One year. Out of my comfort zone, away from husband, learning, growing, and filling my memory bank. One year. One month left. As I enter this last month it is easy to float back into the memories of the past 11 months, recalling the many times when all I could do was giggle and shake my head in disbelief at whatever I was experiencing. As I relive these “is this really happening moments” I can’t help but want to write them down, capturing them for future walks down memory lane. If you don’t mind, please humor me as I walk.
I learned a very important lesson a few months ago. Always say “yes” when someone asks you, “do you want to wake up at 5am to drive to a small Italian town and see a festival for bue grasso (fat ox)?” I have to admit I took some convincing. A nerd to the core, I don’t believe in missing class and this festival was on a Friday morning meaning I would either be late or worse…miss class. Luckily I have a few friends who are wonderfully bad influences.
5am found us standing on the corner, shivering as we waited for our ride. Admittedly I had doubts on my decision. Even though we were early to arrive in Carru we had to park down the hill, a short walk from the city center. Meandering through the already intoxicated town people and weaving by the farm equipment vendors we came to a large white tent. Crowds were slowly forming as people watched the farmers bring in their bulls. These magnificent white bulls came one by one. Some were complacent, obediently following their owners. While others were straight up pissed, they were just as cold and tired as we were and incredibly unhappy at the idea of being gawked at all day. As their muscles flexed, you knew that these bulls could cause serious damage if they wanted to. The men of the town walked around observing and discussing the bulls, drooling over the most beautiful and avoiding the moody ones. We stood watching until the cold concrete radiated through our shoes and we could no longer feel our toes. It was time to warm up.
What a better way to warm up then with Vin Brulee a spiced, slightly sweet, warm wine ideal to heat you up from the inside out. As we slowly gained feeling in our finger tips we decided it was a must to eat Bolito Misto prior to venturing home…I mean we were in Carru after all and it was a specialty of the festival.
The restaurant was packed but we managed a table for our party of six. Three long community tables were set in the center of the room. We were sandwiched by two large parties of predominantly men. Naturally being foreigners and two thirds female we received interesting looks. Then the food arrived. There is something about eating carne crudo before 8am that is both unsettling and deeply gratifying. Various cuts of beef appeared on our plates, some by themselves, others with small garnishes, and some enveloped in pasta. Naturally all of this was washed down by red wine. As soon as one bottle was finished, another mysteriously replaced it. Course after course we continued to shake our heads in disbelief at our elaborate breakfast. Somewhere before dessert the music arrived.
A three person band entered the room. There was a flute, an accordion, and a guitar. We began to be serenaded as the leader and guitar player asked us girls where we were from. Conveniently he had a song for each of us. From there Italian folk songs were belted by everyone in the room, regardless whether or not the words were actually known. At one point the men asked the ladies to dance. Spinning all across the dining room, the servers bobbed and weaved completely unphased by the impromptu ballroom dancing. It was after all the largest annual festival in Carru.
The meal ended with the chef appearing in his whites with a tray lined with shot glasses and a bottle of house made infused grappa. He joined right in with the singing, adorned with the largest grin I have ever seen. As the guitar player finished his song he tipped his head back as the chef poured grappa into his mouth to the cheers of the crowd. We all took our shot and quickly stumbled out into the crowd filled streets. It was 9am and the parade was about to start.
As I said, moral of the story, “Do you want to wake up at 5am to drive to this small Italian town and see a festival of bue grasso?” “Yes!” “SI!” “JA TAK!”