Monday, 14 March 2011

The Jam Tart Incident

Lots of things to say this week but all of them seem a bit superficial. The harem can wait.

I’ll tell you about something different instead.
For various reasons, none of them particularly important, the ‘jam tart incident’ came up in conversation.

A long time ago, back in the last Millennium, I shared a house with three Italian university students, Claudia, Monika and Giorgia. They came from out of town and very bravely lived away from their parents in this shared house, something that not many people under the tender age of thirty five do in Italy. They used to leave with their dirty washing on the first available train out of Genoa on Thursday only to return again Monday afternoon full of food that their mothers had prepared for them. And clean clothes.

One Monday afternoon I was at home when the three of them came fluttering in through the door obviously very excited about something. I thought it was probably to do with a certain Stefano who all three of them claimed to be having an affair with… but no! Jam tart!! Monika’s mother had sent her daughter back to Genoa for the ‘week’ with a crostata. And it was the crostata which was apparently causing all the excitement. When I asked what it was all about they fussed around like mother hens getting me a plate a fork and a napkin and finally placing a slice of the already famous crostata ceremoniously on my plate. And it did look nice, I confess.

They hovered nervously around my chair watching as I took my first bite. From their anxious faces I understood that a comment was necessary. “Buono,” I smiled up at them. “Grazie!” I was pretty sure that these basic Italian words were correct. I couldn’t have made a mistake yet they continued staring expectantly, tenser than ever. I had no idea what I was supposed to say.
Monika finally broke the silence asking mournfully, “Ma ti piace davvero? Sei sicura?” Are you sure you like it? Really?.
“Sì, è buonissima.” I tried to smile reassuringly as I crammed an even bigger bite into my mouth. Clearly my comments had been inadequate to describe the true yumminess of Mamma’s jam tart.

At that point, obviously impatient with my foreign lack of understanding, Claudia bit into a slice, rolled her eyes heavenward as though she were in a TV ad and started to make ecstatic noises inappropriate for jam tart. Giorgia joined in and my kitchen soon began to resemble a certain scene from the film ‘When Harry met Sally.’

Mr Kipling obviously had a long way to go before his exceedingly good cakes got that good. I had another taste to see if there was something I had missed but remained of the opinion that a jam tart can never really be more than a jam tart. 

There are lots of thing you can say about Italian food … but I’ve got to go, there’s something burning in the oven :-D