Because I am an incurable hoarder, I have in my possession—stashed in a supot along with bus/train/plane tickets, museum stubs, flyers, postcards, coasters, receipts, and maps—a few menus, printed on cream stationery, from what I’ve come to think of as The Month of Culinary Bliss, which, in the calendar of my dazed and confused life, lies somewhere in the last quarter of the year 2007 in a villa in Northern Italy, where I was shipped off (naturally, quite willingly and ecstatically) to work on a book I had in mind. And so I know that on 31 Ottobre 2007, I had this for lunch:

Ravioli di porri e patate
Insalata di Choiggia, lattuga e pepperoni
Frutta
Vino: Nosiola

And then on 5 Novembre 2007:

Zuppa alla Parigina
Suprema di pollo con fonduta di lenticchie
Patate Macario Piselli alla Clamart
Insalata
Eclaire al caffe
Vino: Merlot del Trentino

And then, apparently, on 9 Novembre 2007, I didn’t feel like leaving my room and requested that lunch be delivered instead. On the picnic menu request form, I ticked off the following items:

Sandwich No. 1/Panino N 1
Bread choice/Tipo di pane: Toasted white bread (Pane da toast)
Ingredients/Contenuto: Ham (Prosciutto), Goat cheese (Caprino), Sliced tomato (Fette di pomodoro)

Sandwich No. 2/Panino N 2
Bread Choice/Tipo di pane: Toasted white bread (Pane da toast)
Ingredients/Contenuto: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato (Pancetta, Lattuga, Pomodoro), Sliced egg (Uovo sodo a fette)

Salad Ingredients/Ingredienti per Insalata: Lettuce (Lattuga), Carrots (Carote), Chick peas (Ceci), Ricotta, Walnuts (Noci), Achovies (Acciughe)

Fresh fruit/Frutta frensca: Orange (Arancia)
Yogurt (plain/naturale)

Beverage: Mineral water/Acqua minerale, Naturale

Insalata and Seneca Review

The villa had other perks, of course: there was a studio with my name on it which came with a desk, a printer, a reading chair, and an insanely-beautiful-almost-unacceptable view of a lake and mountains; there were paintings and tapestries and pieces of furniture to peruse (whose worth, I think, necessitated the no-photos-in-the-villa contract I was made to sign); there was a garden the size of a town with flowers and foliage I had no names for; there were mallards that I mistook for decoys swimming about in the lake; and last but not least, there was the potential George Clooney sighting (he had a house in the area) which never failed to lift my spirits as I looked out the window dramatically when the writing wasn’t at all going well.

A studio with my name on it

A Room with a View

George Clooney, is that you?

But mostly the place was special because there was free food (plus a wide selection of free alcohol too each night, pre- and post-dinner, also a source of joy, but I digress), and not only was the food good, nay, fine (so fine that villa residents were required to dress up for it every evening), but it was also prepared by others (i.e., not me). All I needed to do to eat was show up at the table. I am a lover of home-cooked meals and cooking shows and cookbooks and I am a huge fan of grocery shopping, but unfortunately, these quadruple loves have not translated into a love of cooking. I lived on cheap food bought from carts through most of my life as an undergrad, survived three years of grad school eating mostly pizza and greasy Chinese takeout, and today, many years later, an unfortunate sign of my enduring immaturity comes in the form of a weekly supply of ulam from my mom, stashed in the freezer and heated up when the need arises. And still I sulk when it’s time to wash the dishes, what a brat.

Well-fed worker

And so my idea of the good life is fine food at home minus the labor. But of course, with my UP salary and my lazybones attitude, hindi naman mangyayari yun. I’ve actually improved in the last year or so—I now roast vegetables, haha—but fun with self-made fine dining remains a faraway dream. And now that I’m caught up in the frenzy of checking papers, the most I can do for fun is think about The Month of Culinary Bliss while I nurse my cup of instant noodles.