sandwich and a Coke in a glass bottle. Well, the first time was the toughest as I spoke no Italian, and the women at the alamentari spoke very little English, but somehow she managed to understand that I wanted a ham and cheese sandwich. The alamentari was a small deli, so the woman would slice the ham and the cheese and put it on a nice fresh half loaf of bread sliced down the middle. What ever, it was edible, I ate half of it on the bus to school and the other half at lunch.

Fast forward three (ish) years. The setting, a small deli in Colorado Springs. The scene, a 12 year old boy and his mother ordering sandwiches.
theMom: What would you like Paulie?
Paulie: Hmmm, ham and cheese please. (I wonder if I really said “please”? I must have.)
DeliClerk: Mayo?
Paulie: Of course, jackass, mayonnaise is what separates us from the beasts of the forest. (Was never said, added for levity.)
DeliClerk: You sure are smart. Here is your sandwich. (that was almost certainly said)

theMom and Paulie take their sandwiches home, we join them at the kitchen bar (it was the late 70’s), sitting on stools, getting ready to tuck into a nice fresh panini!

Paulie takes big bite of sandwich as only a 12 year old can.
Paulie: (removing bite of sandwich from his mouth, clearly disgusted. Holding said bite in his hand, pointing it at theMom, young Paulie addresses her in accusatory manner.) WHAT THE FRACK IS THIS!? (vernacular updated to appeal to BSG fans.) This is NOT a ham and cheese sandwich! What foul, bastardized form of swine has thy deli man tried to poison me with!? For the love of all that is derived from the noble and gentle swine, I shall devote my life’s energy to hunting down that foul meat slicer and make him pay dearly for his sacrilege!

At this point, theMom takes 15 minutes to explain to Paulie the difference between prosciutto crudo and black forest ham, the upshot of which is this: there is no dam comparison. Prosciutto is an Italian delight that elevates the lowly swine to the near God like status that it so richly deserves by curing its flesh in such a way that it will actually make mere mortals worship said pig. While black forest ham takes the same flesh and smokes it and makes it palatable. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some black forest ham, I am just saying, it aint prosciutto.

So during those three years, we were asking for a “ham and cheese sandwiches” and getting a prosciutto and mozzarella panini. We were eating like kings for < $2 and had no idea.

True story. Best time ever.