"Magic and Pasta"
Giacinto watched Fiorenza
tend the blue thumb that Pasquale
had smashed with a hammer
while helping to make a nest box
for the family of griffins.
He never tired of having her around,
and indeed, wished that they could
be together always instead of
Well, perhaps something
could be done about that.
Fiorenza was always looking after
other people, and so who was
going to take care of her?
"As long as you're here, Fiorenza,"
"I could cook supper for you," Giacinto said.
I'll need to go foraging for some things,
but I should be home by late afternoon."
It was early spring, still, but
he knew of a little hidden valley
full of dark slate and southern sun,
which should have warmed up enough
for a bit of quick foraging.
"I'd be delighted," said Fiorenza.
So Giacinto took a few things from his pantry,
bought what he could at the village market,
then took his gathering basket and
went out to the woods, his skirts
tucked up to avoid the damp ground.
He found plenty of cicoria and purslane,
picking off the tiny green leaves.
He even found a few porcini mushrooms,
which would grill up beautifully.
What he did not find was the spicy strioli
that he intended as a base for his spaghetti sauce.
Grumbling, Giacinto stalked from one patch
of woods to another, passing farmers in their fields.
One little girl he did not know -- likely a traveling worker
hired to help with the busy spring planting, the earliest
of which was already underway -- waved to him,
beckoning him to the edge of the field.
"I see that you have a gathering basket," she said.
"If you're seeking spring greens, I can help you.
I know all the best places to look."
Giacinto raised an eyebrow. "Do you now,"
he said, "for I haven't seen you around here before."
"Oh, I have my ways," the child said
with a high, tinkling laugh.
Giacinto was a little suspicious --
for who would tell their gathering places? --
but also a lot more desperate, because
it was getting on toward late afternoon
and he had better hurry if he wanted
to get the ingredients in time to cook them.
"Very well," he said. "Lead the way."
At once the girl set down her empty sling of seeds
and scampered off into the trees, taking Giacinto
into the very darkest part of the forest.
"I'm hunting greens, not mushrooms,"
Giacinto pointed out.
"There's a clearing up ahead," and
so there was, full of delectable little leaves.
No sooner did he dig his hands into the strioli
than someone grabbed him from behind,
screeching, "Thief! Steal my greens, will you?
I'll show you what happens to foolish mortals
who stray where they should never go!"
He was still protesting about his girl guide --
who of course was nowhere to be seen now --
when he was shoved into a tree and sealed up inside.
This was turning into a completely wretched
waste of a once-promising day.
Giacinto huddled in the splintery darkness,
trying to focus his thoughts enough to send
Fiorenza a hunch, if anything could get through
the probably magical tree imprisoning him.
Other than that, there was little he could do;
he hadn't enough room to do more than wriggle a bit.
When the tree finally opened, the clearing
was almost dark but for the moon overhead
and the last glimmers of twilight.
Fiorenza was giving hell to La Befana herself
about how the fairy woman really needed
to tend her daughters better so that they
would not go about stealing people,
particularly handsome young men who
had already made plans with someone else,
thank you very much.
"I really did believe I had permission," said Giacinto.
"That little girl said it would be all right -- I thought
she had made arrangements with the owner
of this woodlot, like polite people do." He glared
at the moppet who was trying to hide behind La Befana.
"And we'll be having a full basket of that strioli, too,
by way of apology," Fiorenza concluded.
Giacinto had never been so in love with her as now.
"Very well," said La Befana, marching off the girl
to fill the remainder of Giacinto's gathering basket.
"I'm sorry about all this," Giacinto said to Fiorenza.
"It's not your fault," she said. "You promised
to cook me a meal and I intend to collect it."
"You're not angry about how the day went astray,
or how you had to come and rescue me?" Giacinto said.
Fiorenza just shrugged. "Of course not. I got you back;
that's what matters. Life is a combination of magic and pasta.
Whyever would I be complaining about that?"
Giacinto laughed, for if ever there was a perfect woman
for him, surely it was Fiorenza of Nocciolaia.
They walked back to the village through
the shadowing woods, with a disgruntled fairy
leading the way with a lantern on a pole.
Back at home, Giacinto nibbled his lip
and shuffled his feet over the thought
of having to cook with Fiorenza watching.
She just chuckled and said,
"It's late already, and supper will
reach the table sooner if I help. Can you
tell me where I might find an apron?"
Giacinto directed her to the drawer
that held aprons and dish towels, then
handed off the salad greens for Fiorenza
to rinse clean while he set up the pasta
and the strioli for its sauce.
The mushrooms he cleaned quickly,
brushed with herbs, and put
to cook on a griddle.
When Giacinto brought out the toasted almonds
and the red-wine vinegar for the salad, Fiorenza said,
"You must have put some serious thought into this."
"I can't stop thinking about you when
we're apart," Giacinto admitted.
When Fiorenza kissed him,
her lips were peppery with the taste
of the greens she had been sampling,
and Giacinto decided that
really it had been an excellent day after all.
* * *
"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
Foraging in Italy can turn up such treats as cicoria (dandelion greens), purslane, strioli, and porcini. Practice safe and ethical foraging.
Read about Italian fairies.
Porcini are delicious grilled.
Dandelion greens make exellent salad.