Sunday, March 31, 2013

Henderson in Venice is Moving

To my subscribers, I'm moving this blog to my new website on Squarespace. I'm going to try to make the subscription feed go there automatically, but if that doesn't work, the blog is now here. I hope to do a better job of keeping up with the blog in the future. Ciao

Monday, February 6, 2012

Deep Freeze in Venice

You may have read about the extremely cold weather hitting Europe. It even snowed in Rome. Venice is no exception. Although we have had a fall and winter relatively free of high water and bad weather, it is now quite cold. If you came here during the summer when the weather is akin to Houston or Miami, you may not believe it. But here are a few pictures to prove it. I took all these the day before yesterday, except for the ones of the canal, which I took this morning.

Cooking Triglia (Red Mullet)

All Cleaned and ready to go. (I apologize for quality of the pictures, I took them with my iphone in dim light)
One of our favorite fishes normally consumed here is Triglia (pronounced "Trillia," also known as Red Mullet). Unlike the Bronzino (Sea Bass or Striped Bass) or the Orata (Bream or Gilthead), the Triglia has a firm and tasty flesh, similar to Cod. It would stand up in a stew, for example, when Bronzino or Orata would disintegrate.  

It's quite easy to cook a whole fish.

Make sure the fish man cleans and scales them. Wash them thoroughly before cooking.

Thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.
I mix the salt and pepper together because my
hands will get covered in fish gunk. I don't want
to be going back and forth between the shakers.
I stuff them with a bit of lemon zest, sliced garlic, fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil. You could put orange zest, onions, peppers, or whatever, and it all could go outside the fish in the foil, rather than inside, because you make a little semi-airtight packet for each fish. You could even put white wine in there.

Once they are stuffed, I wrap them in foil, or in oven paper. Foil works just as well, it won't burn, and Giada says that she prefers it. That's good enough for me. 

I wrap them up, pinch the edges to seal it, and put them in an oven at about 350F. The great part is, they will steam in their own juices (although you can add water or wine) and it's nearly impossible to over-cook them. These are small fish, so I bake them for about 20 minutes. That may be tool long in some people's book, but I like them to fall apart.

All stuffed and ready to go.
With it we served steamed  broccoli, but that's what we saw good at the market. You could serve about any vegetable. It would also be good with rice, but we didn't serve a starch.

Let it sit for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven, and be careful when you open the package, that steam is hot!

The fish all wrapped in their foil packets, ready for the oven.
We plated it up with the broccoli with grated parm, and that was dinner. I drank a dry white wine, and Karen (hold your hand over your mouth, or get to a sink) drank tea with milk.
Plated, with some parm grated over the broccoli.
The after picture

These are peppers I grew in the garden
(They have nothing to do with this recipe)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Motor Covers in Venice

Bed sheet boat cover

Yesterday I went for a walk to the Rialto area to visit a bookstore where they sell used books in English. They also take books in trade, giving you credit for so much per book. It's a nice system, and we have a fair amount on account, but the store is seriously over-priced. They took my books and I picked up another used book.

On the way to the store I noticed a boat covered in what looked like a bed sheet. That gave me the idea to take pictures of boat covers. Then I saw a cover of an outboard motor that convinced me to take pictures of them. There turned out to be many more interesting motor covers than boat covers, so I decided to dedicate a blog to them. 

Indian blanket motor cover
I find it amazing in general the poor condition of many of the small private boats in Venice. They cost money to buy, they cost money to maintain, and they cost money to park on a canal. Many of them are in deplorable condition caused purely by neglect (subject for another post). You would not expect a Venetian, a member of a culture built on the sea (literally and figuratively) and on seamanship, would allow his boat to go into disrepair. Even to the point of sinking at the pier. 

I asked my friend Guido why they covered the motors in things like T-shirts, that had no apparent function in protecting the it. He said that they are to keep people from stealing the cover of the motor. I admit that it might slow a thief down, but none of them look, I don't know, impenetrable. In any event, I didn't realize that the covers, rather than the motors themselves, were of any value, other than as a cover of the motor to which it is attached.
Raggedy motor cover
Tank top motor cover

T-shirt motor cover
Gramma's tablecloth motor cover

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Early Morning Shots in Venice

Yesterday I caught some sunrise shots at St. Mark's. This is a great time of year to get early morning shots in Venice because the sun comes up just before 8:00 across the basin from St. Mark's, just to the left of San Giorgio Maggiore. In the summer the sun comes up two hours earlier and behind the buildings that run along the Riva degli Schiavoni. Also at this time of year the sky is clearer because of lower humidity. But no matter what time of year you come, very early morning is the best time to be at St. Mark's, because there are no crowds. You nearly have the place to yourself. These pictures are just as they came out of the camera, I didn't make any adjustments or cropping.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Why is your wife better than you?"

I have been told at least three times in the past four days that my wife is better than I am. A waiter, the Pharmacist, and a friend come to mind immediately. There may be more, but you’d have to ask her. Sometimes the statement was couched as a declaration, and sometimes as a question, as in “why is your wife better than you?” (which assumes that it’s true and that I know it, in contrast to the statement, which means “you may not know it, but . . .”)

My answer is usually something like, “that’s what everyone says,” or “that’s because she’s smarter.” (me being funny). The statement that she is better than I is made in the specific context that she speaks Italian better than I do, not that she is better in general. For that reason, what they say is true.

We have been here for four years, and struggle still with Italian. I bought medicine for the dog today, which is done at a regular pharmacy. I asked for it in Italian. The head pharmacist corrected my pronunciation of the name of the medicine (although I could discern no material difference between what she said and what I had said). The assistant pharmacist told me the price in Italian, which I fully understood. The head pharmacist repeated the price in English. I told her (in English) that I knew the numbers in Italian. She said “yes, but you prefer to speak English.” Yes, I told her, because then I know what I’m saying. This is when she enlightened me as to my wife’s superiority in speaking Italian. She’s much more fluent, she said.

There is a profound but very simple reason she is better than I am at speaking Italian: she works at it. She studies books, conjugates verbs, writes stuff in a notebook, watches Italian TV. I don’t do any of that. When I see a newspaper headline, I think to myself “I wonder what that says.” I can pick out some of the words, but not the words that give material meaning to the headline. I might take a picture with my iPhone and try to translate it, but that is only if I’m feeling extraordinarily ambitious.

Another problem is, as the episode with the pharmacist illustrates, even if I speak to them in Italian, they answer me in English. I have more than once found myself in the absurd situation of being the only one speaking Italian. So, I don’t need it day-to-day. And to the extent that I do need it, I know it. For example, I can order a meal, red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, regular beer and dark beer. I can say “this,” “that,” “those,” and “these,” and I know the numbers and most of the weights. I know the names of many vegetables and some meat. I can tell someone to keep going straight, turn right or left, and stuff like that. What else is there?

Yes, as you say, I might want to carry on a nuanced philosophical discussion but, for the most part, I haven’t found anyone to do it with. (and those with whom I might like to carry on such a conversation would, necessarily, need to be highly educated and, therefore, more fluent in English than I’ll ever be in Italian). I can’t stand TV, even in the US, and I don’t read the papers, though I should, I suppose.

The other day the doorbell rang. I went down to see who it was, and there was a man with a clipboard who started to talk real fast in Italian. I don’t like guys with clipboards. They are always trying to get something, usually money, or they are some government weenie coming to bust my chops about something. As he jabbered, I thought I understood what he was saying, but I couldn’t believe it. I thought he said there was a new restaurant in town, and they are giving out free bottles of prosecco (white sparkling wine), would I like one? He stopped talking and looked at me expectantly. I thought he was taking orders on his little clipboard. Or maybe he really asked me how many TVs were in the house (they tax those things, believe it or not). I didn’t know what to do. Is it possible he wants to give me a free bottle of wine? Nah. I looked out the door behind the man, and there was a lad pushing a big cart stacked with cases of prosecco. The man held out a bottle for me to take. By God! I understood him at native speed! Of course, I took the wine in disbelief, thanked him, and went upstairs.

So, I am not as bad as everyone says. But for now, I am willing to admit that my wife is better than I am. Anyone who has talked to the two of us together knows that. When that changes, I’ll write the blog in Italian. Ciao.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One of the most interesting things about Venice is that it is a mixture of the old and new. That is, old buildings are used for new purposes. The Dogana point (the old customs house) and the Palazzo Grassi are used as contemporary art museums. The schools in Venice are located on fourteenth century Palazzi. Here are a couple of photos of a school, and through the window you can see a basketball hoop hanging in the gym.