I was told the most wonderful story.
Thank you, A, for this.
He knows that I have written about the Poste Italiane – the post office. And when he told me this story It was in the spirit of my story of the Poste Italiane – which terrified me.
That one day that I was sitting in the line – which lasted forever, at the post office. And the women who were thirty years my senior always leaned over and talked to me – not only at the post office, I might add – but on the numero 10 tram.
This one day – when I was wearing pants with a red stripe down the side and this lovely woman was wondering if I was one of the carabinieri – the municipal police – who also had red stripes on their pants – and their cars. And then she called me “carabiniera”.
But I digress.
In the real story, there is a chef, un cuoco.
He has a restaurant way south of here, in the region of Puglia.
He is a clever man, I am told. When business is slow he will tell people that his bookings are totally sold out. This, of course, stimulates customers to think they have to call and call to try to get a booking – and soon he is totally booked in reality.
Like I said, he is clever.
But, as it turns out, clever does not even accurately describe his level of resourcefulness.
It seems, si sembra, that he loves the older women who wait in line at the Poste Italiane.
He spends quite a bit of time there, I am told.
He sits. He stands. He waits.
When he sees just the right type of nonna that he is waiting for he will smile at her. Make eye contact. Perhaps a comment about how long the wait is – or how disorganized the Poste Italiane seems to be.
Or how crowded.
He will casually ask: “allora – what are you cooking today”? And she will answer – a braciola o una pizza o polenta o sudo o qualcosa meravigliosa – something wonderful. He will show interest: “well, how do you prepare it in your family”? and he will nod his head to listen better. Pulls out a pen. Make notes on his hand – or on a small piece of paper he will pull out of his pocket. And smile some more.
And on to the next one.
Then he will head out – and get ingredients. In his test kitchen he will make the meal.
And it will go on his menu.
This is how he finds his signature dishes.