Saturday, November 1, 2008

Adventures in Domestication

So as a few of you are aware, in preparation for her newfound role of un (or at least hopefully “under”) employed housewife (and because I found a great copy on the 50 cent cart at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and hadn’t yet had the time to crack it), Trofie Wife began reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique en route home from her first trip to Arenzano, and I’m now about 100 pages from the end. And here’s the point in my commentary where I hope a certain close friend (or maybe more than one, plus some relatives) of mine doesn’t hate me: While I thank BF for opening the floodgates that helped to liberate middle-class women from the drudgery of their lives, I have to say, that she needed an editor. What repetition! And excessive block quoting; my undergraduate professors never would have allowed for such laziness! But I digress. BF rephrases Parkinson’s Law which postulates that “work expands to fill the time available,” stating that “housewifery expands to fill the time available” (p. 240). This state of affairs is bad because women could be exerting their energies in more positive ways that lead to their own liberation and the betterment of society. While this is certainly true, I have to add that if women were forced, such as Trofie Wife now is, to perform housework in cultures, languages, and wattages different from their own, it would tax the brain quite a bit more! (Perhaps in the next printing, BF’s estate would consider including this addendum…)

On Wednesday, I attempted to do the laundry for the first time (Martello was so kind as to give me plenty to work with, having taken over in his luggage a full bag of dirty clothing). Now having a washing machine inside the apartment is a huge step up for Trofie Wife, who spent the last five years trudging to the local Laundromat where the Russian and/or Polish ladies always yelled at her for doing something wrong. Thus I was over the moon at the opportunity to wash my clothing in the comfort of my abode. Foreigners are warned (via a great book that Martello purchased entitled, Living, Studying, and Working in Italy: Everything You Need to Know to Live La Dolce Vita) that Italy does not have terrific electrical wiring and that no other appliances should be plugged in while the washer is in use. Due to the wattage problem, dryers are very rare in Italy, thus leading to the picturesque scenes in Italian villages countrywide of laundry hanging off the terraza. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out the machine’s directions, which were written entirely in Italian. But boy was I in for a surprise.

I thought the cycle was over, so I opened the door and attempted to unload the laundry and prepare it for drying on the cool drying contraption. However, much to my surprise, there was still a huge puddle of water left in the machine. I removed the sopping wet clothing and whisked it away to the bathroom for eventual (hopefully before December) drying. But now what to do with the residual water? Quick thinking (take that, BF!) led me to hunt for the soup ladle and a bucket. As you can see from the illustration, I ladled out the remaining water into a bucket and then dumped it in the sink. I ran a second load later in the afternoon, and at this point figured out that during my earlier attempt the dial had gotten stuck at the point where the machine needed to remove that last bit of water and wring out the clothing. This appears to be a chronic condition, so I now know to nudge the dial forward a notch so it can do its work. Now the only ladling that will be done is for soup (and future visitors, don’t fret: I thoroughly washed the ladle!)

Briefly again on the subject of drying (mentioned in an earlier post), our above-the-sink drying lines are super cool. I get to use a shepherd-like staff to pull down the lines. I doubt that the outside lines are as cool, but I do not think I will be using them until the weather returns to warm and sunny (which, as noted earlier, likely will not be for several months). I should also note that our laundry smells like my sister’s loads in Zurich, though she assures me that she has recently changed detergent brands and thus we will not run the risk of smelling identical.

On Thursday, the domestic adventures continued when the gas man came to replace our empty propane tank with a new one. This turn of events culminated in us having a working stove, pictured here along with the lighter (in red). Those of you familiar with my aversion to matches and all things literally (yet not figuratively) flaming, will be as pleased to know as I am that, thanks to this little doodad, I will not have to use matches (or, more likely, make Martello use them) to light the pilots each time we cook. Of course I’m not thrilled that I have to ignite the thing each time I get hungry, but I’m getting used to it…

With our stove and oven now working, I was eager to get to work exploring the kitchen. I’m very proud of the very first espresso that I made on the stove in our Moka. Bella!My advice to all future purchasers of fancy espresso machines is to not become one! The Moka works just as well and is a fraction of the price! All you have to do is put about a tablespoon’s worth of pre-ground espresso beans in the filter (no need for expensive whole bean gourmet coffee), put water in the base, twist, and place on the stove. Boil, and in about two minutes, you have beautiful espresso! I am super excited that we had the presence of mind to register for one of these (thanks MFB!). We will likely use it all the time when we return to the Stati Uniti, as our tastes are quickly conforming to one-plus espressos a day. So tasty! So efficient!

Our taste for gelato was of course quite developed prior to our arrival. But amazingly enough, what we’ve learned thus far is that Italy is a place where the store brand gelato actually tastes fantastico (and is easy on the wallet)! No more standing on line back home for $5 a scoop gourmet ice cream! Also on the sweet tooth front, I’m happy to report that a cupcake/muffin tin has been procured; hopefully many cupcakes will spring forth from this pan over the year.

One final note: I took a brief sojourn outside in order to snap some exterior shots of our casa. On my way out, I saw an elderly gentleman walking with braced canes on both arms. I attempted to help him with his recycling (which he was pushing with one of his canes), but he was persistent in doing it himself (well that’s at least what I seemed to have comprehended…). Quite impressive! I then wandered on to the last of the grocery stores in town. I now feel like I’ve mastered the food scene here, well except for the market, which I’m excited to visit tomorrow! The day ended with brief rolling power outages on account of high winds and stormy weather. Martello’s office went dark for 20 straight minutes; the computers had to run on backup generators!

Next up: A step outside Arenzano.

Baci e gelato,
Martello e Trofie Wife

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