Tuesday, 5 April 2011

"Na' tazzulella e' cafe`" A cup of Coffee (and zabaione)

It's seven in the morning and I hear traffic noises in the street, below. The bar must be opening. I hear Michele (he used to be a bersagliere, then he married my cousin Tina and became the rich owner of a bar, married to a rich girl-my cousin!)

Michele had a really loud sounding voice and was a real character: very dark hair, a big smile... a really nice man! You knew it was morning as Michele opened his bar and the noise was really loud! He would talk to everyone and would wake everyone up. He was our honorary cockerel. If we had lived in the country, I'm sure someone would have rang his neck and cooked him "alla cacciatora" and he would never have lived to be the grandfather he is now. He was so loud!

In our house, and in every house, you could smell coffee, first thing. Like a cartoon type swirl in the air, the fragrance travelled all the way up to your nostrils. The coffee I could smell came from our kitchen. My mum made fantastic coffee!

My brother Mimmo and I, were not allowed coffee, until we were about fifteen (by which time we secretly drank babbo's Moscatello and I had a boyfriend.) No coffee for Italian children! Just a little drop in your cappuccino, in the morning, with biscuits. But not for us: no biscuits in our house. "You have to dip panini in your cappuccino!" My Mum would say. "What? Panini? In my cappuccino? But that's vile! I want biscuits!" I would say, but... not allowed!

No sweets in our house (though pasticcini and yummy things did get smuggled in!) Everything our mother fed us was fresh, wholesome and even the eggs we ate had been very painfully "delivered" by some worm eating hen, out in the countryside. Have you ever watched a hen lay an egg? Painful...

But I grew up to really LOVE strong, beautiful, fragrant black coffee (and eggs... I had no choice!) Yes, I do like a cup of espresso, in the morning. You know, the kind you drink out of a small cup. My problem is I do drink espresso, the "kind you drink out of a small cup," but I have massive helpings of it, in big cups. WOW! But you can always counteract the effect of caffeine overdose with a nice, wholesome herbal Valerian tablet, can't you?

My beautiful 1970s coffee cups. Love them!

Illy, 1994 Picasso coffee cup collection. 

Going back to the egg "thing", my mother, the 007 of organic world had "spies" everywhere. Farmers would pop out of the woodwork with baskets of beautiful big free range eggs, organic vegetables (back then, the word wasn't as trendy as it is now. My mum used to call it "Senza concime" "Organic") I'm sure my mum's organic vegetables made me the "strong " woman I am now! Maybe not...

Today I made zabaione, using very fresh free range... happy eggs. At home we were only allowed to make zabaione with fresh eggs. All we needed was:

Italian home made zabaione
Serves 1
2 extremely fresh free range eggs
(only need the yolks)
3 tbsp caster sugar
optional: 2 tbsp coffee
or: 2 tbsp liquor or brandy

Simply break two eggs. Separate the whites from the yolks, place the yolks in a cup with the sugar and whisk with a fork, or a mixer, until the mixture becomes pale yellow and smooth. Add some black coffee, or liquor (brandy is good with this.) Done! If you like eggs and really sweet "stuff" this is one for you. And... if for any reason you would like your zabaione to be "cooked"  you can make it in a bowl placed into a Bain Marie (hot water.) This makes your zabaione smoother.

My brother and I used to make our own zabaione every other day, but we were only allowed 1 egg yolk each, as two, our mum said, were not good for you! And, though we were not allowed black coffee, our mum would put whisky in our zabaione "To keep us warm"... 'cause it's ever so cold in Southern Italy, isn't it?
No coffee in this cup, just a rose for Rosa, my beautiful mother, who brought so much love into my life.


  1. Anna, I had to come and see your coffee cups! They are wonderful! I am so sorry you lost your mama, I didn't know, I thought she was sick. She sounds like a real character, and I think I would have loved her coffee (although I don't drink espresso without milk).It is very hard to lose your mother, mine died 4 years ago and some days I still cry.Lots of love to you, Linda x

  2. Linda, the truth is that I always talk about my mother in the past because she is so sick, she can't even talk anymore, and in the last four weeks she has suffered so many strokes she has lost the use of the left side of her body and has to be fed by a drip. All we have left is a rose which is fading very fast. It's painful and I can't even find the words to express how it feels. I spent a lot of time with her as a child and she was a good role model to me. I love her very, very much.