Thursday, 14 June 2018

Pistachio Ice Cream

Family history is an obstinate yet gratifying puzzle.
Is that a statement? A personal view? A deliberate contradiction? Yes, yes, yes and not like When Harry Met Sally as in said with quite the same wild abandon, though I guess you might echo such enthusiasm to a lesser degree if your interest (or trade) was genealogy.
I have an interest, but I'm not well-versed in it. I have to rely on the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? and suchlike to not only whet but satisfy my appetite; that and snippets that crop up every now and again in relation to my own muddled origins. Muddled as in I can't get it or keep it all straight in my frenetic head, and therefore it's impossible to write down though there have been instances where I tried as well as to impel others to map out uncles, aunts, cousins and relate remembrances. These attempts were, I confess, too much – I gave up, indignant at my paltry efforts to get relatives to write something, anything down! And yet in spite of these failures, the curiosity remains in my own and everyone else's.
When a tiny detail, or a person even peculiar to me or some other, that's been previously overlooked emerges it brings forth a memory of eating pistachio ice cream for the first time: Tunisia '95, at a table of holiday-makers, which with the exception of my parents were all strangers, in the hotel's dining room, because when the spoon brought that first taste of ice cream a light shade of green to my tongue the world in which I was sitting shuddered. Like a small tremor you're unsure you've experienced and yet you know it happened. And continues happening, at least for as long as there was ice cream to be spooned into my baby bird-like mouth, by my own hand for I was a big girl, fourteen or thereabouts. The room wobbled and everything else around me faded: faces and surroundings blurred and voices seemed farther away, as my senses were flooded with and adjusted to this new flavour, the likes of which we didn't see much of in the UK.
And now pretty much the same occurs when an unexpected piece of information suddenly surfaces, except its effect is more like the fizz of sherbet or the pop of popping candy. Like a lit firework, rather than a pistol with an empty chamber; there's a flash of cognition, and my brain rather than diving for safety absorbs the full impact, as if I were indeed still a child firework-gazing or searching the night sky for comets. The main difference being that depending on what's revealed I might flounder around a bit after. Basically, it's pistachio ice cream with toppings that either pack a bit of punch or are a mix of crunch and chew, before it becomes just a puddle of fat and sugar, and part of you: who you are and why.
Well, I had that experience again recently. And it wasn't even something earth or universe-shattering. Or even entirely new. Nor had I gone looking for it; how it found me was as much about choice as it was about serendipity. One of those evenings where you're looking for something to watch as you prepare dinner, and where the subject incidentally happened to be what I planned to eat: pasta, and the manufacture of it, which was quite fascinating if you have an interest in knowing how raw ingredients become what they become, in the various dry packaged forms we know them as. And because I'd recently been reading Primo Levi I was intrigued by the inside of factories of any description, but it was the pasta that opened a door, unsurprisingly and surprisingly, to Italy.
In short, it occurred to me to question my remembrance of my grandparents using, correctly, tagliatelle with meat sauce and making an authentic lasagne: why? how come? when the English were and still are for the most part ignorant about what types of pasta to use with what, which led to my mother and learning that it was thanks to her aunt, my great-aunt Sandra. Alessandra from Vicenza, who met great-uncle Paul in Italy during World War II and was, so we assume, a war bride. My mother remembers her making her own pasta and hanging it to dry like on a washing line: sheets of it aerating; and she was practically salivating down the phone at the memory of her braised peaches in juices. 
And so another link, its influence having been authenticated, ends in a puddle of pistachio ice cream.

Picture credit: Pistachio Ice Cream, eRecipe