Long Hiatus. No explanation, maybe later. For now, let’s just start here.
I am supposed to be at work at 5 PM, but after a few weeks of timely arrivals it occurred to me that I could shave an entire hour of mind-numbing boredom off my day if I just showed up at 6, which is what Ibrahm, the dishwasher/frycook, had told me to do in the first few days. I head straight for the cloak room and drop off my stuff, change my shoes, ciao Pepe who is wathcing soccer, and go to the kitchen. As I clean up the stove and pull hard dry strands of spaghetti from the surface I can start to formulate what the family had for lunch. Some bits of parsley on the floor, a pot of smelly cloudy water in the side sink – probably calamari, dirty fry pan in the dishsink with splashes of tomato still visible, a couple of shrimp anteanne lying around – hmm, maybe a frutti de mare. Bread crumbs on the bread board, salt all over the workstation, the usual. After I wipe up all the surfaces and give them their vinegar bath, I go find the broom and sweep up and put the kitchen in order for the evening. I draw the line at washing dishes. Then it is off to the pizzeria, next room over, I fill the oil container, a used water bottle with a small hole punctured in the cap, check the salt, oregano and grated and shredded cheese levels and fill as appropriate, then go chop a Kilo of mozzarella. Oh, that would be fresh, locally made, dripping with milk, mozzarella. Even though it is probably the cheapest stuff available it is still light years ahead of what we get.
Once that is done I dodge outside to find someting, anything to do so I can soak up a little of the soft evening air. I sweep the paving stones, there are three levels to the patio, cathcing a dozen cigarette butts everyday, from the owners and friends of the establishment. I don’t know why they throw them on the ground, but it is apparently completely acceptable. Last week I washed the table tops and seats of all the plastic chairs, but the next day it rained and they were filthy again. Today, Ibram is out there with an old broom handle with a kitchen knife taped to the end and he is scraping the sand grout of every paving stone to free them of a winter’s accumulation. I am ecstatic, I get to pull the weeds that are growing between the pavers, a job I love, really. When I get too ambitious and start on another area of the patio, he signals me, “No, doppo”, after. We need something to do tomorrow.
At first Ibrahm loved having someone to practice his English with, but after about a week he was asking me when I was going back to Alaska. There wasn’t enough work for one person to do, and here I was doing more than half of it, plus I had an annoying habit of tackling some area of the kitchen everyday and cleaning it within an inch of it’s life. I know that my family reading this will think I am simply making this up to enrich a story, but it is true, I do have an anal side, which included using toothpics to dig out the flour in the phillips head screws of the mixer. Ibrahm had apparently settled into a lackadaisical cleaning routine, which didn’t include any cleaning. The situation got turned around when he asked who was paying me, the school or the Boss. Once he realized I was working for free- he seemed more comfortable with the arrangement and we are friends again – and the kitchen is cleaner.
The kitchen has two devotions to Padre Pio, one full color 8×10 of the Virgin Mary (another one in the bar area) and a small statue of St Francis on the dry goods shelf. The pizziola is far more dedicated to St Frances as his statue is two feet tall, draped with several strands of rosaries, and has two votive candles at his feet. As I banged the mouse turds out of the plastic bowls before dumping them into the sink for a cold water wash, I thought that it was only through the intervention of the Divine that people weren’t getting food poisoning everyday.
By 8 PM there is no way to avoid going into the kitchen – and standing around. That is the part I absolutely hate. I also had to invest in both a kitchen mat (26 euros) and a new pair of clogs (56 euros) so that standing didn’t put me in a stretcher. After three weeks, there are no areas for deep cleaning that have not been cleaned so standing is really the only option. Sometimes I walk around a little just for variety. Occasionally, if it is just Pepe, Ibrahm, and me I join them to watch whatever is on the giant screen plasma TV. Since I have neither radio or TV in my apt, it is entertaining to watch anything that comes on.
Once the pizziola arrives for the evening he may want some more mozzarella chopped, or tomatoes cut, or if i am really lucky some vegetables sliced for pizza toppings. Otherwise, i watch him watch the fire in the oven. He is not inclined to show me how to stretch the dough, cause I asked, but i do get to cut it into chunks and round it up occasionally, and I always get to scrape out and wash the dough trays. 🙂
Aroudn 9 Pm out first customer shows up, if any customers show up, that is, we have days at a time when no one does. Sometimes it is just one table for the whole night, but you can always count on family to show up to be fed. At least that provides some chat, a few bruschetta being cut and maybe a a special request for something for their pizzas. By 10 PM, I start making the cleaning rounds again, wipe it all down, sweep it up and pray that someone will tell me it is time to go home.
Yesterday was a real bonanza though, and that happens every few days. When I got there the Communists were parked out front and having a grand time with the loudspeakers, flyers and banners protesting nuclear power, Elena was sittingo ut front hawking bottled water or Fanta and we got to chat a bit. Elena doesn’t have much English. She manged to translate beautiful face last week, and says it everytime she sees me. Oh, by the way, she calls me Marri, as does everyone else. It took a while before I responded to it because I didn’t recognize it was me they were calling. Anyway, after chat and a double cheek kiss, I went inside and there was an deeply tanned, leathery fellow with a coulple of Safways plastic bags of fish and he was haggling with Maurizio over the price, something about gas, and time and cigarettes. They struck a deal and the next thing I know I am cleaning fish, several varieties and Ibrahm and I are busy for half an hour. Ibrahm found a crab, the whole thing, in the belly of one of the smaller fish – wierd, but cool. We mad ea nice presentation of them, they went out to a table for display for customers, but none showed up. Maurizio cooked off a bunch of them and they had a nice family dinner for Mother’s Day. Those fish could not have been fresher if you ate them on the boat. Typical of the way restaurants here deal with the menu. Catch it, cook it, eat it.