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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Italian Travel Tales: One Gitane Lady from Pistoia

Is a photo of someone the same as their soul? If so, my fingers burned when, as I was rummaging through some old photos in my office, they touched this photo of what seems to be a nice quiet lady, a Gitane, from Pistoia, Italy.  

Gitanes, gypsy women, are part of my novel City of Ladies, and as I looked over the photo I sighed and remembered the lengths I went to in order to obtain her portrait. Alas, on that quiet cloudy day in Pistoia she was not the least bit interested in me taking her photo. In fact, she stood up and screamed and waved her hands when I tried.  My friends laughed and told me that she was part of the Roma, a gypsy clan, who believed that if she saw you take her photo she would levy a curse on you. 

Well, then, clearly I had no choice but to pursue this feat of impossibility. I could outwit her.  I had to. But I wanted to protect her too. I didn't want her to go to the trouble of putting a curse on me. Heavens no.

So, I reasoned with myself, what if she didn't know I was taking a photo? Wouldn't that be an okay situation for both her and me?

When I hid behind the mushrooms, she screamed.

A few minutes slid by while I meandered over by the curtain of formaggi, of cheese. Aha! She pointed at me. 

But now I had a perfect plan! I would stand behind her at the stand of beautiful apples. 

She turned, ranting and raving. 

A less stalwart (or stubborn?) individual would have given up. Perhaps she had already cursed me. So I stood among these pans, reasoning that the reflections would confuse her.  

It didn't matter where I went, she KNEW! It was rather eerie. 

I decided to give up, momentarily, to walk around the corner and go to lunch. Sustenance is de rigeur when you need to regroup and recoup. 

One lamprodotto sandwich and a few chestnuts later I came back full circle 
to the market square where I had left her.

She was still there plain as day. But this time I enlisted the help of my luncheon wine-swilling friend to take her photo. I stood over to the right, just out of view of the camera, but within full sight of her, so that when she did look at me I wouldn't appear to be a threat to her. 

And since she would be focused on me, she wouldn't see my friend with the camera. Would this be enough to keep us both free of her curse?

Fait accompli! 

I think. 

To the best of my knowledge my friend and I are both still free of any curse. 

I'm curious what you think, was this tactic okay to employ? 

Is a photo of someone the same as their soul? 

These necci crepes, made of chestnut flour, will however steal your soul, they are so delicious! 

In our Chapel Hill area you can find an excellent chestnut flour at Capri Flavors in Morrisville near the Raleigh Durham International Airport. 

Necci: Chestnut-Flour Crêpes

 1½ cups italian chestnut flour
 1 cup cold water
 pinch of salt
 1 t. olive oil
 all-fruit preserves or ricotta cheese

Sift the flour to remove any and all lumps. 
Place the flour in a bowl and make a small well in the center. 
Start adding water little by little, mixing with a wooden spoon. When the water is all used up, add salt and mix again. Be sure that there are no lumps in the batter. The consistency should be that of heavy cream. Adjust with more water or more flour as needed. 

Cover and let the batter sit for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. 

For the next step, making the crepes, you can use a conventional crepe pan or a seasoned cast-iron griddle heated over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, brush it with 1 tsp. of oil. Pour ½ cup of batter in the center of the griddle and roll it around to disperse it evenly and thinly. Allow the batter to cook for 30 to 40 seconds, or until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip, carefully, using an offset spatula and cook for 1 more minute or until the crepe is golden brown and slides easily off of the hot pan.

As they are made place the prepared necci on a platter, cover with fruit preserves and soft goat cheese, and roll them up. Repeat this procedure until the batter is used, you may need about a teaspoon of oil for every 3 necci.

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