Ask me what I'd take to a desert island, or what my favourite foods are and I get anxious. Can't I have them all? Even though I could provide an endless list of everything I like the most, there is one thing that will always pop to mind before I even have time to think, before other childhood memories and smells start to interfere.
It is my nonna's bread. I remember the joy when she would take out the flour from a sack, the yeast bubbling up in a bowl, already. I’d sit patiently and watch her while she kneaded the dough. It would blow up like a monster and I never tired of that daily ritual. There was the anticipation while I stared at the oven, the excitement when she’d take the bread out, the impatience when she wrapped it in a towel to cool off.
Finally, she’d take the knife, and cut a corner of the golden brown loaf. No matter what was on the slice, the first bite was pure bliss. Sometimes she’d put butter, which melted instantly into the soft inside, making the crust even crunchier. Often she’d spread her own fig jam, made from honey-tasting figs from our tree, or she’d give me a piece of cheese and a huge tomato, just picked and still warm from the scorching summer heat.
A Russian proverb says: “With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.” I hope there is a pine tree on that desert island.