Archive for passarini

Mar
20

Springing ahead

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Although we certainly can’t complain about the winter we haven’t had — all the cold and snow were re-routed to other parts of the world — spring is still exerting the old rousing-the-bear-from-hibernation force around the neighborhood.

So I festivate the equinox with a string of springy pictures, in no particular order, because I have the sensation that everything is happening pretty much in unison, like the Rockettes.  This wonderful, too-brief phase comes down to essentially two things: Fish and flowers.

The past few days have seen the slaughter of the seppie -- anybody with a boat and some free time seems have gone out to snag as much as they can of what the tide was bringing in.  Our neighbor came home one day with 25 kilos (55 pounds) of the little monsters.  He gave us some, which were better than anything we could have bought.

The past few days have seen the slaughter of the seppie — anybody with a boat and some free time seems have gone out to snag as much as they can of what the tide was bringing in. Our neighbor came home one day with 25 kilos (55 pounds) of the little monsters. He gave us some, which were better than anything we could have bought.

But you don't have to have a boat in order to do major damage to the incoming horde of tentacled delicacies.  There's a veritable perp walk of fishermen along the fondamenta.

But you don’t have to have a boat in order to do major damage to the incoming horde of tentacled delicacies. There’s quite a detachment of fishermen strung along the fondamenta.

Which is not to say that what's been on sale in the fish market has been anything less than top-notoch. Or as this vendor's sign expressed it: "Marvelous."  With a marvelous low price to match.  If you see seppie like this

In the past few days, the seppie in the fish market have rarely been anything less than top-notch. Or as this vendor’s sign expressed it: “Marvelous.” With a marvelous low price to match. If you see seppie like this, it’s a venial sin not to buy them. If they don’t look like this, you should skip them and buy something else. Note the lack of black ink smeared all over them.  The makeup is applied when the seppie aren’t as beautiful — I mean fresh — as this.

These are go', a type of goby that makes a fantastic risotto.  Actually, we may be among the few people left who use them for that purpose; they're never on any menu that I'm acquainted with. "Quando la rosa mette spin', xe bon el go' e el passarin."  When the rose begins to bloom (i.e., put out its thorns -- just go with it), the go' and the passarini, or turbot, are good."  Lino has taken more passarini out of the lagoon than you could believe, but they're hardly ever in the fish market anymore.  People like sole and salmon from exotic faraway places.

These are go’, a type of goby that makes a fantastic risotto. Actually, we may be among the few people left who use them for that purpose; they’re never on any menu that I’m acquainted with. “Quando la rosa mete spin’, xe bon el go’ e el passarin.” When the rose begins to bloom (i.e., put out its thorns — just go with it), the go’ and the passarini are good. Lino has taken more passarini, or European flounder (Platichthys flesus), out of the lagoon than you could ever count, but they’re hardly ever in the fish market anymore. People like things like sole and salmon from exotic faraway places.

Let's talk clams.  You can certainly go clamming in the depth of winter, but your fingrs freeze so you can't even feel the clams anymore.  But on a day like this, the sun, the water, the world all seem to conspire to make a few hours on the falling, then rising, tide, just the perfect thing to do. Note Lino's net bag -- it's an excellent tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves.

Let’s talk clams. You can certainly go clamming in the depth of winter, but your fingers freeze so you can’t even feel the clams anymore. But on a day like this the sun, the water, the world all seem to conspire to make a few hours clamming during the falling, then rising, tide, just the perfect thing to do.

Note Lino's net bag -- the perfect tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves. A bucket also works, but this is better.

Note Lino’s net bag — the perfect tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves. He puts them in a bucket full of lagoon water later to make them finish expelling their internal grit.

Lino takes them the old-fashioned way -- one at a time.

Lino takes them the old-fashioned way — one at a time.

There were a few people out who had the same idea.  Good thing they kept their distance -- clammers are like any other fishermen. They hate to have other fishermen climbing over them.

There were a few people out who had the same idea. Good thing they kept their distance. Clammers are like any other fishermen — they hate to have other fishermen climbing over them.

The plant life was looking fine, too.  These trees have leaves that are practically singing.

The plant life was looking fine, too. These trees have leaves that are practically singing.

The vegetable boat people planted a tiny peach tree in a pot on their prow, and it has begun to put forth tiny peach blossoms.  If they ever harvest tiny peaches, I'll let you know -- otherwise, the memory of these little blooms will be enough for me.

The vegetable-boat people planted a tiny peach tree in a pot on their prow, and it has begun to put forth tiny peach blossoms. If they ever harvest tiny peaches, I’ll let you know — otherwise, the memory of these little blooms will be enough for me.

Forsythia, in some hardy gardener's hardy garden.

Forsythia, in some hardy gardener’s hardy garden.

A plum tree, slightly  behind some of the others I've seen, probably because the sun doesn't shine very much on this part of the street.

A plum tree, slightly behind some of the others I’ve seen, probably because the sun doesn’t shine very much on this part of the street.

Wisteria getting ready to burst.

Wisteria getting ready to burst.

Cabbages also have to flower.

Cabbages also have to flower.

I don't know what they are, but that's not stopping them.

I don’t know what they are, but that’s not stopping them.

Green leaves like this are no less lovely than the flowers.  In fact, I'm not sure these leaves know they're not flowers.

Leaves that are this green are no less lovely than the flowers. In fact, I’m not sure these leaves know they’re not flowers.

Toward 5:00 PM the light begins to warm up in a particularly spring-like way.

Toward 5:00 PM the light begins to warm up in a particularly spring-like way. If there’s any moment lovelier than the dawn, it would be this interlude on the verge of sunset.

 

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Mar
05

March 5 in Venetian history (ours)

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Since I’ve been here, all sorts of dates have become staples of my annual pilgrimage through the months — dates which never had any significance for me because they didn’t have anything to do with me.  Like most dates, today excepted.

Take May 5.  No, I don’t mean Cinco di Mayo. It’s not Florence Nightingale’s birthday.  Not the first publication of Don Quixote.  Not the invention of WD-40.  All events worth observing but they don’t have much to do with Venice.

Death mask of Napoleon (Library Company of Philadelphia).

May 5, just so you know, was the Death of Napoleon.  In case this still doesn’t matter to you, your city probably wasn’t starved, raped, mutilated, and then sold into slavery. Probably.  So anyway, May 5 is, in fact, a day worth remembering, however briefly.

But, I hear you cry, this is March, not May.  I realize that.  I just wanted to say that March 5, which comes to nobody’s mind except Lino’s (and now mine), claims just as important a place in my calendrical memory.  And I wasn’t even there.

March 5, as Lino tells me every year (“Who knows why this date has remained so fixed in my mind?” he asked this morning), was the Battle of the Great Frozen Eel.

On the night between March 4 and 5, he went out in the lagoon to fish.

“There was hoarfrost in the bottom of my boat,” he starts out, to set the scene, and to point out how cold it was. March is famous for pulling tricks like that —  it snowed here day before yesterday.

Neither sleet nor snow nor fog nor gloom of night stays the letter carriers, and should the gondoliers be less than they?

He fishes for a couple of hours out in the lagoon.  “I got all kinds of great stuff,” he says (I’m freely translating).  “Seppie.  Passarini [European flounder]. And an eel.”

The fact of there being an eel isn’t so remarkable — the lagoon version has a lovely pale-green belly — but considering that he fishes with a trident, they’re pretty tricky to spear.  So this was a sort of bonus.

All the fish are tossed into a big bin.  He continues fishing.  It continues to be really cold.

Finally he rows home, lugs the bin upstairs and dumps the contents into the kitchen sink.

A view of Anguilla anguilla not doing much of anything.  In Venetian he's known as a bisato.The eel makes a clunk. It’s frozen solid in the curled-up shape it was forced to assume in the bin. “That didn’t happen to the passarini,” Lino adds,  “but the eel was hard as stone.  So I began to run tepid water on it to soften it up.”

“All of a sudden” — (I love this part, it’s like a fairy tale when the witch or prince or stolen baby appears) — “all of a sudden, I see its gills begin to move.”  He makes a slowly-moving-gills motion with his hand.

“My God!  It was still alive!”  Astonishing, if you believed, as I — and obviously Lino — would have, that freezing would kill a creature.  But the gills were definitely moving.  And shortly thereafter, the rest of the eel was also moving.  A lot.

“You should have seen what that eel was doing in the sink,” Lino goes on.  Naturally it’s slithering like crazy, trying to get out, but naturally it is failing.  And naturally Lino is trying to grab it, but it cleverly has a slippery skin to prevent that.

“Finally I took a dishtowel and grabbed it using that,” he says.  “It still wasn’t easy.  I managed to pin it down and made a couple of cuts” (in whatever part of the body was convenient).  Then, when it began to slow down, he continued with the usual procedure of dispatching and cleaning eel, which I will not describe to you.  Anybody who wants to know can write to me.

So remember March 5, sacred to the memory of the gallant eel who didn’t realize he was better off frozen hard as stone.

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Categories : Fish, History
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