Trail of Crumbs

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I would like to take a moment to talk about durian.

I have to. I have spent the larger part of the morning working on a post about the Khmer Rouge, and I very much need a mental break, and talking about stinky fruit will allow for that to happen.

So. Durian.

The stuff is notorious, and you’ve probably heard of it. Miraculously, I somehow failed to take a photo of the inside of the fruit (I think I was hypnotized by the smell) but here is its exterior:

 

I like to think of the spikes as being Mother Nature’s subtle way of saying, “Get back. Seriously.”

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Itty-bitty fried pizzas magically appeared at our table.

 

It is very, very hard to find a good, reasonably priced meal in Amalfi. Most places we went to were subpar. They could afford to be – they’d have a steady stream of tourists coming in regardless of the quality of the food. There were a few more restaurants that were staggeringly well-reviewed, but also absurdly ridiculous.

But what if you don’t want fancy? Or expensive? What if you just want good food at a reasonable price? And hey – cozy and candlelit with a charming waiter looks like a well-fed version of Ralph Macchio circa Karate Kid II wouldn’t be bad, either?

Then you should probably go to Taverna Buonvicino.

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Good thing I don’t drink, or we would have had to sell my car to afford it.

 

We should have learned from our experience back in Frigento that Google Maps could not be trusted in Southern Italy, but it was around the time we reached Positano that the lesson hit home. We’d spent the better part of the afternoon looking for a restaurant that Rand had read about, and found that it was nowhere near where the map had said. In fact, it didn’t even seem to be in Positano.

So we struggled to find another restaurant that came well-reviewed, but it had yet to open for the season. Another was open, but when we came in, we were told that they weren’t actually serving food until the following day (this baffled me, and I was at the point of hunger where I wanted to sit them all down and explain to them how Capitalism worked, but Rand wisely led me away).

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This was the interior dining room at the Hotel Santa Caterina. We ate breakfast here only once, when a light rain was falling.

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Italian lunchtimes proved difficult for us. Jet lag meant we weren’t hungry until 3 pm or so, and by then, everything was closed. So we spent most afternoons wandering around in a fog of hanger, snapping at each other until we found a gelateria to hold us off until dinner. It wasn’t our finest travel moment.

By the time we left Villa Rufolo, we found that it was once again too late for lunch. The first few restaurants we stopped by were closed until 5pm.

 

Miraculously, though, Trattoria Cumpa Cosimo was open. I can’t remember how we found it – if Rand had managed to get enough cell phone reception up in Ravello to look it up, or if it was just dumb luck. But when we tried the door, it yielded, and when I nervously asked a waitress if the kitchen was still open, she looked at me like I had inquired if they had walls.

“Of course,” she said.

So please, mark this one in your notes, folks: there is a place in Ravello where a starving pair of jet lagged tourists can eat lunch at 3 pm. And it’s quite good, actually.

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I suppose I should have warned Rand.

Rand, sitting with my great-aunt. He had absolutely no idea what was in store for him

 

Honestly, though, I thought he knew. That is why I didn’t lean over and whisper, “Pace yourself. There are four more courses to go.”

I mean, why else are they called primi and secondi? They are referring to courses. What they don’t really mention in Italian restaurants is that those are just the beginning.

There are also antipasti and contorni and insalate and dolci. There is wave after wave of food, eaten by ridiculously skinny people (don’t ask me how this works, because I haven’t cracked that part of the code. I can only assume that incorporating vigorous hand gestures into conversation burns crazy amounts of calories. So if I look like I’m trying to direct a plane the next time I’m engrossed in a polite chat, that’s why.)

In Italy, the midday meal (pranzo) is a sort of sprawling feast, lasting hours. It is the reason many of the shops in Italy are closed between noon and 3 pm. Because food is more important than Capitalism.

Come to think of it, that might as well be my family’s mantra.

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The first time I saw this thing outside my dad’s house, I sort of snickered.

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I remember staring at it, thinking, “Good heavens, that’s just awful. Whatever it is.”

And then I pretty much ignored it, except to cast a sideways glance in its direction every time I passed. Now I realize, like nearly everything in my dad’s home, it has a purpose. A very important one.

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Things never seem to turn out how I imagine they will.

I don’t know if it’s because my expectations are too lofty, or if they aren’t lofty enough. But on some trips, things don’t quite fall into place. Nothing is how I envisioned it to be.

Later, I scroll through my photos and find that several which I thought were crystal clear are blurry and out of focus. There is some weird poetry in that, isn’t there? That not even my pictures are how I pictured them?

The Friday before last in Portland was one of those days. Things were not as I had anticipated. And that turned out to be a wonderful thing. (more…)