With only a few weeks left of my summer in Europe, I’m back in the south. To be precise, in Procida, a tiny island near Naples. Ischia is for the old and frail, Capri for the rich and famous, and Procida is just right for me. Small and lovely, and entirely undiscovered by the old and frail and rich and famous. It is just the right mix – totally authentic, with perfect little cakes in old-fashioned bakeries (more Retro Food!) and small trattorie where the boss tells his chef ‘batta la pasta!’ (‘throw the pasta into the pot!’) when you tell him that you’re in a hurry. And where he is proud enough to appreciate a client who leaves it up to him what else he is going to throw into il spaghetto, that is, the spaghetti dish that he puts together for you. Since it’s always a mind-bashing mix of small tomatoes, cooked in whole, super fresh fish, and parsley, there’s no danger involved.
Anyway, a different way to describe where I am (rather than the slightly banal reference to all-too-famous islands) is to say that I am in Odysseus country. As we down here like to think, it is here that Odysseus had to face Scylla and Charybdis, horrific monsters of the sea. But the terrible confusion in my head is this: Really, my own Scylla and Charybdis are the many coffee-to-go shops through which I steer on my trips through Manhattan. And I have not steered around them, no, I have gone in and bought so-called Latte. And now I am in my very homeland and miss coffee to go!
And now that I think about it, I genuinely suffer the fate of Odysseus and his companions. For nothing is more prominent on their trips (at least not to the food-conscious reader) than the fact that (a) every people they meet is characterized by what they eat, (b) everytime there is a warning that they should not taste the foreign food, because otherwise they are magically forced to stay, and (c) everytime they fail, and eat strange delicacies.
So here’s my coffee dilemma: When I’m in Manhattan, I miss Italian bars with their wonderful espresso and latte macchiato. Like Odysseus, missing Penelope even when he’s with some foreign godess. And when I’m in Italy, I realize that I am lost – I miss the miserable coffee to go of the “land of peace and truth”!