As I was off to a party with a new friend, I realized Torino is moving from the ‘vacation’ category towards the ‘where I live’ category, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘home’. Being so far away from where I grew up makes me realize that that original place which I call home, cannot be changed. It is as fixed as the sun. With all of it’s sights, smells, feelings and memories, it is an fixed destination, that cannot be so easily replaced with a new city, apartment, or life. When I stepped in to the party, it also occurred to me that I was comfortable in the madness of what is an ‘Italian Dinner Party’, which would have terrified me a year ago. As the seasons are changing, I guess I am as well.
I made introductions to the variety of guests, old, young and in-between; and grabbed a plate. The table was covered in an assortment sauces, breads, meats, salads and cheeses. The main dish was a thin, dark, round meat. A ‘Typical Torinese Dish’ I was told. Here, everything is ‘typical’, ‘famous’, or ‘the only one in the world’. I just go with it. Though the meat was unfamiliar, I wasn’t worried about what it was. By now, I’ve tried poultry, seafood, rabbit, ox, game; you name it. As I followed suit, putting different sauces lengthwise on the slice of meat, I heard M’s boyfriend whisper “you remember what this is, right?” She shook her head, not remembering. I boldly affirmed that “I’ll eat anything!” -to which he replied, “ah, well this is cow tongue.” The dry-heave started at my toes and rippled up through my body. I attempted to cover it with a cough. How could I not have known before? The meat was clearly in the shape of a tongue. It took me 10 or so minutes to mentally prepare my mouth for the first bite. The best way to put it is like french kissing a lazy cow. Or a dead cow for that matter. I just couldn’t chew it enough to swallow. And I could distinctly feel the soft texture. After 3 or so painful bites I covered it up with other pieces of food, and had a healthy glass of wine.
Moving on, I got a new plate and piled on cheeses, breads and what looked like beef. I should have know better. This meat, however, was tender, and absolutely delicious. We were enjoying it so much we sought out the chief, and asked how to pronounce the cut, in order to tell the butcher. “La coda” she stated. My friends, this is the tail. M and I exchanged a look which spoke volumes, and slowly swallowed our food. After our protein-packed dinner of tongue and tail, we were ushered into another room where the desserts were displayed. I didn’t take any chances this time, and munched on a few of M’s all-American brownies.
The lights were dimmed which brightened the view from the apartment windows. We were on the 4th floor overlooking the largest square in Torino, Piazza Castello. This piazza is home to a castle and the royal grounds of the Savoy family. To say this apartment had a nice view would be a massive understatement. As we enjoyed our brownies, I noticed many women changing their shoes, and the music switch to an older more traditional sound. Slowly people began to couple up, and dance the tango. This was certainly turning out to be an interesting evening. When I was offered a lesson I didn’t refuse; and the night melted away in laughter, dancing, and champagne..