‘Have you had sufficient?!’ I looked up at my Granddad not quite understanding what he had asked. As a child he’d spell out new words as he passed me a dictionary to look up the definition myself.
S-U-F-F-I-C-I-E-N-T (enough for a particular purpose/to have eaten enough).
Returning home from travelling, I knew I wanted to explore Italy again; learn about their food & culture, but how… I didn’t know. Though I needn’t have worried; fate stepped in 3 weeks later when I was invited to work for an Italian family as their live-in English teacher.
I was on a plane & I was going ALONE! I mean, I had never met this family. Mum hadn’t even spoken to them!
Overcome with excitement I danced off the plane, comforted by the humid air wrapping its warmth around me, but just before I reached the arrivals lounge I hesitated. What if I didn’t like them?! What if they didn’t like me?!
‘BRYONY’ revealed a sign written in beautiful swirly calligraphy, with delicate patterns around it. Creative. Personalised. The two children clutching it, holding hope in their eyes, stood beside their friendly yet businesslike Father. ‘Buongiorno!’ (Hello) ‘Piacere!’ (Pleased to meet you). At this point I literally knew the basic basics of their language & resorted to repeating everything they said back to them!
Making our way to the car I was greeted with a kiss on each cheek by an admirable woman who then turned on her gorgeous red heals to unlock the gigantic boot for my tiny hand luggage size case. Yes – I had learnt how to travel light after Dam!
Latina is just 20 minutes drive South of Rome, close to the coast, full of protected landscape & where, as I was soon to learn, hardly anyone speaks fluent/native English.
Scenic routes through mountains led us in through the centre of the bustling city. Racing past cafes brimming & bubbling with life & laughter, weaving through parked cars, parking cars & cars that clearly did not know what their drivers wanted from them, we finally arrived at the electric gate. With the click of a button the gate opened & we drove down in between the apartment blocks. I stared out of the window in awe of how lovely the apartments looked, illuminated in the evening darkness.
My room was a princess paradise, pink, pink & more pink! With a veranda wrapped around the entire room – as if it had always been expecting me.
I was shown every room, every cupboard & every draw, given the rules of ‘our home is now your home, treat it like a home’ (Something that was to change later on). But for now I saw a library full of food books & catering magazines that were sure to keep me entertained.
To kick off my new way life the Father had made reservations at their friends’ restaurant, Osteria de Fefe, so we went straight there. Al fresco dining – Yay!
After explaining ‘I eat EVERYTHING’ they ordered a bottle of Vino Rosso (Red Wine) along with a whopping platter of food for us all to share. Mozzarella in Carrozza (deep fried Mozzarella), Suppli (deep fried Rice with Peas & Tomato), Salami & Speck (cooked Ham) & for mains we each had Spaghetti Carbonara. Mmmmm mmmm!
The family were pleasant; loving towards each other, welcoming to their new addition, testing me on my Italian – or lack of! They looked happy & I was pleased to be around people who loved food as much as me.
Maybe I was hungry before, but I had definitely NOT had sufficient!
Now I was in a local restaurant, absorbing it all; every rolled R, each chink of a wine glass, the twirling of Spaghetti forks & waving of expressive hand gestures. This was Italy & I wasn’t finished.
As the Italians say ‘L’appetito vien mangiando’ – The appetite comes while you are eating…
…. AND IT DID!