Really, it’s inevitable – sooner or later the lines get crossed.
And when you’re around a family as big as ours, it’s always sooner. This week eight of my family members have decided to spend the week at a house in the Tuscan town of Camaiore and, despite all our big personalities, it’s gone surprisingly well. That was until today.
My brother-in-law and I, who have spent some time in this area, wanted to spend as much time as possible down the hill in the rather local beachside town of Forte Dei Marmi. I spent many a summer day here with my friends when I lived here because it’s the nearest beaches to Florence and very family oriented with generations of families belonging to beach clubs and sharing houses among relatives.
So, as we’ve done most of the week, we headed on a day trip to the beach and had an amazing time. With my nephews, I built sand castles and sorted through seashells; with my brother, I had a lunch of fish and local white wine; and finally, with my mother and sister, I spent the late afternoon window shopping.
All was hunky dory, until, while winding our way back up the hill, we realized we had locked ourselves out of the house. Fingers got pointed every which way, a few of the little ones melted down, and operatic-level drama ensued. We split into two camps with the men literally running for the hills to drink away frustration in a thumbnail-sized town while, with the kids and the girls, we did what anyone would do in the situation: went to get gelato.
What happened then was total turn of luck with all of us discovering that this valley we had spent days in was so much more than we had originally realized. Having taken the same route up and down to the beach, we had missed the 13th century bell tower, the pocket sized town square, and the mile-long walk street dotted with restaurants. Residents from the surrounding towns were strolling arm-in-arm making it a scene out made familiar from pretty much any old-school Italian film.
What had begun as a quasi disaster turned out to be one of our best nights here – with us realizing we needed to carpe diem to the best of our abilities. Once tempers were tampered and we made it back in the house, everyone was desperate for a real meal, and taking our afternoon to heart, we made the most with what we had.
Scraping together what was in the fridge, I pulled out a bottle of white wine, some tomatoes, watermelon, arugula, farro, and feta and tossed together this salad. It’s a reminder that my cooking changes with wherever I find myself, in this case, the beautiful humility of a small Italian town. The result is an equally simple salad that’s by no means classic Italian, but very much the heart of what the cuisine is all about – fresh ingredients, easy preparation, and little fuss.
So, even if our day could be written up as a disaster, at least it ended on a delicious note.