Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Black caviar

Little Black Dress

 My friend once dreamed of a black garden, black velvet woven through the green foliage. She planted roses and tulips, irises and dahlias in shades of black the color of eggplants, aubergines of a violet so deep and dark they shimmer like caviar, the color of licorice whips and black pudding, boudin noir. Spring, summer and well into autumn, she waded in black until black flowers turned the color of rust, drooped and scattered black petals in the dirt.

 Black oreos twisted between palms to reveal pristine white cream, sugary sweet, teeth scraped across the surface, licked clean leaving only the black, black cookies to eat. Leaving clumps of black stuck to one's teeth. Black radishes, the surface much like the soil in which they grow, a dusty, rough black, thinly sliced to reveal white, pure creamy white. Black and white like panda bears or Boston Terriers. Sushi, maki rolls dressed in elegant, slick black sliced through to reveal white. Rice. Black encasing white hiding glistening pink and velvety green. Licorice whips; my father loved the black while I would only eat the red, strawberry red, the black much too bitter for me. Good & Plenty fooled me, played a dirty trick over and over again, pretty pink and white candy shells but once bitten through revealing bitter black. Spit it out.

 Black is for death, for farewell, dress in black for a funeral. Black is elegance and sophistication, little black dress for a party. Black beans, rough and ready; black chocolate sinful, the devil (devil's food cake) sparring with our angelic self. Black Forest. Black eye; I'd rather fight than switch.

Black eggplant

Black as Coal

 Early morning. I force myself out of bed, pushing back a jumble of sheets and blankets, loath to leave a cocoon of warmth, feeling blindly around in the dark for clothing, struggling into my robe and slippers. It is pitch dark outside, pitch black, black as sin.

 I stumble into the kitchen and put the water on, scooping coffee into the filter, setting two places for breakfast. I pull back the white curtains and peer out into the starless black. Tree branches stretch their naked ebony arms across the sky like black pencil drawings on black construction paper, deepening the black. What time is it? It seems like the middle of the night, the wee hours of the morning, the witching hour, the sky the color of ink, shoe polish, licorice. A winter morning.

 Black coffee. Espresso.

Black olives

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

 It was a splendid September day, certainly not a day for sitting inside, even with the windows thrown open to the blue skies and warm breeze. This was not a day for work, for burying oneself under a pile of papers and a heap of ideas. This was a day for heading out of town, into the country for a walk and a bit of sunshine and fresh air, for liberating body and soul. Black moods cleared, black moods scattered to the winds.

 We drove out of town, circled around and around, somewhat lost, finding ourselves in a secluded spot. The car pulled over to the side of the road, we hiked along the shoulder until we found a dirt path pushing into the trees and we, sense of adventure in hand, followed where it led. Trees and wild turned into farmland, cows grazing placidly behind crude wooden fences and on we pushed. An unexpected hot wind was blowing against us as we found ourselves deep in pastureland, wading ankle deep in dry, prickly grass and sharp, angry flora. And still we walked on. And were rewarded for our effort.

 Coming to the edge of the fields, as far as we could go, discovering a narrow, deep stream edged with thorny bushes thick with leaves. Suddenly he yelped with pleasure and called to me, pointing at great, fat blackberries clinging to the branches in bunches, blackberries ripe and sweet from the heat and sun. Wild blackberries larger, plumper, less savage somehow than those we would find growing along the paths that splayed out from the village where my in-laws, his parents lived, stumpy, hard littles blackberries they were. These were beauties, black pearls flashing in the light.

 Blackberries nestled in the branches as far as the eye could see, miles, it seemed, of blackberry bushes lining the pasture on three sides. But, he chided as I ogled the beautiful berries hungrily, we have nothing to collect them in. Ah, but we do! I exclaimed laughingly as I dug in my backpack, pulling out a large plastic bag and dumping out the snacks I had carried along for the trek and waving it at him triumphantly. And we spent the rest of the afternoon deep in those blackberry bushes, oblivious to the thorns, pulling off blackberries and filling the sack. Fingers and tongue long stained black.

 Blackberries for a pie.

Black squid and ink

Black & White

 Who sees the world in black and white? Bright as day, white light. Dark as night. Stars speckling the inky black, the furtive movement of trees, rustling of leaves in the night wind, black on black.

 Black and white, scattered photographs, black dissolving to grey, white smudged like a blur of pencil lead on paper, newsprint on fingertips. Black and white, images of my childhood, shadowy memories, clouded souvenirs. A dusting of ashes on white sheets. A vain attempt to remember yet conflicting recollections, confused interpretations, nothing is black and white.

 Black coffee and dark chocolate cookies leave stains on white paper, a notebook in which I record my thoughts, capture ideas in black and white, scribble down recipes, measurements jotted down in black. Or blue. Splotches of coffee leaving puckered spots of black. Intertwining, interlocking rings of black like Spirograph shapes done by a kid in pencil, round and round. Crumbs dabbled across the page, black on white, snow in reverse. Trudging black footprints across white carpets, patterned on white tiles.

Black recipe-2

One of my projects that never really takes off is to recreate the octopus meatballs, polpettine di polpo, that we had years ago in a seafood restaurant in Galipoli in Apulia. The whole family remembers them and maybe that is why I haven't gotten around to make a serious attempt; I know that the memory and the expectations will never forgive my efforts. So I have to content myself with spaghetti with squid ragu but I have no problems with that because it is such a nice treat! 

4 servings

400 g/ 0,9 lb pasta, I used black squid ink pasta
400 g/0,9 lb fresh or frozen squid, cleaned
2 ripe tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1+1 tbs finely chopped parsley
pinch of chili pepper flakes
extra-virgin olive oil

   Chop the tomatoes finely; I often use a mandolin with the julienne part which is a very quick and easy way to chop them. Heat up some olive oil with chili flakes and parsley in a wide pan or a skillet and simmer it for a minute or two before you add the tomatoes. Leave to cook for about 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, finely slice and then chop the squid, reserving all liquid you can then adding it to the tomatoes; do not throw it away because it adds to the flavour. When the tomatoes have been reduced a bit, add the squid, taste for salt and leave it to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

   You have obviously cooked the pasta simultaneously so when the squid ragú is ready you drain the pasta and toss it in the pan and serve it straight away!


  1. A post for me! I love all things that are black...

    Beautifully moody pictures, delightfully poetic words and fabulous recipe.



  2. Stunning!
    A joy to the eyes and the soul to come here, Jamie and Ilva.