“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” ~ Andre Simon
Heather Kleim had just moved to Florence, Italy and even though she knew a bit of Italian, she found out the hard way how literal translations can go awry. As she tells it,
“See you later!” is a very common saying in English and is often used very casually and not meant literally. Well, I learned that the hard way during my first days in Florence. After saying good bye to a friend of mine, I threw in a “Ci vediamo dopo!” and headed home for the day. Later that night, I received a phone call from my friend who was a little irritated. “You said you’d see me later! Where are you?” Oops. Lesson learned. “Ci vediamo” (minus the ‘dopo’ meaning ‘later’) would have worked AND prevented insulting anyone.
Heather’s roommate Laura was a wonderful cook from Dublin. The two of them worked long days and sometimes on a cold winter night, Laura would cook them a pot of Spezzatino and they would hunker down to a comfortable evening of watching English DVDs. A comfortable friend in a comfortable place with comfortable food and a comfortable language. So good for the soul.
Heather has since moved back to Canada and set up a thriving home staging business in Vancouver. http://www.epicempiredesigns.ca/ The Olympics with all its wonders and enthusiasm has taken over her city. While it has significantly altered life and business in the city, Canada has been profiled to the world in a whole new way. “Believe.”
Spezzatino is a Tuscan stew of minced or diced meat. It can be found in almost every restaurant and deli throughout Florence, but is not as common outside of Tuscany. Heather says, “Spezzatino is stew at its finest. Throw this into a pot and let the simmering do its magic!”
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled, cut into large pieces
2 lbs stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes (900g)
1/2 cup of olive oil (120ml)
3 cups of red wine (710ml)
1/2 cup tomato purée (120ml)
salt and fresh black pepper to season
In a large stewing pot, heat extra virgin olive oil and sear beef for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove beef from the pot and add carrots, celery, and onions. Cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables have become soft.
Add 1 cup of red wine and let reduce.
(I chopped the veggies really fine. Note the change in colour once the wine is added.)
Add the potatoes to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
Throw the seared beef back into the pot then add tomato pure and the remaining wine.
Let the liquid come to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for an hour and a half.
Serves 4 people
As I type this post, I feel a surge of excitement. Meeting Heather and getting her recipe was timely, because in two weeks, we are taking our daughter to Italy and we will be spending some time in Florence. We have never been there and are full of anticipation. We love to travel and are looking forward to our adventure, yet we also predict we will be tripping over the language.
Several years ago, before we became parents, my husband and I spent a month back-packing through Venezuela. We loved seeing the country, meeting the people and learning Spanish. Along the way, I enjoyed my fair share of bloopers. A lot of people in Venezuela speak English, so every time I walked into a store or hotel, I always asked - in Spanish - if they spoke English, but I noticed that everytime the clerks would pause before answering “si” or “no.”
It was only when I got home that I realized my glitch. In Spanish, the phrase “Do you speak English?” is “¿Habla Inglés?” I had been asking “¿Hablo Inglés?” The reason the clerks all over Venezuela paused before they answered is because a perky, gangly gringa had just walked into their store and said, “Hello! Do I speak English?”
See you later!