Pranzo

Pranzo | Freckled Italian

"Let's try not to eat so much for breakfast today because we're going over to my tia's house for lunch later," my mom explained to us over her small cup of strong, sweet coffee. The hot Italian sun beat down on us despite the early hour. It was July.

We were in Avezzano, a small mountain town about an hour away from Rome, and we had just woken up and were eating breakfast outside on the patio of another cousin's home. Breads and cookies and chocolate and fruit were laid out on a tray before us and I remember thinking how much I preferred drinking coffee like an adult and being able to eat cookies for breakfast. I was eleven.

We spent the afternoon shopping and trying not to eat. I was amazed by how beautiful Italians make everything--an espresso becomes a work of art with crema, steaming in all its perfection in a tiny ceramic cup and saucer. My mother purchased a bracelet and I watched in awe as the saleswoman put it in a box and tied a gold ribbon around it, then placed it in a small shopping bag with purple tissue paper and handed it across the counter with a smile on her tan face. "Grazie, signora." Even their words are beautiful.

Later in the afternoon we drove closer to Rome to my great-aunt's house, and the lunch festivities began. My great-aunt, my mom's tia is a small, round woman who wears floral dresses and brought out plate after plate of delicious dishes. First, two kinds of pasta, then chicken, then beef. Lasagna and salads followed. We ate for two hours, and my younger brother and I stuffed ourselves until we could barely breathe.

My dad sat next to us, laughing and telling us about the first time he ever went to my mom's house when they were first dating. My grandpa Albino also had several dishes ready, but my dad filled himself up on the first pasta, unaware that there was more to come. Today, he only took a little of each course--he had remembered and he was prepared for the marathon lunch banquet.

My mom sat in the middle of the table, rapidly conversing with her family in Italian and sometimes turning to us to say something in English. She's trilingual but says Italian is the hardest. Without knowing for sure, it's impossible to tell which is her first language.

After all the plates were cleared, my great-aunt came out bearing dessert, and I somehow managed to sneak away from the table before tiramisu was forced upon me. I walked into the backyard and sat beneath a shady fig tree. The afternoon had edged into evening and it was finally a bit cooler, but I was uncomfortably full and told myself I wouldn't be able to eat again for days.

I laid myself down in the grass to take a nap, but there was a low-hanging branch and a dewy purple fig sat right before my face, so I picked it and ate it and then fell asleep.

--

This post was originally published on February 26, 2011. I wrote it in college, but I've been thinking about it a lot this week (there are figs everywhere right now! At the grocery store, on Instagram, in my kitchen, on my plate). I had to do some digging to find this post (I thought I had accidentally deleted it), so I thought I'd re-publish it for any of you who haven't been around since 2011--can you believe I've been writing on this blog for that long? If you have a favorite vacation/travel memory, I'd love to hear it.

Allowing for the Luxury of Time, Part Two

Last night I found myself feeling uninspired so I did what I always do and flipped my copy of Old Friend from Far Away open to a random page and read what was there. This quote was staring me in the face and I was writing it down before I even had a chance to realize that I have already quoted it once right here.

Don’t be hard on yourself...Allow the luxury of time, dreaming out the window, a little noodle walk through a dime store, then like a female lion after her prey, go directly into the animal art of pen across paper...

I know more but I don’t push it because there are things I don’t know that I want to come to me. I’m calling up understanding beyond myself. If I get too determined, too linear, I’ll miss the tugs of intuition at the periphery of my perceptions, the things I don’t want to say, the things I have never said...
— Natalie Goldberg, "Old Friend from Far Away"

Maybe it's time for me to find some new books.

Either way, I feel this way every year and can't seem to escape it--September is here and there are pumpkin beers on draft everywhere but it's still too hot. Students are back in school and I am another year away from it all with dishes in the sink and essays I wish I had written months ago.

So I wait.

--

Currently I'm reading a collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto and I'm simultaneously charmed and discouraged by their passion for food and politics and friendship and life and everything in between. Sometimes I wonder, did Julia ever have days or even weeks where she just didn't write a thing? Where she went to bed early and felt uninspired and grateful for takeout or leftovers?

I like to think that she sometimes woke up with a stuffy nose and a headache and decided to take a nap in the afternoon instead of folding laundry or working on her next project, which is exactly what I did yesterday.

"I'm enjoying it immensely, as I've finally found a real and satisfying profession which will keep me busy well into the year 2,000. But I wish I had started in when I was 14 yrs. old,." she wrote about the cooking classes she started teaching with two other women in France.

I feel that about my own life sometimes. But other times it is clouded by self-doubt and worry.

I think we'd all be a little more successful (and happy) if we could only get out of our own way.

Allowing for the Luxury of Time

Overwhelm. Having it all. Working hard, working from home, making dinner, cleaning up, all things entrepreneurial. Podcasts, blog posts, articles about meditation. The strange, thin line that lies between self-employment and unemployment. It's all I think about lately. I told Rob the other day that between blogging and freelance work, I'm making more money than I have in the past, but I feel unsatisfied in some way. Obviously money is not everything, but it is something. Either way, I love what I do but sometimes it feels like something's been missing.

Last week I drove through the city on a weekday morning and felt nothing but jealousy as I saw women in pencil skirts walking down the sidewalk together, with bags on their arms and Starbucks cups in their hands. And yet, when that was me, I dreamed of working for myself--of a big white desk in my apartment and a life where I got eight hours of sleep and cooked and made it to they gym every day no matter what. The grass is greener on the other side, some say; and others tell you that no, the grass is greener where you water it. I have found that both of them are true, but it's impossible to water your own grass when you can't stop staring at the neighbor's.

Here's a thing I've never said before: Sometimes being a lifestyle blogger feels really stupid. You write about everything and in doing that, you're almost always alienating one reader from the others. This person likes you because they want recipes. This person wants you to write. This person wants more style posts! And this person understands why you do sponsored posts, but wishes you wouldn't. And I'm over here, somehow trying to do all of it, but not always doing a very good job at any of it.

But Freckled Italian was born out of a desire to write.

And I'm trying to find a way back to that.

I walked along the beach last weekend by myself--barefoot, listening to the waves, waving at black labs and golden retrievers busy chasing frisbees, smiling at young dads up early to set up umbrellas for their new families--and I thought, this is what they're talking about when they say everyone needs time to recharge, reset, reconnect. To stand in shallow water, watching the tide come in. To ignore your phone, leave your laptop at home, and laugh until your sides ache with friends. To have a couple glasses of wine and face your fear of the ocean--to dive under the breaking waves and feel more accomplishment about that simple feat than you have in months. To simply slow down.

Allow the luxury of time, dreaming out the window, a little noodle walk through a dime store...

I know more but I don’t push it because there are things I don’t know that I want to come to me. I’m calling up understanding beyond myself. If I get too determined, to linear, I’ll miss the tugs of intuition at the periphery of my perceptions, the things I don’t want to say, the things I have never said, these things that enrich the writing.
— Natalie Goldberg, "Old Friend from Far Away"

I've written about this exact same thing multiple times, but most recently here. I feel like I finally might be getting somewhere. But, like most things in life, it just takes time. And, I guess, a trip to the beach.

On Structure, and Sharing It

"I could tell you what water is made of: two parts hydrogen, one of oxygen. I could describe what it feels like to dive into a lake on a hot summer day or the briny feel of sand and salt at the beach, but the task here is to find your own pool of liquid and give it shape...

You have to find your own dynamic structure, one that fits your story and what you personally have to share.

...You can't tell every minute of your life--or put in every darling experience. You can't eat everything on the table. You choose a portion, some fruit...and put it on your plate. You choose a time, a subject, a place, you give a shape to what is unruly. You lend it a form. The form is not a trick. It develops out of what you want to say and how you want to say it.

--Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

I came back from Salt Lake City feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things I want to do and how far I feel I still have to go. I often find myself wanting to share every part of my life while simultaneously treasuring the long, slow brunch I shared with my husband in a dark tavern on a lazy Sunday afternoon; or the hot cup of coffee I drank while I sat down to talk to a new friend for the first time in my favorite coffee shop. The hour-long walks I sometimes take by myself or the quiet cups of tea I often drink in the afternoon sunlight of my living room. They don't make it to my Instagram feed and yet they are valuable moments in my life.

Last year I felt like I was almost "there" in some way (but what does that even mean, really?), and this year, though I've come so far in so many ways, it feels as though there has never been a longer road ahead of me. Do our standards get higher as we go on? There is so much that I want to create, write, or share and I haven't even begun yet. And then there are the things that I might never let you read, that will stay typed out on old pieces of paper stapled together through old writing workshops, or scribbled quickly and furiously onto the pages of a leather-bound notebook in the drawer of my bedside table.

2015 is quickly becoming for me the year of less is more, or rather, do less with more. More effort, more intention, more love. More creativity and more practice. More thought. More laughter and more adventure. And, somehow, more structure. I will stretch myself but not too thinly. And I will be truer to myself in the process.

Dreams and Notes and Letting Go

Sometimes I send myself emails before I fall asleep. Or I'll ask my night owl husband to text me. Things I want to remember or think about or write about the next day. "Rob," I'll mumble sleepily, "text me and say 'ear piercing, sleeping on opposite side for back scratches, and new bed.'" It's probably obvious that the next day I sometimes struggle to put the pieces together, but I figure it's worth a try.

This morning I woke up to a relatively vague, but perfectly clear thought that's been on my mind all week. You can't force anything.

Because it's true. Whatever it is, you can't force it. You can do your best and you can wish and dream and pray, but friendships and book deals and epiphanies don't always just fall out of the sky. And sometimes, as much as you might want or need something to be immediate, things can take time. Even letting go can be a process.

Simple as that. And, simultaneously, totally complicated.

This post is in response to the following prompt: "Tell me about a time something dawned on you, a realization, words came together or simply you saw a lightning bolt on a mountain." (From Old Friend from Far Away, page 66.) If you write a response of your own, please share a link below in the comments! For a list of some previous prompt, you can check out this post (or just search the Old Friend from Far Away category below).