Friday, January 4, 2008
The Slow Food dinner in the countryside of Puglia began with 17 appetizers, including freshly-fried little croquettes of I-know-not-what, sauteed zucchini slices, marinated peppers of various hues, olives, radishes and one bowl containing pale green slices of what looked like cucumber but tasted as if a melon had been frolicking in its gene pool.
J got that I-have-to-grow-this look in his eyes, while I gave silent thanks that there were no visible seeds for him to scrape into a napkin. Our host wrote the name "Carosello barese" on a small piece of paper and J tucked it into his wallet. Two days later, when we arrived in Bari, I knew that museums, churches -- even lunch --were on hold until we found a seed store.
Our taxi driver had a small English/Italian dictionary that did not consider the word "seeds" a necessary term for tourists to translate. We pointed to the word "plants" and acted out seed-sowing and vegetable picking, managing only to mystify the poor driver. We then pantomimed "just drive around through the shopping district."
Who knew Bari had so many Bennetton stores?
Finally the driver found a policeman who spoke Engish and sent us off to a garden shop near an industrial area. Fearful we'd have trouble finding another taxi, we took the driver inside with us--and when J showed a salesclerk the carefully saved paper, the cab driver went into full operatic mode with much arm-waving and forehead slapping and sentences that began "AAAAHHH: Carosello!" and continued with -- I think -- statements that if we'd just told him we wanted carosello seeds in the first place he'd have known exactly where to take us.
So now J grows not only 'carosello mezzo lungo barese', but also 'carosello bianco leccese' and 'carosello tondo di fasano cianciuffo'. And every bite reminds me of a banquet in Puglia and a crazy cab ride and a driver who probably still talks about the weird Americans who spent their only day in Bari looking for vegetable seeds.
Thanks to the glories of the internet, you can find the seeds without traipsing to Puglia.