GIFTS FROM THE HEART
My wife Dorothy. Nothing to do with what follows, but she's lovely.
It is very rare for us to get something for nothing in this age of ungenerous business and corporate greed. Yet during our recent holiday (I do go on about it, don't I?) to Italy the proprietor of the Hotel Paganella where we stayed offered something for nothing on more than one occasion.
I've already eulogised over the so-called picnic that consisted of a huge slice of mouth-watering pizza and an eye-watering quantity of red wine alfresco, on a public park, on the first morning we were there. That's a memory that will go down the years with me.
But that wasn't all. By no means!
I know I've used this picture before, but we all so enjoyed the picnic it's worth a second viewing.
There was the wine-tasting. We've probably all been to a wine tasting in our time, probably many times â€“ I know I have â€“ and the main objective is to get the tasters to buy as much of the tasted product as they can afford. Think of the cross-channel ferry: they quarter-fill a thimble-sized plastic container with a few molecules of fluid and wave a bottle under your nose, demanding hard cash. And that's perfectly all right. You know why you're there and if someone wants you to buy a bottle of what you've been allowed to sample, they can. You don't have to buy. Nobody's forcing you, but the event has been organised so that you can.
But at the hotel Paganella there was a wine-tasting with a difference. The proprietor (Fausto) produced some red wine and some white wine and gave everyone a small (but considerably larger-than thimble) sized glass of the red and then the white and told us it wasn't for sale: he makes it himself and only in quantities large enough for his own consumption and that of his friends (and he obviously included us in that favoured brigade). He wasn't after our money and he wouldn't sell. He was simply happy to share his talents with a bunch of strangers, and we were grateful. And, incidentally, his wine was very pleasant and, he assured us, adequately alcoholic. It complemented the carafe that was placed on every table every night as part of the holiday deal.
Then it turned out it was his birthday whilst we were there, and the oddest coincidence was that of the twenty-five of us three others also shared that day as their birthday.
And his mother, a lovely lady with a huge welcoming smile and unobtrusive friendly presence, baked a very special cake.
Fausto's Mum and baker of fine cakes.
The fine cake
True, a slice of it constituted the fourth course of a four-course meal, but it was delicious and made birthdays onto a very special occasion. It was an act of generosity that went appreciated by all and would have been absent at many another hotel I've been to, particularly the overnight hotel at Strasbourg that couldn't open its restaurant to weary travellers on their way home but which could serve others. But then, Strasbourg is in France and there are, surprisingly, some French people who don't particularly like us Brits. Maybe they remember Waterloo.
Â© Peter Rogerson 19.09.11