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The weekend is the time to prepare some home cooked meals. While rummaging around my bookcase, I remembered this fabulously produced cook and travel book called Jamie’s Italy

published in 2006 by the British chef Jamie Oliver (www.jamieoliver.com). Jamie loves to travel around Italy in his old VW bus and cook for people he meets while learning about their local customs and recipes. So far so good. The picture of him and his bus (shown below) made me think back to my antiques collecting days and traveling with my Italian friend Gianni F. (mio amico) who owned a similar VW camping bus, minus the trailing hanger.

We would go on the day of the Befana, a typical Italian Holiday, the first Sunday in January usually the 7th or 8th,  to hunt, barter, or sell our antiques.

We would take the old road from Verona in the Venice Region to the 1000 year old town of Gonzaga. Here we would set up in the middle of an icy cold winter morning on the best local famous antique market in North East Italy other than Piazzola sul Brenta. We would leave our houses around a quarter to four in the morning after having some black espresso coffee for breakfast. We looked forward to arriving an hour and fifteen minutes later setting up our wares and waiting for the local bar to open up at six so we could enjoy our second espresso with a nip of Grappa against the icy cold.

Selling would start early, actually as soon as one would arrive, a bunch of bundled up fellow dealers would emerge from the cold shadows of the town square with flashlights inspecting the “fresh merce” and usually our bus would be packed with designer furniture, lamps and various bric-a-brac items. The VW bus had a great advantage over the local Fiat vans that other dealers used to come to the market. It had a gas stove and heater!

Usually around 10 a.m. with the sun coming up on a bright winter day we would huddle in the bus with six other dealers to get warm. By noon, we could go home either sold out or with the miserly take of the day, but quitting around that time would be considered “low class“. So by one p.m. someone would go around to the other end of the town plaza where under the portico a local family owned grocery would have made either a delicious Lasagna or Risotto a la fungi or salsiccia ready for take out in aluminium foil containers. Always delicious! Inevitably they would also sell a very good red wine usually Lambrusco and we would have a great meal in the bus waving interested buyers goodbye telling them we were closed for lunch. We knew full well that the price paid for that indulgence would be two hours later when those buyers would be back trying to lower our prices! By the way, the town has two good restaurants but those are usually jam packed on market days. Grazie Gianni for showing me so many good times.

Now back to the weekend chews, here are some simple recipes from Jamie’s Italy book that Italy is so famous.

Buon Appetito!!! By the way, here is a good traveling tip: take the old road which runs from Parma, so to speak, back to Verona or vice versa and exactly at the entrance to the wonderfully walled town of Sabbionetta at the traffic light before entering this town is a small truck stop (restaurant/bar) with wonderful casalinga style cooking. Not too far really from Gonzaga. You are now in the region which produces the wonderful Parmigiana cheese and Jamie is absolutely right, Sprinkled over any hot dish adds spice to life.