Xmas eve, xmas and boxing day

Trip Start Nov 27, 2005
Trip End Jan 27, 2006

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing day - 26 Dec. 2005.

On Christmas eve, we all went together to the market near the metro station to get the provisions for our Christmas dinner. Marcello and Nell arrived that morning so we met them at the metro station and the kids walked them back to the flat while Melissa and I shopped. They returned to the market while we were still wandering amongst the wonders. There are butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable stalls and stalls selling bread, cheese and all kinds of processed meats. Some stalls sell nuts, spices, olives, salted capers and all kinds of delicacies. Everything is so fresh - the shrimps are still twitching, the lobsters waving their claws. We bought a leg of lamb - not the mutton that sells as lamb back home. It was attached to a full length of vertebrae with the back meat attached. The butcher whacked between the ribs with his cleaver to make cutlets. After loading up several bags of meat, cheeses, bread, fruit and vegetables we headed back home while Marcello and Nell went off to see a bit of Rome. Melissa and Celeste then went off for a last shopping spree before Christmas while Mahlon and Nathaniel stayed at home for a quiet afternoon.

Christmas morning was amazingly quiet - the kids let us sleep in till 8 and read to themselves in bed. We had a lovely morning opening presents and ringing family back in Oz. Before we knew it, it was time to start preparing the Christmas Feast. Two more people joined us for midday dinner - Esfir and Ekatarina. They are both from St. Petersburg and have been working for the past 4 years at the lab where Melissa is doing her sabbatical. They've been very supportive of Melissa and were both on their own for Christmas so we wanted them to join us. The more the better on a day like this - so we had 8 for dinner.

We started with champagne and antipasto - buffalo mozzarella, bread, several types of olives, figs and the most delicious small tomatoes I've ever eaten. Next course was a risotto made with spicy sausages. Main course was the nicest lamb I've ever eaten - cooked my usual way but roasted long and slow so the tender meat just fell off the bones. Along with this we had roast potatoes, roast fennel bulbs, artichokes steamed in olive oil and herbs, peppers stuffed with bread, sultanas, anchovies, pine nuts and spices. Dessert included Sicilian oranges in marsala, an English Christmas pudding from Harrods with mascarpone, a bacio pannetone and gingerbread biscuits. Dinner was accompanied, unsurprisingly, by various white and red wines - mostly from the local vineyards, and dessert by this strange but surprisingly palatable strawberry spumante.

Great food, good company, interesting conversation and general bonhommeousness made it a meal to remember.

Today, boxing day, Marcello and Nell left for Venice, Pisa, Florence, Paris and other points North. The Rhoades/Little consortium decided to have a day of Basilica Bagging. We started with San Giovanni, moved on to Santa Maria Maggiore and then to San Paulo Fuori le Mura (St. Paul's Basilica beyond the walls). We wanted to see San Clemente as it goes down three levels, the lowest of which is a temple of Mithras - a Persian cult popular at the time of Constantine and responsible for much of the symbolism of the current Roman church. Unfortunately it was closed - another day. Fortunately, there are plenty of days left.

Tonight I cooked pork tenderloins and made a sauce with wine vinegar and marsala wine reduced in the oil and butter the meat was cooked in. We had the last of the veg from yesterday. I had the unique and exquisite pleasure of seeing my children lick the plates clean from a meal I cooked. What could be better?

Tomorrow, Melissa is back at work and the kids and I are unsure of our agenda. In a couple of days, we're off to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. I might be out of touch for a bit then so keep watching for our return.
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