I was recently left traumatised after I hitched a ride from an Italian in a hurry. Italian drivers tend to be speedy as it is, but when one needs to make it from Genova to Milan in an hour and ten minutes, like we did, you can expect to break the sound barrier at some point.
We were going to Milan with some of the muay thai people to see our champion defend his title (which he did very well, by the way, with his opponent KO in the second round!). We had left Genova a bit later than planned, so we had to make up for lost time. This made me somewhat nervous because of several reasons. First of all, the road from Genova to Milan goes through and along a bunch of mountains for the first half hour, so it’s very curvy and filled with tunnels, no place to speed if you ask me. Then there’s the fact that Italians don’t tend to indicate when they change lanes. Furthermore, they also don’t tend to wear, or even have, safety belts in the back of the car, which is where I’m usually seated. And well, we were on our way to something fun, right, and when you’re doing something fun you should have a beer! So with one hand on the steering wheel and the other around a bottle of Becks, chatting away to the others in the car who didn’t seem disturbed in the slightest, our driver made haste and got us to Milan in about an hour. Impressive, I must say, and we didn’t even crash. When we were going back to Genova, I subtly changed cars, under the pretext of “that car’s bigger, I’ll leave the two of you some space in the back, you’ll be comfier!”.
My second, definitely milder trauma that day was brought to me by the local porchettaro. A porchettaro should be a bloke (or lady) with a pig on a grill, selling rolls filled with slices of pork, a noble profession. Instead, these days, usually it’s a bloke with a mobile sandwich stall who seeks out events in the most remote places (such as muay thai championships, which are always held in some godforsaken sports complex 7 miles outside the most desolate suburbs of Milan), so as to have monopoly and charge people 2,5 quid for a bottle of water. A small one, mind.
The food they sell is downright depressing. What you do, is, you take some nondescript meat product, you stick it on a grill, and then you burn it to death. You then leave it in a massive tupperware all day, along with several others of the same product that have undergone the same treatment. Then, when customers show up, you chuck it back on the grill for a few minutes to reheat it, you stick it in a soft roll, you make it look better with condiments and fried onions, and then you charge those fools an extortionate 5 euros for it, MWUAHAHAH.
There’ll be no other options in a five mile radius so unless you’ve showed up well prepared and you’ve brought a sandwich, you’ll either be hungry all day, or pay a fiver for something you don’t really want to eat. I’m not sure which is better. I paid, and then when I came home after midnight, I quickly cooked something nice, to restore my faith in this world.
Couscous with veggies and goat’s cheese, for one
– some harissa (you may still have some from when you cooked this!)
– half an onion
– a clove of garlic
– some chopped tomatoes, from a tin will do just fine
– a carrot
– half a carton/tin of chick peas
– about two tbsp of soft creamy goat’s cheese
– spices, all of the usual suspects: cumin, ground coriander, black and/or white pepper, pinch of cinnamon (but no grounds chillies this time, the harissa will take care of it)
Prepare the couscous as it says here, or as it says on the carton (although I think they usually suggest ridiculously long cooking times).
Finely chop the garlic. Heat some oil in a frying pan and softly fry the harissa, the garlic, the ground coriander and the cumin. Slice the onion into chunks and add them to the mixture. Once the onion has gone soft, add the tomatoes and a wee bit of water, season with salt, pepper, a tiny pinch of cinnamon and some sugar. Peel the carrot and cut into chunks, add to the sauce. Drain the chick peas and add them, too. Leave to simmer for a fair wee bit so the sauce thickens. Add the goat’s cheese and mix well, leave on the fire for another 2 minutes or so, then serve with couscous.