Lost in Translation

Before moving to Italy I used to enjoy spotting signs that were either spelt incorrectly or were unintentionally humorous. Here in Italy it’s much harder to find them as Italian is my second language and I’m still not fluent enough to spot any errors, so I have to rely mostly on finding translated mistakes. Here’s three pieces of text that have amused me recently.

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I like for this drink that the Italian instructions for use, instruct you store in the fridge and use within 2/3 days, however the English translation says, ‘consume within some days’. So nothing specific there then.

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The second is a photograph of the local Chinese restaurant menu. It’s not the misspelling of prawns or sauce that made me smile, it was the ‘chilly’ sauce. This simple oxymoron of a hot chilli sauce that’s advertised as being in need of a sweater to keep it warm made me smile.

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This final one appealed to my immature side and toilet humour, (no pun intended). It’s from a recent supermarket receipt and makes the two bottles of beer I’ve purchased less appealing. You could say the birra was a bit of a bum deal.

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Quick and Easy Ribs

Last week I posted a photo on Facebook of some stick ribs I’d made for dinner. A friend back in the UK said to me that he loved ribs but couldn’t be bothered with all the effort to make them, I said there’s not much effort in ribs really. He talked about hours of marinating and then a long slow cooking time, not to mention the problem of cleaning the burnt bits off the baking tray. I laughed and told him my ribs take about 35-40 minutes from start to finish. He suggested I write about it here and share the recipe for him to try.

So this is my version of sticky ribs and the ingredients used, however as I make it by eye there’s no exact measurements.

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First thing I do is put the ribs into a saucepan of water with 3 or 4 star anise and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 to 25 minutes while the sauce is made. The sauce is as follows: 1 teaspoon of English mustard, a good slosh of tomato ketchup, a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, a squirt of lemon, a hearty drizzle of honey. To this add black pepper, a teaspoon of ground cumin, a glug of chilli oil, (I use my own Olio Santo) if you don’t have chilli oil then dried chilli will do. I then add some ground star anise and a splash of red wine. Mix all of this together to make a loose paste.

Remove the ribs from the pan and dry them on kitchen paper then line a baking tray with baking parchment; you’ll see why later.

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Place the tray on a top shelf in a pre-heated oven, 200 degrees (180 for fan-assisted) and bake them for 15 minutes. Once the ribs are cooked remove from the oven and remove from the baking parchment. You’ll see that they come away easily and retain most of the sauce that usually sticks to the metal tray.

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Dispose of the parchment and you have a tray that needs just a quick wash: no scrubbing away welded on sauce. The only thing left to do is enjoy eating the ribs which are great with a cold beer.

Bad Influence from Stevenage

My friend who has a house nearby is over at the moment from the UK to enjoy some early Italian sunshine and get her neglected garden back in order. We met a few years back and spent a riotous summer together in Italy in 2011 as both of our partners were in England at the time. I have to admit that we both have the same irreverent sense of humour and also occasionally have no internal volume switch. So a couple of weeks back she tips up at the airport. I pick her up and from that moment on my routine begins to unravel.

We’ve had assorted trips into different towns when I’d be sat at my desk normally doing research. We’ve enjoyed meals at lunchtime when I’d normally grab a sandwich as I proof read. There’s been many visits to the local bar when usually after a day writing, I’d be cossetted on the sofa with a glass of wine  watching Emmerdale.

So last week, when another friend pointed out that I was having a very busy social life of late, I pointed out the reason why; my errant friend from Stevenage. The friend comments that my recent status updates have featured less about my work and more about my procrastination, and I have to admit to being one story behind on my monthly schedule. I then jokingly lay the blame for this firmly at my visiting friend’s door, saying she’s a bad influence.100_9239

Several minutes later said bad influence sends me a message saying, ‘fancy trying the new bar in town?’ Am I strong enough to resist the temptation to indulge in jovial behaviour while partaking of grain based beverages?

No. So where does the blame lie?

Who really cares when a good time is being had by all, I can get back to the mundane 9 to 5 routine later in the month. Life is too short to put work before friendship.

Unconscious Italian

The iPod shuffles and Canadian R&B singer, Melanie Fiona sings Watch Me Work. I’m surprised she remains mostly unknown by the UK music buying public as she’s much more talented than the likes of Kelly Rowland, Nicole Sherzinger et al, but I guess the big U.S. labels still see Canadian artists as ‘poor cousins’. There’s a knock at the door and my neighbour tells me she’s having some work on her back garden done, so there may be some cars parked at the top of the road. Moments later a tractor arrives and two short squat men jump out and begin to hand-ball bricks and wood up the stairs leading to my neighbours back garden. Now being of the nosey persuasion, I pop along to see what’s happening and before long I’m sat inside enjoying a prosecco as the two men toil in cooling early evening air.

There’s a call and Mario, one of the squat gardeners asks me if I can give him a lift to Minco di Lici to pick up his girlfriend. As it’s literally just around the corner I agree, we drive down the lane and pass a group of elderly locals all sat out chatting, each one has brought their own chair and sit in the road with no intention of moving. I see their faces that say, ‘we were here first’. As we navigate slowly around the group they look at the English car and give a half-hearted greeting, We toss a robust, “Salve tutti,” out of the window and smiles grace the ancient faces and a more robust, “Anche lei,” is called back. Mario tells me he is married but his wife didn’t like living in the country so returned to city living. I ask him what city she returned to, expecting him to say Milan, Rome or Naples. His response is, “Casoli.”  Casoli, our council town is a mere 5 km away, and by UK city standards it’s barely a town.

We arrive at the house where Mario’s girlfriend works as a carer, the elderly wife opens an electronic gate and beckons us inside. The woman chats away to us, offers us beer and when we decline she looks sad, her aged eyes, watery. We look at each other and watch her face lose years as it brightens when we agree to have a small beer. Seven cats share the terrace where we sit, but unlike the owner we are not impervious to the smell, luckily a light breeze blows it away from where I sit. Eventually a young girl in her twenties appears at the door, she’s from the Dominican Republic, a good half metre taller than Mario and I imagine at least ten years younger. I ask him how they met and he is vague, so I’m assuming over the internet.

I deliver Mario and his beau back and for regular readers of, A Life on Shuffle, here’s an update on the shed incident of a few days ago, Mario, uses his digger to push it over the edge of the ruin it was lodged on, so now out of sight, I’m very happy. It’s only after he’s put some paper down on the dirty tractor seat for his girlfriend to sit on, that i realise I have just spent a good forty-minutes in the company of Italians and not a word of English has been spoken, and I’ve not had to think about what I was saying, it just flowed naturally. Now I’m not fluent, far from it, but it was nice to actually speak another language without consciously thinking about what I’m saying.