CARRARA

I have loved to write for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I started a book called “Circus Life” … why, I don’t know … I’m not a fan of the Big Top. It was inspired, no doubt, by The Bobbsey Twins. I later wrote an essay about being a pedestrian in Los Angeles, among other missives. Alas, these early writings have been lost. In my working life, I drafted and edited letters for many a senior partner … and prided myself on understanding everyone’s individual voice.

This leads me to our kitty, Carrara, the accidental tourist on all of our Italian vacations … and who moved with us. She was a quiet kitty, preferring solitude to socializing. Recently, as I looked for photos on our computers and in the cloud, I found her memoir, her account of those trips.

It’s been five years this week since she’s been gone (at age 19–1/2), that most horrible of Wednesdays … I think she would like that I’m including her story here.

Carrara, in her own words …

It’s time to sit in the shade and talk of love.

This is Carrara. I love being in Italy with my mom and dad. The countryside is beautiful, and the air is so clean, you can smell the flowers and leaves. The nights are completely quiet, molto tranquillo. No noise, no light, just stars. I enjoy watching the crickets and lizards, though I haven’t seen many of the latter on this trip. They even taste better than the ones in Los Angeles. So when someone says everything tastes better in Italy, they mean everything.

I was very pleased that my boyfriend came calling again. Mario. Say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying. He is no longer the scruffy little kitty I remember from last year, but a young man. Handsome and well mannered. I don’t know if he’s well connected, and the age difference might raise eyebrows in some circles, but we enjoy one another’s company. I was flattered that he hadn’t come by the house at Christmas when I wasn’t here, though my mom and dad anxiously looked for him. He confided that he should have visited, since generous treats of branzino and bistecca are always offered.

I enjoy hearing Mario’s stories from the countryside. He is friends with the local dogs, and jokes with one of them (a Jack Russell named Tony) that they were separated at birth since they have the same markings. He takes naps in the morning sun, and knows a secure place to doze in the shade on a long summer afternoon. Mario was equally interested by my life inside, and on two continents. He said he can’t imagine what it’s like to sleep on a bed plus a couple layers of down comforter, or to have a special pink blanket that was my mom’s when she was a girl. However, he did like the idea of being brushed every day. I smiled to myself since my dad always tells me about the scruffy kitties in the park, and how they would love being pampered. Being Italian, Mario was not sure about my food. He tried some of my lamb-and-rice pate, and he ate it hungrily. While he said it was acceptable, the taste of a fresh field mouse might outweigh the convenience of foods appearing in a porcelain dish twice a day, and hearing him describe the crunch of the bones and the juicy flesh almost made me want to try.

We both agreed that sometimes it was good to throw up for no other reason than because we could.

The summer sun sets later than in Los Angeles, and Mario and I could talk for hours in the gentle light of evening. The hands of the clock turn but don’t sing of nocturne just yet. We listened to the cow bells as the mukki (the local word for cows, he said) walked lazily from the pasture back to the barn. And Mario identified the birdsongs as they began their serenade, nightingale or lark, and he laughed when I say I recognized the rooster.

He complimented my Italian, too, and was impressed that my mom was making sure I knew it. It’s a wonderful language, full of music. My mom and dad’s friends are calling us Romeo e Giulietta.

Elli, less than a year old … and the temptations we could not resist (and brought back to L.A.)

I must also mention Elli, my sister from another litter, my best friend. Elli has been gone almost three years now. Elli used her special talent to turn everyone she met into cat people, and I know she would have loved Italy. The fish, the air, the branzino, the flowers, the orate, the stars, the crickets, the latterini, the sun, the cream, the pesce, the mukki, the seafood, and especially the tonno. Ah, she tried to explain the art of fine dining, but my favorites are still tuna and lamb chops. I send you a bacione, Elli, and know we all think about you all the time. Your photo is even on the refrigerator.

Sweet and savory temptations …

We spend a night or two in Rome before heading back to our full-time home. We stay at our favorite hotel in Trastevere, with its cool, emerald-colored marble floors and high windows. It’s a city again, but even in a closed hotel room, the feeling is different than Los Angeles. The humidity makes one’s fur feel better, and it carries the sounds and smells of antiquity. I met a lovely friend named Alice, who spoke with a different voice, English but smoother on the ears. And she used the word “brilliant”, which has an energetic sound. I think I’ll start including that in my vocabulary, too.

But Los Angeles is my hometown, and that means it is a part of me. We 3 are back to our “normal” lives, and I look forward to future trips to la bella Italia.

Then … and now …

***

I miss you Carrara, my sweet gentle cuddly fluffy girl. We think of you every time we have tuna … and so so so many times in between.

HONEY-PEAR-COCOA CAKE

This cake began without the cocoa … and it was wonderful. When I couldn’t find a pear-and-chocolate cake recipe I liked, I added cocoa to this one. Delizioso!

1/4 cup hazelnuts, finely ground
1 cup + 3 Tbl. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 oz. butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 oz. (2 Tbl.) cocoa
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pear, diced

- Grease and flour a 9-inch round pan. Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C).
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, honey, sugar and brown sugar. Add the cocoa and vanilla.
- Blend in egg and egg yolk.
- Stir in flour mixture, alternating with the milk … flour in three additions, milk in two.
- Fold in pears.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until done.
- Serve at any temperature.
Enjoy!