Holiday Help

The first time I had to roast a pork loin on my own for a job, I was in San Martino–a teeny weeny village outside of Lisciano Niccone in Italy. I offered pork loin because I thought it was the thing to do. Umbria is pork country. The people were English and loved pork.  They wanted to taste for themselves a chestnut and corn fed pig that spent its days in the Italian sunshine rolling around in mud with a view. I went down to the butcher, bought the loin, seared it, covered it with tiny plum tomatoes, slivers of garlic, sprigs of rosemary, an onion and a pour of Chianti, shoved it in the oven, and then I got nervous.  I had no idea how long it needed to cook. I couldn’t remember.  I couldn’t remember if I was looking for a little rosy in the middle or if a slightly pink pork would kill anybody with a cold. The guests were on the terrace, eating bruschetta and drinking prosecco.

The village of San Martino is made up of a bar and a phone booth. The bar is no longer open. The owner got tired and decided he would rather use the bar as a living room. The phone booth stood next to the main road. I went in like Superman, and closed the door.   It’s not right to say you’re going to do the job and then leave, but nerves have no interest in the ethics of a situation. I put all the money I had into the phone and called my friend Marjorie in New York. “Marjorie,” I said, “I don’t think I can cook anymore. She told me what to do and then she told me that she loved me. I walked back up the hill and took charge of the pork. I downhill skied past Marjorie’s suggestion of cooking it to 155 degrees, which is exactly right–at 155 I sliced it and fried it–and then covered the whole thing with sauce. It was like shoe leather, and they loved it.

Yesterday, Jonathan walked me all the way to a go see and sat in the waiting room while I tried to look cookish in front of a photographer who was shooting me from my knees.  My Aunt Anette used to do that because she’s 4 foot 3, and in every one of her photographs I am the spitting image of Attila the Hun.  Maybe Attila is the new Rachel.  When we left my husband said, “You look good.  I love you.”

This is the kind of help when it is what it is with no time or possibility for change. It should be called Holiday Hope.

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