A dinner invitation – by Frank

One of the things I love about the Italians and even more so the Sicilians, is their irrepressible love of food and all things related. I was invited out to a meal, hosted by one of the horse-owners’ partners and we were 12 around the table. I was told it was to be a very simple affair with anti-pasti and tomato bruschetta. I was to be picked up at 8 from the Maneggio and thought I’d go down to the main entrance, to save them driving up through the property and opening and closing the substantially padlocked metal gates. At 8.20 I began to worry that I’d been forgotten but then someone showed up and whisked me off into town. At 9.20 the last of the guests arrived and everyone tucked in to the spread of olives, salami, Parma ham, artichoke hearts etc. which was followed by trays of tomato and garlic bruschetta and then a bottomless bowl of the freshest, most succulent Mozzarella. The partner, a Neapolitan by birth, had ordered a special delivery the day before and had gone to pick it up from the port himself, telling us in detail how the crossing had been delayed by bad weather and, of course, the provenance of the Buffalo cheese, a speciality of his home town and region. I’d never tasted anything like it! During the meal, as so often happens, conversations centred around food. It seems the more memorable or special the meal is, the more mouth-watering the reminiscences and descriptions are. I can’t help feeling that conversations about other peoples’ recipes and preparations might be deemed offensive to the hostess back in the UK, but here the waxing lyrical about an Aunt’s or Gran’s superior methods/results, is par for the course. The prosecco and wine flowed freely and the meal ended with the ritual dusting of the Pan D’Oro in the bag, a treat for the 10 year-old son. I’m having to up my daily exercises and physical work, collecting and sawing wood, to keep hold of my waist-line!

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