The other weekend Modena hosted the latest edition of La Bonissima. According to legend “Bonissima” which translates to “Well-known” was a noble woman who helped the people in a time of great famine in the 13th century. So it only seems appropriate that a festival celebrating the local food, its tradition and heritage is named after her.
At this annual festival you will find cooking shows and market stalls. Aceto Balsamico. Parmigiamo Reggiano. Tortelli. Tortellini. Biscotti. Proscuitto. The list is endless. But what caught my eye this year was Panino. To be exact Da Panino.
In Italian the noun panino (Italian: [pa’ni:no]; plural panini) is a diminutive of pane (“bread”) and literally refers to a bread roll. Panino imbottito (“stuffed panino”) refers to a sandwich, but the word panino is also often used alone to indicate a sandwich in general
Ok, so we know that panino is the fancy word for toasted sandwich. However, did you know that in Modena it is considered an art form?
There is even a local eatery called Da Panino , which was the brain child of Beppe Palmieri. Better known as the sommelier of the Michelin starred Osteria Francescana. (Which is only a few meters away – in fact even Massimo Bottura and his kitchen crew have been spotted here grabbing a quick bite).
So at this years La Bonissima Christian di Asmara put on a real show in Piazza Grande , with a live cookery demonstration showing us how to make Italy’s best Panino!
We were shown how to create two masterpieces:
The first is the prize winning “Lo Speciale” (no surprise that it translates to ‘the Special’….see you will be speaking Italian in no time!).
People are kind and generous. Accept help from friends, family and everyone else who offers it. You become reliant on other people. Simple tasks become herculean. For me, someone who is fiercely independent I have to admit that this was a refreshing experience. Saying yes please. Thank-you. Instead of the so often used, no thank-you I can manage on my own. Offers to bring me shopping, help wash my hair. Carry my bags. Drive me to places. Being together, being with other people makes you feel closer to them. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing people I have the pleasure of knowing in my life whether its for a fleeting moment of for a lifetime.
There are people out there with feet fetishes. #Instagram #feet #feetporn . It all started innocently enough when I uploaded a photo of my leg in its cast while I was lazily lounging by the pool. I have never gotten the level of interaction and interest from a photo as I did for that one. Who knew?! Suddenly I was ‘making it’ and finding my 15 minutes of fame! So many people have been messaging me, asking how I am, keen to exchange stories of accidents and recovery. The kindness of strangers again. There is a real community and solidarity in the knowledge we are a not so unique bunch of accident prone plaster casts owners! What really surprised me though was as I exchanged messages of support with people in similar situations, the questions started getting more and more intimate. Asking me to send photos of my feet! Of my toes. To zoom in closer. Were my toes dried out?? No please a photo of the bottom of the feet! I recommend checking out @feetsoleimage or @lifewithcast on instagram and unite with your tribe!
Attitude of gratitude. I am thankful for the friends and family who have been so generous, kind and supportive during my recovery. My Mr Spaghetti returned home from a business trip to great me in my plaster cast………with a wheelchair. One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received from someone! Really! It meant we could go out together, do evening drinks, shopping and even road trips! Who says romance is dead? Wheelchairs are the new dozen roses! On a more serious note, as i was being pushed around in my chariot, I became hyper aware of wheelchairs everywhere. I hadn’t noticed that there were so many people needing help with their mobility. From elderly people too weak to walk long distances on their own, to people with broken bones. And yes young people who had no use of their legs through disability. It made me grateful on so many levels.
Strangers want to reach out, talk and connect. Every day we go through life in our little bubbles. Focussed on our own plans, where we are going, who we are meeting. Even when we are alone we are glued to our screens not even looking where we are walking. So I found it incredibly refreshing that everywhere I went everyone wanted to speak to me. Having a leg in a cast was the ultimate ice breaker. It made me think that people genuinely want to reach out and connect with others. Care and kindness and curiosity in abundance. What normally stops this? Do we not know how to open conversations with strangers? Are we afraid? We are closed to others with invisible walls? Mental note to self. Reach out and connect more. Be more human.
Patience. Patience. Patience.
DIY solutions rock. Improvisation is key. First thing I realised whilst hobbling around on crutches is that it isn’t so much the lack of mobility. Ok its not easy to move (read: ‘hop like a drunk kangaroo’) from A to B for sure. And to begin with I was never blessed with the worlds greatest co-ordination (Zumba class still haunts me). What is really tough, is having both your hands occupied with your crutches.
Dilemma number 1. How do I get my water / beer / wine / coffee into the living room so I can drink while sitting watching the TV? Solution: Have you ever seen a horse eating from a bag around its neck? Well this is easily adaptable for human use by placing required item into said sack and hanging it around your neck. Very comfortable carrying device, to be recommended also for normal humans.
Dilemma 2: is similar – eating in front of the TV. Solution: Place meal on tray and push along the floor until you reach nearest soft cushioned landing pad also known as my sofa.
Dilemma 3: Showering. This brings two problems. The first is obvious enough – plaster casts don’t mix well with water. Solution: Giant plastic bin bag and lots of scotch tape, until the professional alternative arrives. The second problem is finding the balance to stand perched on one leg long enough to wash hair and body without falling over and breaking your one good leg. This we solved by placing a giant can of paint in the shower and covered it with a plastic bag. No lack of prizes for sexiest spa atmosphere in our house!
Dilemma 4: Surviving crutches without blistering my hands. Or that other curse of summer – sweaty hands – which makes grabbing a baby eel while covered in soap suds look positively easy compared to gripping crutches in 40 degree heat. Solution : cotton wool wrapped with medical tape (then quickly order a soft neoprene grip from Amazon).
This crutch business is harder than it looks.
We’ve all seen young bouncy teenagers swing around on crutches like they were just playing in an tree canopy adventure park. In my naivety I thought in no time I would be just like them. Cool. Fast. Fit. No problem. Able to swing to the town center for a lazy breakfast and cappuccino or visit the hairdressers and be a lady of leisure while I was in my plaster cast. Little did I imagine that as someone approaching the end of her thirties, (which honestly is traumatic enough) would be hit with the stark realisation that flabby untoned underarm bats wings do not take kindly to suddenly having to support your entire body weight. Here is a video of Dergin Tokmakwho is truely inspirational.Dergin contracted polio as a child which left him with limited use of his legs. This didn’t stop him. Look at this video and be inspired to be your best.
Personally I set myself little challenges. First taking the bin outside (100m), then making it to the icecream store (300m). At the beach, day one, just make it to the pool. Day 3 just a little further, make it to the sun umbrellas on the beach. Day 4, from the sun umbrella to the waterfront! Little rewards and little steps build up strength, independence and confidence. You can do it!
Slow down, relax and take one step at a time. Our lives are soooooo connected. There is always somewhere to be, something to do, someway to connect. Constantly running from one place to another or searching for the next thing to do. Rarely do we have time to sit down relax, breath and just simply be. Having a broken ankle and limited mobility forces you to just sit. Take it easy. There is no running, no stress…..and absolutely no multitasking! Not that I had ever mastered it in any case! Just chill and do what makes you happy. Life is the little pleasures, the micro moments.
“Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can, and wine to accept the things I can’t” Or as we are in Italy in summer a refreshingly large glass of spritz will do nicely!
Let me know your summer tales of mishaps and adventures please in the comments below!
I would love to tell you it was a great story. Dancing on the tables until midnight. Falling from a great height whilst climbing a mountain. Or during a daredevil stunt on skis. But no, it wasn’t any of those things. In fact it’s ironic really (and no not in the Alanis Morissette way) that i broke my ankle in the most un-elegant and un-dramatic fashion whilst turning a corner in – the office – i still cant believe it happened that way! All i can assume is that I turned the corner too quickly. I heard a crack and promptly fell to the floor.
I was quickly surrounded by twenty curiously concerned colleagues who thankfully didn’t choose to follow a career in the medical profession. The generous prognosis was ‘don’t worry its just twisted’ and ‘if its swollen its not broken’. Don’t you just love the wise medical diagnosis from the masses? I guess I have google to thank for that.
Anyway turns out I was not so lucky and it is in fact broken. So i am learning how to hop around on my crutches like a drunken kangaroo on one leg. You know i’d always seen teenagers flying around on crutches like it was no big deal, a rite of passage even, only for the brave and fearless. I on the other hand struggle to make it anywhere further than 100m, and don’t ask me about finding the co-ordination for making a cup of coffee……..
All of this happened of course when my beloved was away on a business trip. He rushed home and the first stop he made was at the medical supply shop where he picked up my new chariot!
Ladies, never, ever underestimate the usefulness of a practical man!!
Now we are free to exit the house, stroll (wheel) around the city to enjoy a refreshing aperitivo (spritz with lots of ice please) and even take our first road-trip adventure on crutches! Forget the dozen red roses….. this I tell you is true romance!!
The first night we escaped the four walls of the apartment, was into the sticky, humid sauna like air (no that’s being too kind, saunas have DRY heat, turkish bath would be more accurate) of a typical summer Modena evening. It felt so liberating to be out of the house and seeing people! My knight in shining armour wheeled me around in my chariot and all was going well until the thunderstorm arrived. Yes. Thunderstorm. Now normally this is a blessing and we yearn for the skies to rain to clear the air and make the city more tolerable. That all changes when you are in a plaster cast 20 mins away from home! We were on hold with the taxi for an age, only to be finally told ‘we can’t find any’. Plan B? Well we waited until the rain eased just enough to be able to make a not so speedy dash for home. Improvising the worlds most genius rain cover for my cast. You guessed it, the ever versatile black plastic bin bag wins again. With a good helping of sticky tape!
When it’s 40 degrees and rising outside, it can get a little uncomfortable at the best of time. Now as I have this new fashion accessory attached to my leg for a wonderful 35 days, there is a new meaning to the word.
Firstly after a week, my leg muscles have got a bit weaker and the cast feels heavier and heavier every day. It’s nicely padded for comfort inside, but its like having a lead soled Ugg boot attached to your leg at all times. Cosy it isn’t. Mean temperature inside the cast? I shudder to think. But I’m probably slow cooking my leg……. so at the end of the month a will if nothing else have a nice juicy Irish leg to eat with my mashed potatoes and mint sauce!
The heat has one other draw back. Swelling of all limbs in general. My toes turned blue the other day, yeah and they were a bit tingly. Just like when you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweaty panic with a dead arm. You all know the feeling. After a quick check at the hospital, where the amazing doctors of Modena’s Policlinico assured me it’s not serious enough for amputation. I returned home with the strict instructions to keep the leg – often – above my heart level to help the blood run back to the heart. Apparently blood circulation is a bit lazy when the leg is snuggled nicely in a cast.
I’ll keep you posted on my one legged adventures over the next weeks!
That reminds me, I must stay out of the sun as torturous as it is this month. Otherwise I will end up turning a nice golden brown all over …..and when the cast comes off??? Hairy albino Gorilla leg is haunting my dreams!!