Five years ago this month I picked up a woman at a train station. The Ancona train station. It was a Friday night. Kinda foggy. She'd never seen me before. I'd never seen her either. But we sorta felt as if we'd known each other our whole lives. (A month of email courting and long distance phone calls will do that, I reckon). She was expecting me. I was late, too late to pick up flowers or even memorize some nice words to say in Italian without screwing up the syntax.
I broke the ice with a question: "hai fame?" Hungry?
Yep, she nodded, and I drove us off into the gloom in search of a trattoria (whose name I still can't recall) maybe a hundred yards from the port. They serve brodetto all'anconetana, a famously rich soup of all the goodness that the fishermen can round up each day in the Adriatic. I'd eaten there once before and I couldn't stop smiling for days afterward. I figured the brodetto would calm our nerves. It did. She approved, and of me too.
I don't want to think it was the brodetto that brought Xtina and me together. But it certainly smoothed the awkward culture clash. Whenever I sit down to brodetto marchigiano I think of that meal. And smile.
Why am I thinking of this now? Because The New Yorker's Mimi Sheraton in the recent food issue goes in search of il brodetto migliore, and of course she settles in Le Marche. Abruzzo too (which for some crazy reason the line-editors allow to call Abruzzi, which hasn't formally existed since the Kennedy Administration. Whatever. Who cares.) A worthy dish gets a nice write up. Smiles all around.
*btw, one of Xtina's more famous lines is "always the same soup" to describe anything that quickly becomes habit. Never brodetto of course.