Reflections on art, fitness, family, politics and literature that hit me like bricks as I chauffeur my children from place to place...
A pink taxi
August 5, 2010
Bacci di San Remo
Every summer when I am in France, tuesday and saturday mornings , we are jolted awake very early and we dress in a frenzy. We then voyage in a caravan of cars and cross the border to San Remo in Italy for market day.
You may remember San Remo for its mention of it in The Talented Mr Ripely movie. I am not sure it was filmed in San Remo but it perfectly conveyed the atmosphere of a glorious San Remo in the 1950s, with its jazz festival and its American tourists. Today, perhaps the only tourists that visit San Remo are our family. San Remo is an Italian coastal city on the border of France, and its grand hotels and casino of the heyday are closed or seem sleepy.
We rendez vous at Cafe Sabrina, placing orders of cappuccinos, nutella croissants and panini di mozzarella pomodoro. Why are all tourists convinced that they can speak Italian? In my family, some claim to speak it better than others. Whether it was a year spent in Peruggia or a month in Florence (with a full year of Italian 101 and managing to read Calvino), we all add our meager vocabulary, some words of Spanish and French that we Italianize and we are talking business.
After breakfast and caffeine indulgence at Cafe Sabrina, we split into groups: those who need their annual haircuts (my two sons only go to Giusepe, from august to august, their hair is long), those who want to buy an Italian handbag or belt, those who check on the Hogan store again and again, those who go to the toy store to build their plastic figurines collection, those who pass at the elegant pastry store to buy "petits fours" (biscotti) and fig tarts.
The patriarch has a mission and for that he requires his shopping cart on wheels and a gourmet, preferably a male who will carry excess weight. But he also welcomes his daughters with their strollers because he can off load fruits, or cheese on them. He takes us to the "mercato" which is a covered gastronomical labyrinth of fruit, vegetable stalls and butchers, cheese stalls and all the fine foods Italian grocers sell: bottled tunas, handmade pastas to drop in boiling water for 3 mins, sun dried tomatoes, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, dried meats, pastas in all shapes....
My father goes directly to the cheese stall to buy the buffalo and the burrata mozzarella, the parmesan cheese in large chunks, then the farm eggs, the summer fruit, the Italian tomatoes (they come in all shapes too). Can you imagine an Italian meal without tomatoes? On some occasions, he will purchase some cepe (Italian mushrooms) that are as costly as caviar: in fancy restaurants, waiters tend to drizzle some gratings of it and charge an arm and a leg. Here we savour them by the mouthful, thanking the patriarch and matriarch for the feast.
I am happy to accompany one group or another. I can steal a macchiato here, a biscotti there, a cappuccino here and sometimes a gelato before lunch as we head back to our beloved France. Moreover, on the high way, at the toll, the kids have learned to answer the infamous recording: arrivederci! One day perhaps the third generation will also study Italian or find themselves, like us, pretending to speak Italia.
The pink taxi runs from 7 am to 7pm. It picks and drops off my 3 kids at school, ballet,judo, aikido, violin, climbing, riding, squash, basketball, skiing, skating, swim team, friends, grandparents and teachers. The car, not pink, but a black SUV, drives to Carrefour and Coop. To Club stretch for pilates and Aviation club for weekly workouts. It is driven by a woman who navigates on the radio, gets DJed by her 4 year old or sometimes quietly reflects. The thoughts are about politics, family, humor, literature, art or fitness. Sometimes they are excruciatingly longwinded, other times they are gossipy and hot.
I hope you will all enjoy!