"This was the day I just sat around and peed," announced Kåre as he elevated himself from the sitting position to make a visit to the little boy's room.
Diana, if you're wondering what we did the day after you left, well...there it is.
Morten designated Thursday as "sleep in as long as you feel like" day, a concept that I highly welcomed after having to wake up before 10 AM on every previous day of the vacation. I usually make up my severe lack of sleep on the weekend, making sure not to roll out of bed before noon unless my bladder is about to combust (and even then I'm hesitant to walk just a few feet to the bathroom), but we had to wake up early on Saturday to go to Milan and again on Sunday to...do stuff in Milan.
I can function on inadequate amounts of sleep, but not to my fullest potential. This is assuming that my fullest potential doesn't include shutting my eyelids every time my body is in the sitting position. I'm in the sitting position a lot—on the bus, in restaurants, at the dinner table, on the toilet, right now—and such a position tends to send my brain the message, "You must shut off your brain."
So on Thursday I shut it off. Kinda. Morten went into the city center to play Magic: The Gathering, leaving Kåre and I to sit at home and twiddle our thumbs while prostrated on the couches.
"I'm hungry. You wanna go to the bakery?" asked Kåre. This was around 3 PM.
"SURE!" As though I'd have any other answer.
We walked about 15 minutes to Pasticceria Levante where we were met with a not so full pastry case. Because it was past 3 PM. Yeah...oops. Kare chomped on a flaky palmier while savoring an espresso. In the meantime I stared at the case with the kind of intensity usually reserved for when a world leader has to decide what country to blast with nuclear weapons. "Who will it be—chocolate blob or cream-filled tart thing?"
I went with the chocolate blob. 90 cents got me an egg-sized smooth chocolate truffle-esque mass filled with bits of chopped nuts and covered in chocolate sprinkles. Ooh. Not particularly mind-blowing, but pleasantly...chocolatey. Not too sweet. Not too chocolatey. Just hovering somewhere in the middle like a helium-filled balloon that ominously skitters just a few feet above the ground. (I encountered one of these balloons once while eating at a restaurant. It floated around as though it had a mind of its own and longed to converse with the customers, but it couldn't because it didn't have vocal cords.) If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was a helluva lot like the chocolate ball thingy I once got from Lung Moon Bakery in Chinatown, so if you want to recreate my experience to a certain degree (just replacing the Italian women with Chinese women and Bologna with Chinatown plus a few other subtle differences) you can go there.
After getting back home from our bakery trek, we sat around. Possibly watched some TV, which kind of sucked in Italy because all the American shows are dubbed. And then we decided it was nap time.
Two or three hours later we woke up to Morten's text message. Under the false (but reasonable) assumption that we had been hanging out in the city center and not just lying comatose on the couches for a few hours, he asked to meet us in the city center in 10 minutes.
We rushed out of the apartment, hopped on the next bus, got off the second stop on the main road and sidled up to Morten, who was sitting at the base of a statue somewhere on Ugo Bassi. He took us to the food market Mercato Delle Erbe where most of the stalls were already closed because most people don't usually do their grocery shopping after 7PM. Most people don't usually take late afternoon naps either.
"What do you guys want to eat?" asked Morten.
Kåre and I kind of just stared blankly, not really giving a crap about what we ate as long as it was good. The way our meal preparation process works is that Morten does nearly all of the cooking, I chip in every once in a while to screw something up, and Kåre happily stands by and waits for the food to be done. After everything is devoured I wash the dishes, Kåre dries them off, and Morten goes off somewhere and does something. It's a good system.
When it was decided that we didn't really need anything from the market (with Morten wondering where he could find new friends with helpful opinions), we went to PAM to get pizza-making ingredients. Tomatoes, four kinds of cheeses, ham, mortadella, artichoke hearts, basil, etc. We had it all! (Actually we didn't, but I'll get to that later.)
We lugged our groceries to Dr. Dixie's apartment where free jazz concerts put on by very old men are held every Friday night. That is, unless no one answers the buzzer, which is what happened in our case.
Without anything else to do in the city center (not with two huge bags of groceries at least), we went back to our apartment. About three feet over the threshold of the doorway Morten posed an important question that would determine the fate of our dinner.
"Did we buy flour and yeast?"
I froze. Apparently it was my job to procure the base ingredients of the pizza and I failed 1000%. I silently decided that this wasn't all my fault because I obviously had the lowest IQ of all three of us and someone else should've noticed the lack of flour or yeast in our midst before we got home.
We solved the problem of our lack of pizza-making ingredients by going out for dinner at a nearby pizzeria, Ristorante Napoleone. I had pizza on the brain, but Morten pointed out that we had pizza the night before and would have pizza the next night, so perhaps I shouldn't get pizza unless I wanted to eat it three nights in a row. He made a good point, even if I I was perfectly happy to eat it three nights in a row (and beyond).
I fought the burning desire to eat pizza and settled on tortelloni di ricotta gratinati agli asparagi, which I think translates into something like ricotta-filled tortelloni with asparagus something or other. You get the picture. Literally, it's right there...[points]. Once again, the combination of light creamy cheese in a wheaty pouch dressed in another creamy cheesy substance wins many tasty points.
Kåre went specifically for the tortelloni (or overall dish) with the longest name: tortelloni di ricotta con formaggio di fossa e miele di castagno, or ricotta-filled tortelloni with fossa cheese and chestnut honey. OH, HOW THE BELLY RUMBLES WITH GLEE! I tried a piece thinking it might carry the sweet kiss of honey, but it tasted unkissed. The tortelloni, it has been scorned. I guess the honey imparted some sort of earthy flavor, just not in an aggressively sweet manner. Which makes sense. Even though my heart was kind of expecting sweet cheesy goodness.
Morten's seafood risotto, bursting with funky creatures from the sea, went down alright....
...And came back up in a less alright manner.
It was a bit later than what I'd call the middle of the night when I heard frantic footsteps outside my bedroom. And then the click of the bathroom door. And then the expulsion of stomach contents. And the splash of those contents hitting the toilet bowl's watery belly. And then the flush of the toilet.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the first time Morten got sick from seafood. Poor guy. Tread carefully among the mussels, my little weegie!
So, back to the meal.
When faced with panna cotta, I'm unable to order anything else. I cannot resist her jiggly, creamy, vanilla tinged powers that swaddle my brain and render me incapable of thinking about anything else. What I liked about Napoleone's panna cotta was that it wasn't an individual lump but a slab cut from the side of a gigantic mother slab of panna cotta. In my mind the slab was a majestic, wobbly cream-colored tower, but in reality was probably just a flat normal-sized sheet of panna cotta-ness.
This was rather good. They usually are.
More for Morten's sake than for mine, I'll mention that we shared a bottle of Forchir Pinot Grigio. My notes read as such: "started off sweet, then went BLECH, dry." Ah, such verbal beauty. Not really.
After filling our bellies with normal, somewhat health-giving foods, we spent the night eating less health-giving foods.
"Let's go bar hopping, you guys!"
Oh, none of us said that. But someone out of the billions of people in the world might say that. And proceed to drunkify. Which we didn't do. Here's what we did do.
First stop was Mi Vida, a comfy restaurant/bar just a short walk from our apartment. It had this homey, "country" feel to it that I'm not sure how to explain. Yeah. I think this is why I take photos...
Although Morten knows that my taste buds roll up and die (and maybe scream a little) when touched by the burning embers of alcoholic substances, he suggested that I try something. Since I had no preference I let him choose whatever his heart desired. And that desire was...
A spritzer. I couldn't really object not ever having tried a spritzer before, or wine with club soda. Assuming that the dilution of wine would make it less offensive (I can usually ingest a few sips of wine before the shaking and hallucinations set in), I looked forward to my first sip.
...Yeah, that didn't work. I'm sure to Morten's or Kåre's tastebuds the spritzer tasted fine, but to me it was just bitterness magnified by the tingly carbonation, which was worse than drinking wine. There was also another flavor in there that I don't quite recall, a flavor of the "roll up and die" category.
As much as I would like to be able to drink a glass of something alcoholic and actually enjoy it, I don't think I'm going to get to that point anytime soon. Not until everything stops tasting like a distillation of Satan.
I fared much better with my tartufo, a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered in pool of chocolate sauce. The tastebuds do not object to chocolate. Or ice cream. Or a combination of the two.
Tartufo was my favorite dessert at my family's favorite local Italian restaurant growing up, usually appearing in the form of a ball of chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered in a thick chocolate shell and cut into quarters, revealing a heart of candied cherry. I wouldn't say it tastes all that good—the last time I ate it I was kind of disappointed for not tasting much like anything aside from "frozen"—but it still has that childhood significance for me. Oh, how I grasp at those carefree memories. The joy. The happiness. The lack of stress. If only I had known what doom was in my future; I could've ended it all much earlier.
I told Morten and Kåre to make funny faces for me. So they did. And they weren't even drunk!
After leaving Mi Vida we walked about 5 seconds down the street to Malt & Hops, a very crowded British-style pub. I say that not ever having been in a British pub. Loads of signs/flair in English decorated the wall, 50% of which seemed to be related to Guinness. ...Which I guess would make it an Irish pub. Or something. I think there were also some pieces of flair of American origin on the walls. It seems like anything with English on it was given the green light by the interior decorator. "JUST MAKE PEOPLE THINK THEY'RE NOT IN ITALY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD."
Considering my experience with the spritzer, I decided that any more alcohol would be wasted on me. Morten and Kåre went with their usual beers while I ordered a bottle of water. Mm, liquid that tastes like nothing...delicious!
We also shared an order of nachos. I mean, "nachos". No way in hell anyone with any sense would describe Dorito-esque chips and what tasted like spicy ketchup (yes, SPICY KETCHUP) as "nachos". But we ate them anyway because crunchy sodium tastes good. The excitement we felt when the basket was empty was best expressed by Kåre, who exclaimed, "It's gone!" after the last nacho was plucked from its hovel. I know this because I wrote it down. And I wrote it down because I'm weird.
But my weirdness slinks into the shadows upon looking at this page of doodlin's borne from the hands of Morten and Kåre (aside from the top left corner). Most of the words and such are Morten's doing—dude with no pants, farting sheep-like creature, pig with face-of-a-man. ALL MORTEN. Oh yes. Kåre contribution was writing the "WHATEVAHHH!!?" and drawing a chomp on the right side of the page.
I really do have awesome friends.
Via Emilia Levante, 113
40139 Bologna, Italy