The morning began when I asked where the coffee was – in the fridge duh – and Maria started making tea. That is tea with rosemary, red berries and orange peel.
Maria looked at me, “Candle?”
Being English wasn’t working.
At eight in the morning with my coffee unmade I observed the commotion in silence. What does anyone want a candle for anyway? I figured it was the wrong word, and that the ideal word was lighter. We needed to light the gas to use the hob to heat the hot water for the coffee and this so called tea. Either way I couldn’t help.
It turned out, the candle was for the tea. A lighter was, as I presumed, also required, and found. The kettle boiled. Maria poured the hot water into the teapot and stood it above the tealight – to keep it warm. A jam jar lid went on top because the original lid is missing.
That was breakfast. We worked for a while, until lunch, which Maria forgot, half started and then abandoned with flamboyance. Moving faster than I’d ever seen her move before, Maria instructed me to tell Leonardo to stop working. We were late and… the children. Until this point there had been no prior mention of any children. Missing or otherwise.
I said, “Ok.”
Confused because my instructions had been given in Italian, I went to the workshop where Leonardo looked at me and had the same panic as Maria. He ran out of the house behind her. I’m not sure either of them were wearing shoes.
The children appeared sometime later trailing behind a joyful Maria and a singing Leonardo. We ate. Thankfully. Then Leonardo made them wooden toys out of the scraps of wood that remained from making the Christmas letters.
In a moment of chaos, mid-afternoon, when numerous neighbours appeared, the children disappeared again.
I discover, that due to Maria’s need to be productive, I’m cooking dinner. But I don’t know what dinner is, or when we’re having it. Nor do I know what I’m cooking. Lentils and carrots float around in a pot.
A debate, in Sicillian/Italian/French, followed about how one doesn’t need a fork for soup. With Leonardo shouting from the workshop that Maria had to ask me how to say spoon in Italian. All I could think of was the French, which I started shouting back. At least I now knew I was making soup.
To add to my difficulties, the stove required constant feeding with wood. But hey.
Furthermore, dinner required salt. It was my job to taste the food and add the correct amount of salt. I’m ungenerous with salt at the best of times. I save it for special occasions.
And the ‘sale’ jar was empty.
If it was just dinner, or just the salt, I might managed to remain restrained.
Just as we’re sitting down for dinner, there was a commotion about the ladle. I waved my hands in despair. Some shouting and laughter. Leonardo handed me the ladle and I repeated its name three times.
Everyone laughs because I’m saying the wrong thing again.
I lift my hands in a big Italian gesture.
Now I’ve raised my voice, it’s feeling more Yorkshire.
And I’m like, “What?”
Although tempted to swear, I don’t. This is just what it takes to adapt.
As we sit down for dinner, everyone seems more relaxed. I realise it’s me. And my English restraint is as hard on them as their Italian cresendo.
What’s the most challenging kitchen you’ve ever had to cook in?
[Read more about my adventures in Sicily.]