She can look at you once and instantly know what lipstick shade will be great for you. It sounds petty, but then think about how much money you’ve spent on tubes that now sit barely used. Ak’s sister has probably been the #1 beneficiary of this skill, being as that she was Yani’s roommate for more time than anyone else (including one rodent-y summer in Alphabet City).
Anyway, while useful, that skill has nothing to do with smallmediumlarge. Yani can also, on little more than a wing and a prayer, finance trips around the world. No more than the lipstick trick, she’s really not sure how she does it, but she suspects it started with a long weekend in Paris that she paid for with babysitting money at 15-years-old. So what? Well, one of the reasons she loves to get away is because she loves experiencing herself in these different places, how she feels walking down the street (or sometimes, road) in a place where the language is just a blur of sounds and the light strikes differently and the air smells foreign). She holds her body differently than she does in America, considers her curves smaller or larger than in Brooklyn or Manhattan or Philly. And for the most part, it’s all positive. The side effect is that she also eats with abandon and lets go of any smidgen of guilt she feels for her unabashed love of food (in her office, few share her lust for a piece of chocolate or pasta and she’s acquired a bit of a reputation for how she usually starts planning lunch while she’s still nibbling on breakfast).
So on her last trip, one intended for going to a wedding but which really was about how many different ways she could eat feta—grilled, baked, in a salad, drizzled with honey, topped with tomatoes and onions, with bread, with her fingers, she sent this email around to friends and family. It was the final piece of evidence to convince her brother that she really is weird.
…I ate a piece of bread that was so good it made me cry.
G and I are in Lecce, which is in Puglia, the heel of the boot of Italy. We came to see our friend Marco but he’s in bed with the flu so today his dad, Tonino, took us to the beach, where the Adriatic and the Ionian seas meet. We walked around some villages and then we went to eat.
This bread was the essence of what bread should be. Years ago, when I first met G, we were hanging out in the East Village and our friend Aaron had some strawberries. All 8 of us who were there couldn’t stop
talking about how amazing the fruit was. When G walked in the room, I rushed over with a strawberry and said, “You have to try this!” He did. And he said: “This isn’t even red all the way through, the ones I’d eat
when I lived in Italy were so much better.” With my strawberry parade thoroughly rained upon, the Scorpio in me hissed, “Then why don’t you go back to Italy.” G claims I inserted a curse in there; I’d like to think
better of myself.
The point is, when I moved to Italy a year after the Strawberry Incident, I learned that a piece of fruit, a red pepper, a taste of olive oil could taste better, purer than ever seemed possible. But today, sitting at a table that looked out over the blue-green water, when I bit into that bread I felt a joy that I swear I’ve never experienced before. As it welled up inside of me, I realized there were tears in my eyes. Apparently this region only bakes bread in olive wood ovens, using only fire, no elcecticity. I have no idea why that makes a difference, but it does. The bread was moist but not soggy, springy but not angel food cakey, dense but not heavy, delicious but not show off-y.
The rest of the meal was as good as the bread. I ate enough for five people. And here is why I really love Italians. When we’d finished the food and the wine and the sorbet, Tonino announced that we were going to drive to a patch of grass where we could take a nap. God bless him. That’s where we’re headed now.