My late mother, bless her, was not the world's most adventurous cook. Granted, she could bake cakes and produce the most wonderful steamed puddings, but as far as main courses went, she was strictly a meat-and-two-veg type. And, if I am to be completely honest, the vegetables would have been boiled to within an inch of their lives, if you see what I mean. Al dente was not something Mum had ever heard of. Or if she had, she probably thought he was a singer from the southern states of America. Potatoes were roasted on Sundays, but otherwise came boiled or mashed. Parmentier, duchess, Lyonnaise, hassleback - no, these were not in her cookery book. Don't misunderstand me; I'm not criticising Mum. She was a working class girl who learned her cooking in the England of the 1930s - and that was the English cuisine in those days!
One area in which Mum excelled was milk puddings. These would be based on a grain of some sort and baked in the oven - rice, sage, tapioca, macaroni were all used. Yes, macaroni. I'm not sure that the Old Bat believed me when I mentioned this a week or two back. She had never heard of macaroni - or any other type of pasta - being used for anything other than savoury dishes. But yesterday afternoon we were at a small family get-together to mark a grandson's birthday and I remarked on this to his other grandfather. By some strange coincidence, he said that he had received the same reaction from his wife very recently when he mentioned a macaroni milk pudding as made by his mother!
Nowadays, of course, there is almost a complete aisle in our local supermarket taken up with the numerous varieties of pasta that are available but I can almost remember when macaroni and spaghetti were the only choices. And the spaghetti was in tins with tomato sauce. Poor old Mum never did really get the hang of all that Italian food. A few years before her death - by which time Italian restaurants were all the rage in England, serving both pizzas and pasta - I took Mum over to France for a few days so that she could see our holiday getaway cottage. While there, we went to an Italian restaurant. Looking at the menu, Mum was hesitant about choosing something she didn't know. She finally plumped for spaghetti Bolognaise, explaining that she had eaten that once before on an all-inclusive holiday.
I love pasta dishes, my current favourite being rigatoni amatriciana, but I do still get twinges of guilt for taking Mum a little out of her depth. Mind you, I think she enjoyed it in the end.
Having been drifting on about pasta, it seems appropriate that today's picture should be of Italy. I'm not well up on tourist attractions in that country, but I understand the triangular piazza of the small town of Greve in Chianti is quite well-known. I was disappointed as the day we went there - and probably this is true of most days - it was full to overflowing of tourists. Much more pleasant is another triangular piazza, the one in Figline Valdarno, and here it is.