Rome, Germans, and a tomato soup
I was lucky I had the chance of living in Rome and have a Roman-like life. But it was with a German couple I learnt one of the greatest lessons during this period I lived there. I met them in a trip to Pompeii. They’d spend a month in Rome attending an Italian school. However, I very soon realized they were not there for the language; they wanted to learn how to live lighter. They needed to weight off their shoulders.
We spent a day among the ruins of this city swallowed by the Vesuvius’ ashes and commenting that we haven’t evolved that much and asking ourselves how Pompeii could have been forgotten for such long time. And it was in our pausa pranzo, when we were having a prosciutto panini and stracchino that they told me. They were impressed with the land lady of this inn they used to live in Rome, one of these Italian ladies, short and grubby, who wears a thick skirt, straight and tight, just below the knees; how she could prepare so many wonderful things in such improvised kitchen. They described the chaos of this kitchen, more in English than Italian, but in details: dark with only one small window, an ancient stove and all kinds of plates, pots and pans hung and leaning everywhere. But at night, when they would get back to the inn, she would prepare one or two dishes offhandedly.
And at this point, they changed their voice tune. They left this descriptive enthusiasm aside and started to say that in Germany everything needed to be very good. The best fridge, the best brand, the longest warranty, the shiniest stand of contemporary cupboards. They hit on the table with their fist to explain: things are made to last and work, they must be the best. Yes, they said, everything was very expensive but they worked to be able to pay for them. However, there were not many wonderful things coming from the kitchen of this couple of German friends. They heated, re-heated, froze and defrosted but there was nothing that could be compared to whatever was prepared in the landlady’s very improvised small kitchen of this Italian inn.
Then, they sighed deeply and I noticed they were tired. They had good jobs, powerful cars and a well-equipped flat, they told me. But there was something missing. They noticed in Rome that they don`t need a perfect scenery to star in a fulfilled life. They just wanted to be like this landlady: they wanted to get home, open the fridge, put their hands on their waist, grumble and 20 minutes later sit at a table. Talk, laugh, taste the food just prepared. That was the reason they went to Rome. And I think it was worth.
Every now and again I remember this meeting and this conversation. I would say it happens mainly when I open the fridge and find almost nothing. And instead of going shopping or trying the delivery, I try to prepare something. Today it was a tomato soup. Tomorrow may be a banquet.
Tomato and basil soup
For 4 people
1kg of organic tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of tomato paste (I use passata or the juice that comes in the can of pomodori pelati)
2 sprigs of basil
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Peel the onion and the garlic off and chop them well. Take a deep frying pan; braise your onion and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in low heat. Meanwhile, wash your tomatoes, peel them off and cut them into four wedges to remove the seeds. Add your tomatoes with tomato paste in the fridge with the onion and garlic already braised. Stir it well, then you can cover and let it cook for 20 more minutes. You can add a little of water if you find it too dry. After that, you can put your cooked mixture in a blender, add leaves of basil (keep some of them for decoration) and blend your soup. If you still find it too thick you can add a little bit more of water. Take it to the fridge for at least 3 hours. Just before serving it, you can adjust the spices; add some leaves of basil and a tablespoon of olive oil.
p.s.: I also like to have this soup hot – and, when there is something left, it becomes a perfect sauce for pasta on the following day!