Martin, whoever he is,
loved my bottle of Wild Rose so much that it remained crystalline in my
kitchen window for me and the world to admire. Shelf life, quite. I worried
I would never see such a stain again. Not to worry. Twenty-five years
later Wild Rose would return to me disguised as a vegetable in northern
Italy. Chlorophyll inspired, indeed - by the grape. Could very well be
that venetian home-brew. We drank it like juice at the local midnight
hangout in the Canarregio. Tezzallo proudly exclaimed that no one ever
turned sick from his vine. Just pink, I surmise - or purple, if you happen
to be lettuce from Mestre.
Ethania tosses long purple petals into the glass bowl with a yawn. At 60 cents a pound, it's okay to relax. At $3.69 a pound, purple becomes golden plastic at tiny elegant "places" in Pacific Heights. In California, three delicate leaves lovingly placed on milky white china - polished with a nasturtium and a dollop of Wasabi; In Padua, in the glass bowl, Ethania throws in a little pepper, some lemon, and the olive oil. She yawns. I drool. The best part of purple lettuce is its bottom - which is not purple at all. Treviso lettuce, as it is called here in the bay area, sits in all its fuschia splendor on a scallop of creamy greeeen. You would only see this if you cut straight across its stem. Such a thing looks then like something to pray to. That has been said of many a fruit. No less could be said of a lettuce. Especially when it's purple.
Treviso lettuce is not from Treviso. It's from Mestre. The bay area, infamous for moving earth, got it wrong. Well that's what Bernardo said. Okay one is just north of the other but hey, these are the little details that turn tourists into travelers. Bernardo had the best looking purple lettuce in the entire Rialto market - one crate of long thin leaves next to another crate stuffed with just their heads next to a plastic vat of slivered artichokes resting in acidulated water. A big guy in a Pendleton lumberjack shirt perched all morning over the artichoke department extracting hearts. I picked over a box of cheese graters like the one Assunta used in Pantelleria. A rack of handbags bumped into me from above.
first I didn't see Bernardo. I heard him - a thunderous sweet commercial.
The guy in front of Macy's should be one hair as good. Bernardo's formidable
street tenor gushed superlatives in a sea of bells. St. Marks rang everywhere
- it's grace bounding off each of the cavernous arches that stood the
roof of the market. I looked down. I had arrived in front of the most
beautiful chorus of produce in the world. Blood oranges, lovingly wrapped,
were tucked away under rickety crates of oregano and apples. Bernardo
offered me his fruit, unwrapped, for nothing. Delectable. Irresistible
- but, I wanted it wrapped. I needed the orange that was wrapped in the
paper with the woman on it. Really, the best part of an Italien orange
is the gal it comes wrapped in. Yes, yumm, and free. I make no excuses
for my little piece of this heaven - one fine blood orange enveloped by
gal en papillote.
I drop the last purple petal into my bag. I am worried that it won't survive long enough for me to paint its portrait. Oh Ethania, to be weary of purple salads, blood oranges, and Italien tenors - never!
|< back to top|