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Welcome to FoodMood blog space. Reflections on my travels, musings, favorite recipes, and the  Bunny Chronicles. Storytelling with joy, sass, self-reflection, and hope.

Pesto, salamander* poop, and other magic moments in Moneglia

Poop with a view, this is the view both the salamander and I were looking at as we each contemplated life in our own ways at Casa Jazayeri.

Have you ever seen a salamander take a poop? There I was vegetating on a chaise lounge at Rospo, flowing with the cramps that had taken over my abdomen, and I saw a salamander poop. In reality I am never sure which is a salamander*, and which is a (small) lizard. On this occasion, as I stared into the distance, both were present. The one I call a salamander, transparent with gummy feet, was hanging onto the side of the ledge like I often hang onto the side of a pool. His head just above the rise, his body plastered to the wall. As he clung there, effortlessly, a (small) skinny, green lizard strolled by. These creatures really do stroll, it is like they are on wheels that mechanically move them up and down while going forward. He strolled on by, seeming not to see the salamander, and the salamander ignored him just the same. Suddenly he turned back, like maybe he had changed his mind and wanted to have a chat. As fast as he strolled back, he reversed and went again forward. At this point, from the transparent body of the salamander dropped a dark brown turd about the size of one of his feet. It plummeted about 4 salamander stories, landing in the grass below. Next both four legged creatures disappeared into perspective hiding spots, one in a flowerpot, the other in a crack in the wall.

Being at Rospo, in Moneglia, is a consistent source of joy and appreciation, poop and all. Still, somehow, this time, I found myself quite sad for much of the time I was there. As if I had a slow burning, underlying fever that would not leave me. Even before I came, I wrote for myself my reasons for coming; to meditate on healing, gratitude and forgiveness. In my minds-eye I imagined that I would meditate hours each day, do yoga, walk in nature, commune in solitude with my divine inner self. HA! Joke, as always, was on me.

After nearly a decade of coming here, alone, this time, I made a friend. Sure, I know the shop keepers by name and feel myself totally comfortable here, and a friend, I never expected in my wildest dreams. Poof! There she appeared. This woman full of light and love and wishes. We actually met the last time I was here. She zoomed up in her Smart car in place of her husband Federico was stuck in Genoa traffic. Elisa, jolly, generous, and kind.

Packing for this trip I included three Bunny books, one for the young son of the owner of Centrale, and two for Elisa. No idea why, other than intuition which, by now, I follow blindly. When Federico picked me up the evening I arrived, later than usual as I decided to have dinner in town (nearly two hours later than planned, Italian trains will be Italian trains), I mentioned I had books for his wife. Swiftly he gave me her contact info and suggested I contact her directly. The rest is here.

While I had recalled Elisa is a teacher, I did not recall of what. It turns out that English language is part of her remit and on this basis, we planned to meet for an apero the day after I arrived. Elisa picked me up at 6.30 pm, I arrived home at 01.30 the next morning. I was not kidnapped, I was smitten. We did begin with Bunny, and as soon as she saw Istanbul in the first book, we were off on an entirely different journey.

It turns out that Elisa and Federico love Istanbul. Their experiences there have been so positive that this year when they had to cancel a trip due to Covide-19, they were both reduced to tears. Passionately she shared with me the pure delight of their visit. The food, the people, everything about the place enchanted them. We howled with laughter as she told me about their hammam experiences. At first both a bit wary, they left the Turkish bath with full appreciation for the entire concept. After two hours of totally heart based chatter, the obvious thing to do next was to continue on to dinner.

Serendipitously, the one place I had been wanting to check out was at the top of Elisa’s suggestion list, Levantino. We sauntered over and found ourselves again in deep conversation at our table by the sea. Over mussels marinara followed by spaghetti with sea fruits, combined with a lovely bottle of local white we talked well into the night about all that touches life in the most profound and silly ways. Here was a woman of my tribe, gratitude in living color.

The next day I laid low, my body requiring I tend to its female needs, see the salamander story above. The solitude and reflection I had promised myself on this trip was in full swing. I read, wrote, swam, and showered by the sea – all the spoils of Rospo for me. Here as well to make sure all is ready for winter hibernation, I enjoyed some time thanking the physical plant of Casa Jazayeri. By 9.30 pm I was in bed with my book lulled by the sound of the sea.

Up early the next day to a cloudy sky I decided to enjoy the 30 minute walk to town. This choice was spurred by the fact that I would not have to make the 40 minute walk, 2/3 of the way uphill, back. Elisa and I had an appointment for her to teach me how to make pesto, the most local of local dishes, and she could pick me up from town. Accordingly, I packed up Bunny with my computer and walked straight to Centrale for a cappuccino and a brioche. Blissfully I was there for nearly two hours during which among other things I wrote and sent two important postcards.

Radiant, Elisa arrived, and we set off on our pesto adventure. As we zoomed through the tunnel between Moneglia and Rospo, I realized, out loud, “Elisa, you are my first guest at Rospo.” I have come together with loved ones to Rospo, and this was the first time I would share this precious space with someone I knew from Moneglia itself.

Deftly positioning her Smart car in the awkward Rospo parking, Elisa immediately ingratiated herself at Casa Jazayeri. In the kitchen she instructed me on the delicate details of making this most simple of dishes, so often poorly executed. After only one evening with this beautiful spirit, our time in the kitchen was as if we had known each other a lifetime. Simple, easy, naturally we flowed together to make our meal, laughing most of the time. In the blink of an eye we sat on the terrace overlooking the sea to enjoy this meal which we had prepared together. The day was cool and cloudy, and over our pesto we continued the conversation from our first meeting, as if we had never stopped talking.

Elisa and Bunny digging into our pesto on Rospo terrace. Click this image for a silly video of us serving up the pesto with a few tips and lots of laughter.

Hours later as I scrubbed the bathroom floor, I found myself humming with gratitude and joy. Every task to which I applied myself was an act of appreciation. As the clouds cleared and the sun shone, I put my gear in a bag and headed off to Rospo beach. With rain in the forecast for tomorrow, I was keen to get in a last swim and wash my hair by the sea. There is something wholly cleansing and soothing in the caress of the sea. This was my third full day here, and my third time savoring the heat of early fall on the rocks of this tiny beach. As I slowly made my way to the shower above the beach I paused to take in the view, to consciously feel my good fortune to be present to the moment.

That same evening, the eve of my departure, I found myself giddy with the unexpected turn of events this visit had presented me. My intentions to meditate in solitude turned on their head, I was given entirely new ways to practice healing, gratitude, and forgiveness. Meeting Elisa had served to remind me of the magic of life in ways I needed most, in community with another human soul. Following the same lines as getting lost in Venice, on this trip to Moneglia I followed my intentions where they led me vs insisting that the 'actions' that I had planned were the point.

As I prepared to leave Rospo for the season I found myself all the more grateful for this place. When people go to India they often remark, “In India you (re) connect with the magic of life.” While part of me agrees with this, part of me always thinks, “It is not about India.” Reflecting on this last time of the season in Moneglia, I am reminded, “It is not about India”, it is about my (anyone’s) willingness to be connected to my (their) heart. When I live in this space, connected to my heart, to what is most sacred and precious to me, the world opens with all of its treasures and possibilities. The Elisa’s of life step in to remind us who we are, what life is, and why we live it.

View of Moneglia from Lemeglio where Elisa and I zoomed before she whisked me to the train station in Sestri Levante.

*turns out it was a gecko

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