Fried Squid

What a wonderful week of sunshine we have had here in Tuscany. It is raining today because it is the Easter weekend, so naturally people wanted and needed rain. However, for those of us lucky enough to have been free during the week and able to get out and enjoy it, the March sunshine has been a real treat and I have a burnt nose and neck.

Yesterday my dear hubby decided to take me to the seaside. The child in me just loves that word – seaside. I could say the coast, or the sea, or Castiglione della Pescaia but get more satisfaction from saying that we went to the seaside, with all its connotation of buckets and spades and rock pools.

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Castiglione della Pescaia is a lovely place and I was happily anticipating standing at the water’s edge and wriggling my toes in the sand. I had forgotten for a moment that I now live in Italy where one does not take off any clothing until the sun is truly hot. Guido looked at me strangely when I suggested walking on the beach and, glancing at his watch informed me that it was almost lunch time. I gave up (the breeze was a bit too fresh to tempt me onto the beach, if I am honest) and joined him a a trendy cafĂ© table for an aperitivo in a sheltered spot with our faces turned to soak up the sun. Bliss. Then we were off to find a suitable restaurant, by which I mean one that served the best seafood available. Guido soon found one he liked and we settled in to peruse the menu.

Guido’s face was alight with joy. There were fresh sardines, pasta with clams, all sorts of fresh grilled fish and his absolute favourite, La Frittura Mista. This consists of squid, fish and prawns fried in a very light batter. I was happy for him. My problem is that I really do not care for fish. Terrible to admit I know but I hate the smell of uncooked fish and cooked stuff is not much better. When we go sailing and my sons fish I always hope that the fish will not bite and when they, inevitably, do, I sit on deck with a tuna salad (nothing quite like a good can of tuna!) while they excitedly scrape away scales, rinse small fish in clean seawater and fry them swiftly, then devour the creatures in ecstasy. Once the men have eaten, the remains (not much since Guido enjoys munching the heads and bones too) are tossed into the sea where other fish quickly move in to clean the skeletons and, with a lurch of the stomach, I remember what else they rush to eat after we have used the heads in the morning. Enough said. Fish and I do not have an affinity at all!

So, in the restaurant I study the menu for something that I might enjoy. Guido makes helpful suggestions. The scampi or prawns look good, he says. In Italy, of course, these come served in their shells with little beady eyes and whiskers so I shake my head and search for a meat section. There it is, at the bottom of the page. Three meat dishes for those unfortunate people, with no taste, like me. I decide to have the escalopes in wine and grilled red peppers. The waitress gives me a strange look and glances at Guido as if hoping he can make me change my mind. After all, we are at the sea and why would one want to eat meat here? He shakes his head regretfully and sits back sipping his wine in anticipation of his favourite treat.

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When it comes we are both happy with our choices. I position the wine bottle strategically so I cannot see the pile of little prawn heads on Guido’s side plate and ignore the blissful sucking noises he makes before adding each morsel to the pile. Afterwards, feeling very full, we make our way back along the seafront, past little boats tugging at their moorings, to the car park. I fed all the coins I had into the metre when we arrived and it gave us just short of 3 hours, barely long enough for a walk and lunch. There was a parking warden peering into the car next to us when we arrived so I was very glad we had not wasted time getting back. It turned out though that the car in question had not paid for the car park and this, very sweet, warden had been waiting for 45 minutes for someone to come back so that he would not have to give them a fine. We drove off leaving him still pondering on whether he should allow another 5 minutes. After all it was Easter and he did not want to write that ticket!

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Happy Easter

I was born on a Good Friday and so I have always felt a connection with this day at some deep level. As a child it saddened me to think that I was born on the same symbolic day that Jesus was killed, but over the years, as I accepted the inevitable cycles of life and death and came to understand myself and accept me, shadow side and all, I thought it was quite nice to have been born on a day when we all search deep inside for love and tolerance.

Easter eggs

Easter as a child was actually more about chocolate and visiting relatives than a religious event in my home. My lovely mum always made a special effort to hide chocolate eggs in our garden and write clues for us children to follow as we searched for them. She would say that the eggs were from the Easter Bunny but I never really believed in that rabbit, although my belief in Father Christmas was unwavering. Maybe it had something to do with recognising the handwriting on the clues as that of my mum?

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I carried this tradition on with my own son and tried to make the clues rhyme and also be hard enough to make him have to think about them. He loved poetry from and early age and was always quick to locate all his eggs, although he was not so quick to share them with his parents!

However you celebrate Easter, whether you are a devout Christian or someone for whom the days have no religious significance and are simply days of holiday fun, I hope you will have a wonderful weekend.