Posts Tagged With: Venice

Looking for Toilets, My Travels Through Europe: Venice

VENICE

Doge’s Palace has a public toilet.

See Venice while you can for many parts of it are sinking into the sea. It’s kinda like California slipping into the ocean at the rate of a half inch a year. But there are differences as well.

California has earthquakes, fires, has water shortages, is a hot bed of information technology, has a huge agricultural sector, gives free water at restaurants (if you ask for it) and lets you use restrooms at all sorts of places such as restaurants, supermarkets, and just about any sort of business where the public comes in.

Venice has no shortage of water. It’s everywhere sometimes it floods the main square that tourists infest, which is exciting if you’re wearing designer shoes.

Venice was founded in the fifth century when Attila the Hun was rampaging through Italy, sacking cities, slaughtering the populace, destroying the Roman Empire, and otherwise being rather unpleasant. Anyway, the citizens of Aquileia, a thriving city, saw no future in being massacred and high tailed to the nearby swamp. They reckoned the Huns, a tribe that grew up in east-central Europe, wouldn’t want to slog through the swamp just to extinguish a bunch a people whom they had no real quarrel with. The Aquileians were right and before you knew it, they were sinking pillars in the marsh to provide support for the buildings they were going to put up.

These swamp people called their new city, Venice after Venn diagrams, they were astoundingly into the theory of logic, and ice, a rare commodity in a Mediterranean* seaport in the Dark Ages. Anyway, the Venetians minded their own business for centuries. In disgraceful contrast, the other nations and city states, generally went around for centuries impaling each other with lances and other weapons.

All of a sudden a Venetian woke up and decide to make galleys. These were ships powered by men using oars. Think of fishing in a tiny lake. You used a rowboat. Only the Venetians galley were huge multi-decked rowboats requiring hundreds of oarsmen. Just as you want to protect your fishing spot and perhaps wanted the lake to yourself, the Venetians wanted the Mediterranean to themselves and used their galleys to sink the other nations ships.

However, instead of catching fish, the Venetians transported spices from the Middle East to the rest of Europe. The Europe of the Middle Ages and Renaissance had really no refrigerators to speak of. Thus, their food other rotted and stank, more than lutefisk even. So, the Middle Age diners really appreciated a good spice to cover up the bad food. And so the Venetians thrived.

Until suddenly, the Ottoman Empire conquered the Near East and shut off access to the spices. Moreover, Western Europe developed large sailing vessels that could whoop the pants off the Venetian galleys in combat and could travel long distances across the open sea. Venice went into a centuries long decline. You would have thought they could have used that declining time to come up with anything, like reclining chairs and public restrooms, but no.

Venice lost its independence to Austria in 1806. However, the conquered city still had lots and lots of pasta and fish. This made going to restaurants lots of fun. About this time, Signor Scampi added chairs to his pizzeria. What a great idea. People loved being able to seat down for supper. More and more chefs provided chairs for their customers. The trend toward chairs in Venetian restaurants continues to this very day.

Venice was a republic of sorts, although if you didn’t like the current governor–doges they called them–you were denounced, tried, convicted, and imprisoned or executed in one day. Movers and shakers you bet. People were so afraid of appearing unhappy, that they sported smiles all day long. Hence, the expression, “As smiley as a Venetian.”

My family and I as we got off the water taxi that took us from the port to St. Mark’s square. We headed to our first event, a gondola ride. We took our time, enjoying the architecture. Inevitably with a family of four, some of us had to pee. Where were the public toilets? Where was Waldo? Where was Ameila Earhardt? Actually, we found Ms. Amelia, but the need for the toilets remained unabated. Indeed the pressure mounted. We did find a fancy hotel near the gondola ride. After making our donations, we went outside to find the place where we would show our vouchers. According to the maps, the gondola extravaganza was supposed to be only ten yards away.

As the crow flies. As the drunken crow flies. We crossed a bridge and went to the gondola kiosk. The sphinxes periodically manning the booth ignored us. We recrossed the bridge in search of a caring employee. Nothing. We crossed back to the booth. Nothing. We ended up going over that bridge six times before we found an employee who put a round orange sticker on our shirts. We were good to go.

We got in line. We had a good position even though the gondola guys had sold hundreds of tickets for our time slot. Actually this wasn’t true due to a cultural misunderstanding. In America, people generally stand behind the last person in line. In Venice and in the airport coming back, standing in line meant standing to the side of people in line, generally near the front. Soon a vast semi-circle sea of people stood around the gondolas pressing ever forward as if  trying to get into a Who concert.

Eventually we got on a gondola and began our bumper-to-bumper (prow-to-bow on a gondola?) tour of the back canals of Venice. Many power boats made deliveries on alcohol to the back entrances of various bars. Cool, actually.

After the ride, I had the clever idea of finding where our evening Vivaldi concert would be. Although the venue had St. Mark’s as part of its address, our consensus was to use GPS. GPS resolutely marched us to and around tiny alleys away from St. Marks. We came to an epiphany; GPS sucks in narrow alleys.

We did find a small pizzeria where authentic Chinese waitresses provided efficient and cheerful service. This restaurant might have had a restroom. We’ll never know. None of us felt brave enough to pass a shrieking toddler to look. Oh how, weak and naive we were.

But we were smart and experienced enough now to head back to St. Mark’s Square to find Saint Mark’s Cathedral. (By the way, twenty-four years earlier I had the good fortune to visit this square during the Carnival season. I saw many wonderful acts, many in Italian and some in English. I also did the Hokey Pokey with a bunch of Americans. My contribution was, “You put your left ear in. You put your left ear out…)

Anyway the biggest tourist attraction in Venice is St. Mark’s Cathedral, named after St. Mark. My family went there for a full mass on Saturday evening. Mass was in Italian, but the choir was from Britain and sang in English, which was cool. But no restroom. During mass, touring around the cathedral is forbidden. So is flash photography, at least in theory. Sitting is forbidden during the tourist hours. So, you can’t sit in a pew and look at spectacular mosaic in the ceiling. And there’s no public restroom inside.

After mass, we went outside to find our concert. My gosh, it was literally twenty yards away. There was a big sign saying, “Vivaldi Concert tonight.” Fuck you, GPS.

The concert was fantastic. We were in the second row, only fifteen feet away from the musicians. The concert hall had seats for only about forty people. The energy and the skill of the musicians, well oh my gosh they were great. And they played Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons, one of my favorites. (I had listened to Vivaldi’s Two Seasons a couple decades earlier from a slow-arriving herd of Parisian violinists. No comparison, these Venetian folks were the real McCoys.)

And the concert venue had a public toilet. Sure I had to clamber up a two-foot high step, but I had been toughened, and so it proved no obstacle at all.)

A great concert, two public toilet, and mass at one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, the day had been good.

Next day we stampeded the doge’s palace in St. Mark’s square. The doges had  lived there. It’s also where the nobility conducted the affairs of state. Venice was by the standards of its times, a rabid democracy. At first, nearly all the men could vote. Then sometime during the Middle Ages, the nobility in an admirable display of voter suppression struck all but a few thousand men from the voting rolls. The criminal justice system occurred in this building as well. With a strong Protestant work ethic, this Catholic government (the Reformation wouldn’t occur for centuries) heard, convicted, and sentenced people with assembly line efficiency.

Which they needed to do as they apparently had and still have, thank goodness, one public restroom. Would you want to spend hours uncovering quilt when you needed to pee. How did I know of this restroom? Twenty-four years earlier, I had toured the doge’s palace with a reasonably empty bladder. Only after leaving the palace did I look at my tour guide. It said, “Don’t forget to visit the public restroom at the palace. People restrooms are scarcer than hens’ teeth in St. Mark’s Square.” The tour book was right. A few hours later, I found myself wandering the Square saying, “A toilet! My American ExpressTM travellers checks for a toilet.” So this time I was able to comfortably whiz away while surrounded by centuries of history.

We then took our self-guided tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral. For love of God, Montressor, book your tickets in advance. Plate tectonics moves faster than lines at the Cathedral’s kiosks. The cathedral was as beautiful as it had been the previous day.

Our ticket to the doge palace gave our free entry to the city’s art museum. Let me tell you the energy spent railroading enemies of the state to their death did not diminish in the slightest the output of the land’s magnificent artists. Lots of busts of Napoleon, which was exciting for me as I am a direct descendant of his and it was nice to speculate how all this art and city could have been mine if only he had won the Battle of Waterloo.

Then tragedy struck. The men’s bathroom in the museum was, was . . . oh the humanity, was blocked of for cleaning. Well fuck. So we went outside to look for a public bathroom. We saw a sign for one. We did! We did!

We didn’t find it. We looked for hours. In desperation, we went into a restaurant. Number Two Son approached the proprietor*. The conversation remains burned in my brain.

“Do you have a restroom?” asked Number Two Son.

“Yes,” said the evil proprietor.

“May we use it?”

“No.”

“How about if we eat dinner here?”

“No.”

So we head back to the water-taxis with my bladder full as Boulder Dam after a rainy season. And there it was, Harry’s Bar! My gosh, the famous Harry’s Bar. Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Orson Welles, Aristotle Onassis, and other luminaries used to get drunk here and it was quite all right. And carpaccio was invented here. Contessa Amalia Nania Mocenigo was told that for her health she had to give up cooked meat. The clever bar owner sliced sirloin steak as thin as possible drizzled a sauce made of mayonnaise, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, and a soupçon of milk. A place fit for an exclamation point!

I went in to whizz. I asked to use the restroom. They answered politely and pointed the way. I expressed my gratitude after I came out. I said how excited I was to be at Harry’s Bar. They smiled and thanked me. We went back to our ship. A palace, an art museum, culinary history, and two public restrooms. Life was good.

* = Mediterranean is hard to spell. So is proprietor.

Paul De Lancey, Intrepid Explorer

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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Searching For Toilets: My Travels Through Europe

This book will be coming out on April 1st. Traveling around Europe is a lot like the cover. You can spend a lot of time looking for a public bathroom or even a restaurant with bathrooms for its customers. Yes, I’m looking at you Venice. But many Europeans cities are nearly as bad. And the restaurants and the cafes keeping wanting us to drink, yet they don’t let us pee there. And if you want water with your meal you have to pay for it. But be careful, where will you pee it out? Thank goodness for the U.S. of A. with toilets in every restaurant. USA! USA!

Paul De Lancey, Intrepid Traveler

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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Tacos de Rajas con Crema

Mexican Entree

TACOS DE RAJAS CON CREMA

INGREDIENTStacosderajas

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (2 tablespoons more later)
4 poblano or Anaheim chiles
1 garlic clove
1 medium onion
½ pound Oaxacan cheese or queso fresco
1½ cups crema Mexicana or sour cream
12 8″ corn tortillas

Makes 12 tacos. Takes 1 hour 10 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan. Heat oil
on high heat until a tiny bit of tortilla starts to (We once thought the Earth looked like this.)
dance. Add poblano chiles. Stir the chiles
occasionally until the chiles blister and blacken all over. (Be careful when frying or sautéing at high heat. When stirring, hold a lid between you and the hot oil when stirring or tilt the pan away from you.) Put poblanos in plastic bags and let steam for 20 minutes. Remove from bags and rub skin off chiles. Discard skins. Seed poblano chiles and cut them into ½” wide strips.

While chiles steam, mince garlic clove and onion. Shred cheese. Add 2 tablespoons oil to, garlic, and onion to pan. Sauté on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until onion and garlic soften. Stir frequently. Add poblano strips. Sauté for 2 minutes. Stir frequently. Add crema Mexicana. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes or until crema thickens. Stir frequently. Add cheese, Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes or until cheese melts completely. Stir frequently.

Warm tortillas in pan on high for a few seconds or wrap them in a wet towel and microwave for 1 minute. Warming the tortillas makes them pliable enough to roll. Ladle 1/12th of the poblano/cheese sauce, about 2 tablespoons, onto each warmed tortilla. Roll up tortillas and serve.

TIDBITS

1) Before 1492, many believed the Earth was flat like a tortilla. Others, folks who ate oatmeal all day long, did not care. Then lost spice merchants from India accidentally showed up in Venice carrying peppercorns and basil. It was now possible to make the appetizer, caprese. Life was worth living.

2) Unfortunately, the land route to spice-laden India was blocked by meanies. Columbus, in the world’s first version of The Shark Tank, convinced Queen Isabella to sponsor his historic voyage of discovery. He and his brother Mercator had told her the Earth was round like a cylinder. Later Benedictine monks asserted our planet was rounded like the egg. Finally Peary, explorer and diner, after reaching the North Pole in 1909, concluded our planet is really shaped like a stuffed tomato.

Chef Paulcookbookhunks

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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Kugelis, Potato Pudding Recipe

Lithuanian Entree

KUGELIS
(Potato Pudding Recipe)

INGREDIENTSkugelis-

5 pounds russet potatoes
12 ounces bacon
1 1/2 large white onions
1/4 cup butter
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup farina

SPECIAL UTENSILS

1 9″*13″ baking dish
or
2 8″*8″ baking dishes
or
127 1″*1″ baking dishes

Serves a lot of people. We’re talking about 7 pounds of rich food here.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes. Grate or shred potatoes. (This is some debate about the authenticity of shredding potatoes for Kugelis. After noting how long it took to merely peel the potatoes, I fired up the trusty food processor and shredded away. Yep, I’m a rebel. Born to be Wild.)

Dice bacon. Shred onions. Put bacon, onions, and butter in frying pan. Cook on medium-high heat until bacon is done to your desired level of crispness and the onions soften. Stir frequently. Hold the pan at an angle away from you while stirring. You really want bacon splatter to head away from you.

Put eggs in large mixing bowl and beat the heck out of them. Add potato, bacon/onion sauté, milk, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, and farina. Mix thoroughly with spoon.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove baking dish from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy the national dish of Lithuania.

TIDBITS

1) Pepper is used in this recipe. It is a happening spice. Pepper was first widely used in India over two millennia ago. India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations One of every seven people in the world is Indian. India has lots of trains, great food, nuclear weapons, and customer-service reps. Okay, the last one is bad.

2) Pepper traded westward to ancient Egypt. Black peppercorns were found stuffed up the nose of the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramses II. Snorting, perhaps? Egypt was the dominant power in that region for hundreds of years. It’s chariots raced all over the countryside. Perhaps they wouldn’t have had to race all over if they had bothered to ask for directions, but you know men.

3) Some think Rome conquered great swaths of North Africa, Europe, and the Near East because the Romans were really cranky from constantly sneezing snorted pepper. The Roman Empire lasted so long because its subject were so down with the taste explosion pepper brought that they really didn’t mind constant taxation and civil wars.

4) Then around the 5th century AD, barbarians invaded and destroyed the Roman Empire for no good culinary reason. Lutefisk crazed Vikings pillaged everywhere. People stashed their pepper. The Vikings killed the stashers. Knowledge of pepper disappeared. The Dark Ages descended.

5) Around 13th century or so the Venetians started trade routes with India. Indian pepper once again flowed westward to Europe. Venice became the richest and mightiest city in Europe. Then they started making blinds and their economy tanked.

6) Portugal started the Great Age of Exploration. It sent fleets around Africa and to the Americas and sooner than you can say heteroskedasticity pepper graced the tables of people around the world.

7) Life’s been pretty good since then. Even the occasional global war was made tolerable by proper amounts of peppers in soldiers’ meals.

– Chef Paul

4novels

My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World,  and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com

As an e-book on Nook

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

Categories: cuisine, food, history, humor, international, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italiano Pigs In A Blanket

Italian Entree

ITALIANO PIGS IN A BLANKET

INGREDIENTS

1 16 ounce package jumbo biscuit dough
2 slices provolone cheese (12 slices in 8 ounce bag)
4 teaspoons pasta sauce
8 links pork sausage

UTENSIL

cookie sheet

PREPARATION

This is a treat on Italian camping trips.

Defrost sausage links. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the dough into eight pieces. Elongate each dough piece with a rolling pin dusted with flour or simply roll a frozen sausage link along the dough if any are remaining.

Cut the two cheese slices into eight pieces. Put one piece onto each of the eight dough circles. Add a 1/2 teaspoon pasta sauce on each biscuit. Smooth the sauce with a spoon. Put a sausage link near one end of a dough piece and wrap the dough around the link. Put this masterpiece on a cookie sheet so that the dough overlaps on the bottom. Otherwise, the dough will brake apart and you will have Italiano Pigs As Ground Cover.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees until biscuits are golden brown or for about 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to monitor your Italiano Pigs in a Blanket to make sure they don’t burn or cook unevenly. It’s discouraging to have part of a baked dish be burnt on one side and doughy on the other. You might need to rotate the Pigs at least once. Heat escapes each time you open the oven, so in these cases you might need to cook the dish a minute longer.

Remember, vigilance when baking. It’s darn difficult to unburn something.

TIDBITS

1) The Italian Peninsula was fragmented into various states until 1494 and then, more or less, under the thumb of Spain, France, or Austria, until 1870, when Italy was completely united.

2) In 1983 I bicycled from The Hague, Netherlands to Nice, France. I put my bike on a train going to Genoa. I made it to Genoa. My bicycle never showed.

3) I’ve gone camping in France, but never in Italy.

4) I did the hokey pokey in Saint Mark’s Square in Venice. This occurred during the city’s big carnival. A lot of other people were putting their left foot in, so it was all right.

5) My gosh, there aren’t many free public toilets in Venice. And at many restaurants there is a fee to sit down at the dining table. Even Ryan Air, Spirit, and American Airlines have yet to do these things.

6) Napoleon, the emperor of France, was almost Italian. Genoa sold Corsica, his birthplace, to France only one year before his birthday.

– Chef Paul

4novels

My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World,  and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com

As an e-book on Nook

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

Categories: cuisine, food, history, humor, international, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pasta With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thai Entree

PASTA WITH SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

1 pound pasta, not multicolored
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
5 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 tablespoon TabascoTM sauce
7 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Asian vegetables: carrots, bell peppers, watercress, snow peas, etc. Try to get more than one color.

PREPARATION

Prepare pasta according to instructions on package or boil pasta for about 7 minutes

Note: put a thin coating of vegetable oil or some other plain-tasting oil on your measuring spoon before measuring something sticky like peanut butter or honey. This will make getting the peanut butter off the measuring spoon easier. (If you try to remove the p.b. by flinging it off the spoon it will go everywhere. And peanut butter can be so hard to remove from a stucco ceiling.)

Put vinegar, soy sauce, water, ginger, sugar, peanut oil, sesame oil, TabascoTM sauce, and peanut butter in blender. Blend using “liquefy” setting.

Cook pasta according to directions on box or bag. Spoon out pasta with pasta spoon–-curved with holes in it.

Dice or mince Asian veggies. Try to have multiple colors. Don’t puree them or you might end with an unappetizing yellow plop. Put butter, minced garlic, and Asian veggies in sauce pan. Saute for about 6 minutes on medium high heat. Stir frequently.

Top pasta with sauce and Asian vegetables. Yum.

TIDBITS

1) Years ago, my wife and I went to a future mom’s party. We brought this dish. Other parents-to-be arrived with fancy dishes or meals picked up at stores. No one touched our dish for a while. It was plain with a bit of diced bell peppers.

Later though, an especially astute man, in my opinion, tried our dish. He loved it and walked around telling everyone that it was great and must be tried. Well, this dish was the first one to be completely eaten. Bliss.

2) It wasn’t eaten at first because it looked boring and that I had used marginally more effort than pouring CheeriosTM into a bowl. Use more than one color with your Asian vegetables.

3) Ice cream was invented by the Chinese. Marco Polo brought this recipe back to Europe. The ice cream was entirely eaten before he got back to Venice.

4) Frozen vegetables are usually frozen right after picking and so might have had less time to lose their nutrients than fresh ones.

5) The Romans thought raw peas were poisonous and dried them before eating.

6) The 17th century French restored the pea to culinary favor.

7) This recipe can be dish intensive. Don’t try it if your dishwasher isn’t working. Just saying.

– Chef Paul

4novels

My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World,  and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com

As an e-book on Nook

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

Categories: cuisine, food, history, humor, international, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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