Thursday, December 13, 2007

Piero and His Women

My husband is genetically programmed to go to the grocery store every single day. I, on the other hand, was raised in the US, where we stock up once a week, if that. After Piero retired three years ago, mornings would find him wandering into my office, where I would be hunched over the computer, dregs of cappuccino on the desk, still wearing my pajamas. I'm a freelance writer; I don't need to get dressed at the crack of dawn.

Piero, as a well brought up Italian man, won't even eat breakfast in his pajamas. By 9 am he is natty in cords, cashmere and, if he's going out on his rounds, some kind of casually sophisticated, English-style jacket, the kind of clothes an American mother would have told you not to wear around the house in case you spilled something on them. He will have washed and combed his silver hair, shaved, and put on a drop of aftershave. I, you will recall, am still in the flannel pj's at this point.

"What do you want for lunch?" he will say.

"Lunch?" I will answer, still sipping my stone cold coffee.

In the beginning, I would be perplexed by the concept of lunch before I had even digested my breakfast cereal. That passed when I regained my senses and realized how lucky I am: I have a husband who, like a salmon driven to swim upstream in spawning season, feels the daily need to go to the grocery store. Who am I to hold him back, when lunch has become so fresh and delicious now that he's around in the middle of the day?

Piero's daily itinerary includes visits to his favorite women. In San Terenziano, he stops by the Crai, where Settimia will regale him with stories about her grandson while she cuts prosciutto by hand. At Bertani, the ferramenta, Fabiana will help find the right nails as she recalls her recent honeymoon trip to Las Vegas. The girls at the edicola provide the daily papers, saving one of the few Herald Tribunes for me.

On to Collesecco and the Margherita, where there is Mariella, with the long, coal black hair and friendly smile. Her wood-fired bread and fresh ricotta will be for lunch today. Petra, the daughter who does the check out, was recently the bride in a dynastic marriage to the son of the local butcher, the woman who provides us with the most succulent rabbit and lamb. Now, virtually all the food in Collesecco is provided by these joined families.

Next is the post office, where blonde Quinta, in stiletto boots and fur collared sweater, takes care of the mail. Then, there may be a stop to see Laura to recharge the phone -- her family owns the roadside complex that includes phone store, appliance store and gas station.

All along the way, Piero is cooed over and cosseted, then sent home with the best of this and an extra slice of that. By the time he arrives, I am showered and dressed, ready to join the list of the adoring females with whom he spends his days.
copyright Sharri Whiting 2007

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