Courtney and I managed to escape Paris without much difficulty. The train operators continued to strike but the Metro system is so efficient in Paris that it barely affected our travels so that we still arrived at the airport with enough time to hang out before her flight left at 1ish. Saying ‘goodbye’ (or see you soon according to Courtney) always proves a difficulty for the two of us. Neither wants to leave the other’s company, especially after having the incredible pleasure of living with her for a week. When we were actually saying goodbye my heart felt a bit teased. Our week together had felt like home to me because at home Court and I spend a lot of time together. It was hard to have that comfort back for a week only to have it ripped away once more by the devil of distance. But that is the abroad life into which we both knew we would be entering. After a bit of a teary parting we both flew home.
My trip was a bit grueling because flying into or out of Milan could conceivably be one of the most annoying experiences in the world. From the airport I have to take an hour long shuttle bus to the main train station and then take a 2 hour commuter train to Parma. So, if all goes smoothly a trip from home to the airport will take a solid 4 hours. By all accounts the trip was easy and I boarded a 6:15 train to Parma, which would arrive in Parma around 8.
I had nothing to do that night except for our weekly cooking lessons with Anna which begin at 7. I knew that I would be at least late, if not missing the dinner altogether. I called Abby to have her tell about my tardiness. In response Anna said that her husband, Aldo, would pick me up from the train station. These Italian families treat us as they would their children. They didn’t want me to miss the festa just as much as I wanted to be there. That feels exactly like family. So even though my body was exhausted from an extremely long day of travel and I was not entirely hungry I went to go pig out.
Aldo informed me in the car ride that the dinner of the night was pumpkin risotto. I had never had it before, but I had an inkling that it would be amazing because pumpkins in Italy are a completely different animal than the monstrous ones grown in America. American pumpkins have not been bred for eating. Instead they have been bred for size, which has left the sweet squashiness of a pumpkin to disappear in the American variety. In fact, most pumpkin eaten in America has no pumpkin in it at all. Generally pumpkin dishes, including pie, use sweet potato, yam or butternut squash in lieu of the flavorless American variety. And as such, I was excited to finally eat real pumpkin, which turned out to be even more delicious than I could have imagined.
Even though I missed the process of cooking pumpkin risotto there was a bowl waiting for me upon arrival. It was amazing. The risotto was tender without being squashy and the pumpkin flavor had turned the entire risotto a beautiful orange color. Italian pumpkin did not disappoint. It tasted strongly of winter squash such as a supremely tasty acorn squash mixed with some of the sweetness of a butternut squash. Even without being hungry I finished my bowl and some extra within five minutes.
Next in the pumpkin extravaganza was a pumpkin tort probably made with some ricotta cheese because it was savory instead if sweet. The pumpkin almost had the consistency of cold custard on top of cold pizza crust which sounds off-putting but in fact is quite satisfying on the tongue. Again, superbly delicious. For our after dinner course (that sounds oxymoronical but it’s how Italians eat big meals) we munched on salad with homemade vinegar and fresh ricotta cheese with sugar and cinnamon. Wonderful. I hope no body minds too much when I come home fat.
After dinner Katy and Abby were meeting up with Lacey and the boys for a drink or two with Matt and Brian’s tandem partner (an Italian assigned to us with whom we have to go do something every week). It was nice to see the guys and hang out more with the girls because I hadn’t seen them for a week and I wouldn’t be seeing them that weekend because they (except for Abby and Lacey) were off to Vienna. At the same time, Dad and Chris were in Florence and I was traveling there Thursday (the next day) to hang out with them for two nights until we came back to Parma on Saturday morning. In other words I would be in Parma for fewer than 24 hours before departing once more in voyage. Did I mind? A little bit. But in reality I chose to experience all of this travel and seeing my parents counts as one of those travels. Parma would be there for me when I return. I definitely miss hanging out with everyone but family time trumps all.