Monday, July 28, 2008
One of my earliest Italian food memories is savouring a a porchetta panini dripping with pork juice and flavour. I was eight, and our housekeeper had promised to take me to the marketplace to buy the daily groceries and indulge me with a snack. This was a huge treat because my mother disliked street food. She thought it was dirty or germ ridden, and in the mid 60s, it was bad manners for British ex-pats to eat on the street. I'm sure that my taste buds were super charged that afternoon because of the forbidden nature of my first porchetta experience. Our housekeeper knew my mother's rule, but could not resist the allure of roast suckling pig turning on a spit in the hub of the marketplace. Trastavere was one of Rome's more colorful neighborhoods at that time. Its market was a kaleidascope of culinary gems, artisanal foods, and regional specialties. The focus point for us, however, was the porchetta stall where all the locals were gathering. I think what I remember most about this porchetta experience from all those years ago was the texture of the meat. It was fall apart tender, so soft that it melted in your mouth. The fragrance of the porchetta was a mix of roasted crisp crackling, garlic and onions, and a faint lingering scent of juniper, rosemary and lemon. The overall taste sensation took my breath away. It was like nothing my English mother had ever created in the kitchen. Even our housekeeper, who prided herself on her culinary arts, was made speechless by this simple peasant meal.