It's rare--or impossible, I guess--for time to stand still. I am all for forward movement and embracing the new (that's my story anyway), but there is something undeniably special about places where time changes little. Where I live, almost nothing looks the same it did when I was a child. Sometimes as I'm driving past a strip mall or a bank, a vision of the field or farmhouse or forest that used to live there will consume me. Probably as people 25 years older than I felt when they would drive past my suburban childhood neighborhood. But what belongs and what doesn't is often seen through a rather selfish lens. At least for me.
Those twinges of sadness pale in comparison to the joy I feel when I pull up to Carfagna's.
Carfagna's has been there forever and nothing has changed. It smells the same, they have the same inventory, the aisles are still tight, the butchers still wear those coats, and the parking lot is always a disaster.
There are charming and engaging ladies at the cash register, and men to carry your bags to your car. The wine guy either likes you or he doesn't--he'll let you know. If he likes you, it is hard to get out in less than 45 minutes. He likes me and I like him. I look forward to seeing him and hearing about his newest buys. He perpetually tries to convince me I'll like this Chianti and sells me on the love story that goes into any good bottle of wine. I still don't like the Chianti that much, but feel a part of the vivid imagery now attached to the label. The meat counter is always busy and you will always have to wait. Do yourself a favor, don't come if you are in a rush. Sure, the line will move quickly. But you'll miss the butcher banter behind the counter, the perfectly sculpted shampoo-set in front of you, the happy labels on all the Italian imports, and the symphonic aroma of olive brine, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, starchy pasta water, and simmering marinara.
|A very light line|
It is, absolutely, my favorite store.
|Forgive me, environment. I still get the plastic bags here because I love them|
|'tis the season|
|Does bourgeois olive oil taste better? I'll let you know.|
|Aunt Patti's Favorite.|
|Hands down, my favorite balsamic.|
Occasionally, if I can be coaxed and inspired, I will make rolls or biscuits for Thanksgiving. I find them rather annoying, and their tendency to burn (rolls) or smoke up the oven (biscuits) is often more emotional turmoil than I'm willing to endure. So for the inevitable buuuut it's not Thanksgiving without rooooolls!, I always have bread and dipping oil to appease. I make this dipping oil often and I'm sure I never make it quite the same. It need not be exact. I always use a food processor, but I suppose you could hand chop all this too. If a food processor is not on the scene, I might roughly chop the ingredients in big pieces, let them infuse the oil, and then strain out. You don't need to be mincing rosemary for hours on end.
Sundried Tomato Dipping Oil
2ish cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-5 sundried tomatoes
6-10 manzanilla olives (with pimento is fine)
12 inches of rosemary sprig or sprigs (if a man is to cut, send him with a ruler, inches can be highly subjective)
3-5 oregano leaves
2-4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1ish Tablespoon kosher salt
1ish teaspoon sugar
1 large garlic clove or 2 small
Combine all ingredients in food processor. Let sit at least overnight or for several days in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator about five hours before you wish to serve. Taste to check for salt/sugar. You can always dilute it with additional olive oil.
|I needed to fill this platter, so I minced additional sundried tomatoes for more|
color. From June 2011.
|For the wedding last month|
The first time I went to Carfagna's was with my Aunt Patti. She bought me good olive oil and showed me the map of other shoppers' Italian roots. She asked one of the butchers all sorts of questions--pretending she didn't know the answers. He cheerfully answered, making eye contact with me. He was in on it. One of the memories for which I am most thankful. I feel like I'm walking right back into it every time I visit.
Do you know of a place where time stands still?