When I got to work, Alessandro let me make the contorno (vegetable side dish) for the evening meal. First I had to peel and dice another huge red pumpkin, which was the size of a basketball. The flesh or meat of the pumpkin is very hard, like an acorn squash, and the knife I was using wasn’t very sharp. I honed it on a steel hanging from a hook above one of the sinks and started dicing.
It took me most of the morning to dice the entire pumpkin into 1/8 inch cubes. The finished product filled an entire bucket! Then I put the first potato on its side and took a thin slice off the top, hollowed it out and placed it cut side down on a cookie sheet. I prepared 30 potatoes total and then steamed them in the oven. While the potatoes were steaming, I sautéed the leeks and pumpkin in olive oil until they were tender and then stuffed the potatoes with them, sprinkled on Parmigiano cheese and voila! I placed the extra diced pumpkin in a rectangular stainless steel container and placed it in the reach in refrigerator for later use.
In a restaurant kitchen you can only wear your wedding ring, no other jewelry (what if it fell in the food?), no artificial nails (what if they fell in the food?) and you certainly can’t smoke (what if it fell in the food?). However, in our kitchen some of the cooks did smoke. Usually they went into the pastry area where the windows are open to the cool, sea breezes to offset the heat because the ovens are always on.
The owners of the hotel are two elderly sisters who have strictly forbidden smoking in the kitchen. One of them looks alot like George Costanza’s mother on “Sienfeld” except that she has brown hair and the other is taller, a little thinner and died blonde. They occasionally come into the kitchen to point out something that they want prepared for them for lunch.
The one that looks like George’s mom came in just as Alessandro had lit a cigarette. He quickly put it in the side pocket of his checkered chef pants and began rapidly patting the pocket, trying desperately to put it out all the while with a sheepish grin on his face, a “Buon Giorno” for the owner and smoke billowing out of his pants!
In the afternoon, we made ravioli again. We make a different type nearly every day and about 4-5 people help as we do 600 pieces each time. Today it was red pumpkin ravioli.
By the time we were finished making the ravioli, it was time for me to change and walk down the hill to Amalfi for the bus.
When I got off the bus in Positano, I headed down the narrow alleyway for the internet café. I really looked forward to checking emails each afternoon and learning what everyone at home was doing. Gretchen was preparing for another trip to Rwanda to teach business classes to women survivors of the genocide there and to provide seed money so they could begin their own social ventures to improve their communities. Brian was on his way to London for a speaking engagement and a screening of the documentary film and Eric’s U. S. Navy frigate was deployed in the Caribbean where they were doing drug interdiction work in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard. I reflected on the fact that men were previously defined by their career accomplishments and women were defined by their families. Based on the fact that Craig was inspiring young minds at the U. S. Naval Academy and our three children were really making a difference in the world, I could conclude that we were both very successful. But I knew that times were changing. More women had their own careers or were choosing to follow their passions once their children left home. I felt really lucky to be able to pursue my passion for cooking this summer.
On my way back up the hill from the beach to the apartment, I passed one of the shops selling hand-painted ceramics. (Ugh! I’m really getting a work out on these steep steps! I figured out that each day I walk approximately 5 miles and traverse up and down – but it seems like mostly up – 545 steps!) Most of the ceramic shops in Positano sell bowls, platters, pitchers, olive oil bottles, spoon rests and house numbers decorated with yellow lemons, purple grapes or gray-green olives. But this one had beautiful blue and green bowls and platters decorated with drawings of fish in the window. I loved unusual serving pieces and had collected a number of platters and bowls from other countries during our travels. Maybe I’ll purchase one of the fish bowls before the summer ended to add to my collection.
I was tired by the time I finally reached the apartment and was not happy to see the living room a mess again. Ben, Brandi and David were all at their respective restaurants and would not be home until after 11PM. I gathered up Ben’s papers, book, t-shirts, dishes, two glasses, clock and a sheet and dumped them all on his bed. I thought that maybe he would finally get the message, but when I awoke the next morning I discovered that Ben had managed to dig his alarm clock out of the pile of stuff on his bed and had placed it on the floor next to the sofa where he was soundly sleeping when I left the apartment the next morning. Tomorrow I vowed to talk with him.
I can just imagine you sauteing an entire diced pumpkin…you must have looked like the rat from ratatouille with a giant pan in front of you and a wooden spoon you had to rest on your shoulder!