What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?
I would have no interest at all in my kitchen if there were no Bialetti “Moka Java” express. Along with that I need Lavazza Crema e Gusto and cream because I like hot, strong coffee in the morning.
That’s simple enough but not much of a story. It could be, but…
Milan near the Duomo. I am standing, waiting, at an espresso counter for my turn. A young Asian girl is in front of me. The barista is frustrated. He sees me standing there (“Oooooooo!”) and says, “Signora, per favore, dille che costa dieci mille lire.” Something like that. (Now you know how long ago.) I am a dark phantom on the streets of Milan, and this guy has seen me many times. I tap the girl on the shoulder and ask if she speaks English. She does. I say, “The coffee is 10,000 lire.” She bows several times thanking me and pays the barista. My turn arrives.
“Tanti touristi,” he says, then blushes, suddenly remembering I am one, too.
“Cosa lei piacerebbe?”
“Un espresso, anque acqua minerale, con gassa.”
“Fa caldo oggi, no?”
“Si, troppo. Grazie!” I open my wallet.
“Ma, no, no. É gratis. Buona giornatta!”
My last day in Milan that bizarre, infuriating, humiliating and heartbroken summer. I was sad to leave. I could have stayed much longer, wandering the streets, each day revealing to me more of the labyrinthine mystery of time.
“Could you tell her the coffee is 10,000 lire?” then “So many tourists.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“What would you like?”
“An espresso. And carbonated mineral water.”
“It’s hot, no?”
“No, no, no. It’s ‘on the house’. Have a nice day!”
Random song allusion: