Daniel and Michelle Araujo Lana
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Daniel is a Brazilian and his new wife, Michelle is from the Dominican Republic. The photos should explain more of the story than I can tell in words. This ranks close to something like the longest day of my life. It did not help in the least that the clocks turned back giving us an extra hour.
I waited most of the day until the scheduled church service and wedding at 3:30. It was terrific seeing scores of friends who greeted me upon arrival. For a moment, I felt like the bride. It does feel good to be appreciated by so many who search for words that will communicate affection in a way that this foreigner will understand. If H1N1 is active in Italy then, with all of the kissing from cheek to cheek, I should, within less than a week, come down with the flu.
After about a half a hour or so the Teatro Toscanini was filled with nearly three hundred people as the bride made her way down the aisle.
My job was simple enough as I was assigned to, at the end of the whole business, pray a blessing on the new couple.
There was worship, dance, a sermon by Victor ( the youth pastor) and then the vows, but surprisingly all of this part took only an hour and a half.
The real problem was trying to get people to leave after the event was over. I was still there in the crowd at 6:30 waiting to go to the reception to be hosted in a restaurant up in the mountains south of the city. I was told that it would be a “small and simple” affair. I was tired and hoping for small and simple. After all, not everyone could come.
A Simple Reception in the Country
Of course, this description was all a bold faced lie. Finally we left, cars all going different directions with Italian drivers, one trying to out-smart the other, not caring that the idea was to drive in a procession, honking our horns as we went. No, they thought it a race and something like a scavenger hunt.
The hotel was a difficult place to find (cell phones are a must in the Italian countryside) as we traveled around through small villages and the many diversioni (detours). Anyhow, there were enough of these to make a person cuss. Driving while cell phoning directional advice, over narrow roads, in the fog and cliffs to the left and right, made this an even greater challenge.
Anyhow, once there, the place was a packed and it took two dining rooms to manage the crowd of, at least, one hundred fifty people in attendance. I will not describe everything that went on except to say that we went through nine courses of plates (yes, I lie not). In front of each person were three plates, one stacked neatly on top of the next. This should have provided a clue about what was to come.
After two hours of eating, everyone was so full they almost begged not to see another thing but the owner is famous for over feeding his guests the finest of local cuisine. As we approached midnight and completely staggered by the various and sundry food items, we swallowed down our toasts to the happy couple and chomped through our sliver of cake, happy to be finished!
Here is what we attempted to consume. First, a parmigiana panini which I have never liked but folks from these parts absolutely adore. It is a hard roll and as dry on the inside as it is hard on the outside. In order to get one down I have to coat it with olive oil and drink a liter of water. If you can imagine, eating one of these is like choking down a stack of twenty saltines or one hundred communion wafers.
However the situation brightened up considerably when the anti-pasta tray arrived laden with prochiutto, cotta and salumi’s with lots of pickled things that I don’t have the energy to describe except to say that some looked like onions, others like funghi (mushrooms) and peppers of one kind or another. I am proud to say that we did well at this first round and once pulled away we moved on to a kind of rotini dressed in tomato sauce quickly followed by a tagliatelli covered with mushrooms, then came veletto (veal) and lettuce salad, then another round with wild boar and roasted potatoes ( I kid you not).
A former Nigerian Muslim (Fatima) sat next to me happily declaring that she did not eat pork and declining all obvious pork items but later devouring the wild boar while thinking that it was goat or beef.
I said, “Fatima, this is good, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yes”, she replied, “I like it very much.”
“Fatima,” having a little fun, I went on, “what kind of meat do you think this is?”
A look of curiosity came across her face, “I don’t know, do you?”
“Certo, Fatima, “It’s wild boar.”
“What is boar?” she inquired.
My answer was short. “Pig.”
By now my head was swimming so when the next two plates came out of the kitchen I didn’t even attempt to participate. I was offered what appeared to be a steak item of some sort along with the restaurants’ renowned polenta. Finally, everyone was anxious for a change and threw themselves into a refreshing fruit salad made of kiwi, pear and apple. I was told that all of this was only 23 Euro a plate. Half of everything made was thrown out or perhaps, as Aldo suggested, it will appear the next day on the plates of the local crowd.
We finally pulled out of the parking lot at a quarter to twelve and drove thirty minutes to Parma getting lost one more time. I blogged, packed and got into bed at 1:30 to arise at seven for my trip to the south. Obviously, the night was a bloated and uncomfortable mess for the entire Cerasino household.
Don’t think that we didn’t have fun. It was a great and noisy night but the indulgent socializing, extravagant eating, lateness of the evening and trying to physically process 2,500 calories, left me completely buzzed out. My wife, Jeanne, an introvert, modest and simple, would have been overwhelmed by the frenzied affair. There was absolutely no tranquil place to hide.