27th August 2007
The school summer holidays in Italy are long. Very long and very hot. After three months of baking, (cooled off by trips to the pool and buckets of gelato) even the most indefatigable child becomes jaded and wilting, stunned into a kind of bored stupor by the heat. So much so that we were startled by the shrieks of excitement that echoed around the hills of Le Coste when the tall one and the small one found out that a canny friend of ours had signed them up for a week at ‘Laboratorio Clown’ (Clown School) sponsored by our local Tuscan town of Chiusi as part of their Summer Festival.
The Laboratorio was run by the mercurial Teresa, who immediately wove some kind of clowny spell around the young wannabies, rendering them all totally in love with her. From then on the small troop met for 2 hours each afternoon in the gardens of the church of St Francesco where they learnt various amusing clowning techniques; how to pretend to trip each other up, how to walk into walls without hurting themselves, mimed sneezing and laughing and lots of silly walks.
With help from their clown ‘guru’ they made themselves red noses and we let them raid our wardrobes for baggy clown clothes, which were a bit too easy to find for my liking.
At 4.30 today we met in the cathedral square of Chiusi for the show.
At first just a few proud parents but, as the music started, the tourists began to gather until the young performers had an audience of about 100 people.
Chuisi glowed golden in the late afternoon light and funky music pulsed through the Etruscan streets, causing a quickening of the heart and a communal smile. The brave little apprentice clowns did their stuff; they twirled, they tripped, they danced and they bumped, they roared with wild, wonderful, infectious laughter and, in the sunshine, the laughter grew and grew filling the square and drifting down the side streets, coasting in the slip-stream of a Summer afternoon.
Afterwards we took our two clowns to Citta Della Pieve to see what was going on there as it gets ready for its week of festivities. The streets were hung with flags and lit with torches, and wooden stalls were heaped with medieval costumes for hire. We paused but, after a bit of a debate, Marito decided against the pair of yellow tights and had a beer instead.
Best thing I ate today:
Lasagne a casa
In our family lasagne is an exalted food, both celebratory and comforting. It is equally well received to reward someone who has been given a good school report as to console someone who has been absent mindedly forgotten by the feckless tooth-fairy.
However, I suspect that in general its reputation has suffered a lot from too much loitering in the chiller cabinet and dancing to the ominous ‘ping’ of the microwave.
A homemade lasagne should be an expression of love. A rich and sustaining ragu, made with a base of odori (finely chopped celery, onion and carrot.) The meat ( I prefer the savoury sweetness of pork) should be properly seared and, at its best, flavoured with tomatoes, red wine and lots of noce moscato (nutmeg) the fragrant musky nut that is used so inspiringly by Italian cooks.
The béchamel should be oozing, creaming and plentiful. The whole glorious thing layered with pasta, thickly dusted with parmesan and baked until crusty and golden. It should hold its own when sliced, silence the table and leave them begging for more.
I give you lasagne. Food of the gods (and Garfield.)
Where to get it:
Make it yourself, you won’t regret it.