Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Moka, The Iconic Italian coffee kettle.


This entry should really be called an ode to the Moka. If you read on you will see why.
What are the great post war icons of Italian culture? I know you are going to list the Fiat 500, the Vespa and Nutella but lets not forget the Moka Express,  the coffee kettle invented by Alfonso Bialetti and transformed by his son Rinaldo into an icon of design and functionality. No Italian kitchen would be complete without one. Rinaldo with his Father’s product, brought into every Italian home the aroma and punch of a steam produced coffee from the bar.
This month sadly saw the death of Rinaldo Bialetti at the ripe old age of 93, perhaps confirming the health benefits of espresso coffee. I was delighted to see that Rinaldo was buried in a casket fashioned into the form of one of his coffee kettles complete with the caricature of the little man Alfonso, his father on the side with his stupendous mustache. This scene has endeared my coffee kettle to me even more and made me even more pleased that I have refused to jump onto the George Clooney Nespresso wagon, even if this scarpers my opportunity to have coffee with the gorgeous man. 

The point is even though I am told these capsule coffee makers produce a decent cup of coffee, it has now been confirmed that many brands’ capsules are non recyclable, which at the very least seems very short sighted in this ecological age. Even those like Nespresso, which are recyclable I don't  believe can replace my Moka.
Coffee making for me like most people in my adopted country is a ritual. A way to start the day and put the mind and body in balance, those few extra minutes it takes to make an espresso using a Moka gives one a moment to breathe. Listening for the change in tone as the coffee is forced out by the steam tells you your coffee will be ready in a moment. This sound makes me go into first gear and then straight into fifth as the first drop of that dark rich liquid hits my lips. No fad, fashion or rush will ever part me from my little morning companion Mr Alfonso Bialetti. My Neapolitan husband is the king of coffee in our house and he has taught me how to brew and appreciate this luxurious liquid and the ceremony around it.
In my next blog entry I will get my husband to share his secrets for that perfect cup of Moka. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lucca Roman History in a Back Alley.

Lucca or Luca as it was know in classical times was an important Roman town and tourists flock from all over the world to see the famous Amphitheatre and no doubt, imagine while taking refreshment in one of the many bars the gladiators entering the arena through the same arches as they did themselves. However if you continue along the main high street know as Via Fillungo, which in Roman times was simply know as the Cardo Maximus, meaning a main street that runs from north to south, opposite the Church of San Cristoforo (now an exhibition centre) and the clock tower, there is an insignificant alleyway, one of the smallest streets in the city know as via Chiasso Barletti.  You might dive into it because it looks like a cute medieval street or because you notice a house beautifully frescoed with portraits of two of the cities famous operatic sons: Puccini and Catalani.

This inconsequential street holds an important place in Roman History. It was here during the conference of Lucca in 55 BC that the three Roman heavy weights Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus renegotiated the famous triumvirate. The accord meant that Pompey and Crassus would again stand for Consulship and after their election Caesar’s rule in Gaul would be extended by 5 years. At the end of their joint year in office, Crassus would be given the governorship of Syria to use as a base for his Parthia campaign and Pompey would govern  Hispania in absentia.
The original tower house of the Barletti family is still on the corner  and it is worth tipping your head back to look at this magnificent soaring structure.