A story for Valentines Day.
A handful of days from our wedding, on January 7, 2012, I drove him to the airport. We had just come back from our honeymoon in Rome. In our initial intentions, it wasn’t supposed to be a honeymoon, but rather a New Year’s escape we booked way ahead. We found it convenient to simply change the name of the holiday, without actually changing its substance: a week exploring and eating, with visits to museums and monuments planned around lunch and dinner reservations.
I caught the flu right after we came back – actually, on our way back. I should have seen the bright side of this, but the idea of spending the rest of our so very precious days together at my parents’ home, with me drinking tea and sleeping on the couch, was still depressing. They went equally very fast.
The day of his departure, I drove him to the airport, bundled up in a rustic and puffy wool scarf my grandma had knitted me for Christmas, still very sick, and equally, deeply sad. His student visa has expired, and despite the marriage, my unemployment wasn’t going to grant him a permesso di soggiorno, or us a fresh start. We had everything planned out, though, and we were hopeful: The separation was going to be temporary, and very short – two months at the most. He was going to sort out the paperwork for my Green Card from the US, so that we could move together somewhere on the West Coast.
I really thought I could manage all this, – the separation, the wait, the unknown – but I was a mess the moment he passed security. Driving back, head numbed by fever and crying, runny nose, hazy eyes, I realised it was going to be fucking hard – every single day away from him was going to be a little torture, which no Skype call or email was going to ease.
I tried to keep myself busy with writing, job searching, photographing, running, cooking, as well as taking care of my side of the bureaucracy to secure the paperwork we needed for the Green Card. As days passed, though, we not only felt like two months weren’t going to be enough, but also, that moving across the ocean, jobless, without savings, wasn’t the easiest move. The job search wasn’t going great, and depression was rising high.
We decided to meet, unable to bare the distance any longer, in whatever place outside of Schengen we could manage to find cheap flights to. He was going to ask a friend from a previous job at the airline who still worked there for a buddy pass. The guy replied he had one for Dublin, flying in on February 14th, two weeks away. I booked my flight.
We met in Dublin on St Valentine’s Day, you see, but it wasn’t planned, and it wasn’t relevant. We would have made it a special one regardless, for the simple fact of being able to hug each other again. During that week, we tried to avoid every sad feeling or talk about the uncertain future awaiting us and just tried to sink into the joy of spending time together. Yet, during that week, we decided to cut it short, we decided we couldn’t take another long-term separation. We were going to wait for the paperwork together, in a third country, where we could both live and work and speak the language and function in society.
Spelt Orange Brioche
A handful of small sugar grains (optional)
Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with 2 tbsp of lukewarm water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes or until it turns frothy.
In a large bowl, mix sifted flour, salt, sugar, yeast and butter. Add eggs, orange blossom water and milk gradually and mix well with a big wooden spoon. Start kneading until you get a smooth ball-shaped dough, about 8-10 minutes. Cover bowl with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm room/environment overnight.
The next day, start kneading the dough on a non-floured surface, about 1-2 minutes. Line a 9-inch rectangular tin generously with butter and place the dough inside. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise again for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Whisk the egg and brush the surface of the brioche. Sprinkle with sugar grains all over and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove and let cool slightly before slicing. It is good the day after, toasted.
Maple-Roasted Vanilla Pears
2 Tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F (you can bake this together with brioche). Peel and quarter the pears, removing the seeds inside. Place on a large baking dish.
Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a small bowl. Add the maple syrup and water, whisk so that the seeds are all in the liquid. Pour over the pears, move them around gently to coat them in the syrup using a wooden spoon. Bake for 20 minutes, until soft.
Remove and let cool slightly. Serve over brioche with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt.