• Nicoletta Fornaro

Poached Pears and a Dream Lagoon


One of the aspects that most characterises the lagoon has always been its slowness. When I was a teenager, I used to hate it! At that time, living in Venice seemed anachronistic to me, and slightly boring too. While in the rest of the world kids would go around by underground and move from one club to the other, us Venetians were relegated to the eternal slowness of our vaporettos and, to party, obliged to reach places in the mainland like Jesolo, Padua, Verona and Vicenza.

Incredible how only 16 years later, at the age of 32, my point of view has changed completely. So many things that seemed completely dull and uncool, now appear amazing. Even food wise (although I've always been relatively attentive to keeping fit thus have always had a sufficiently healthy diet), I did not enjoy fruit and veg as much as I do now and I would much prefer complex and challenging preparations -or industrial snacks!- to the simple dishes I make nowadays. Especially fruit required to be transformed, whereas now I often just peel it, core it if needed and eat it...

The way Venice was built and the delicate and unique ecosystem of the lagoon require special attention and measures, in theory boats should not exceed a certain speed (to avoid worsening the swell) and specific noises should be avoided not to disturb the rich variety of fauna we have. There are numerous species of birds (there were more once, but...) and on the Lido we have the beautiful WWF oasis of Alberoni (which, though, was seriously damaged with the exceptionally high tide we experienced in November 2018). In Northern Italy, people in general are more sensitive to environmental matters than in other parts of Italy and there are groups of volunteers that meet up to clear the beaches from garbage rude people leave behind them and now, some, practice the so-called plogging (picking up litter while jogging). Personally I like to think, and truly believe, that most people are good in nature and care about the place they and their children live. It has always been the big industries to spoil the territory, using it to make money they will never share with anyone else but themselves.

Please don't think I feel nostalgic about the years of the most Serene Republic of Venice. For the poor, things were no different and lower classes were mistreated and exploited as much as today, but at least the governors lived here and were well aware they had to preserve and improve the city and the surrounding to become more powerful and important. Doges and nobles would invest in art and architecture and certain activities were restricted to preserve the lagoon. Now, instead, our mayor lives in Mogliano (which is not even in the council of Venice... but of Treviso!), multinational companies are buying or building huge hotels and entire blocks of apartments are turned into airbnbs. Every week there's a new bar or restaurant, but only a few open for passion, most just think about the money and the average offer are crostini and spritz or, worse, pasta take-away (Italians don't eat anything to go) ...

We are all aware of climate change and, with the rising of sea levels, it would be very important for Venice to have a plan and take action, although right now our administrators can't think of anything else except keeping their job and stealing our money... (please have a look at this article published by The Art Newspaper, which was shared with me by a super kind reader).

Only this summer Venice experienced two huge accidents due to giant cruise ships. The second one, happened during a hail storm, was super frightening. A dear friend called Beatrice described her experience as hell: she was on a vaporetto trying to reach the Lido, where she lives, but the boat was swaying like crazy and she got off at Giardini because she was scared. The vaporetto stop was over crowded with people squeezed at every corner trying to protect themselves from giant hail cubes and the strong wind, when at one point she turned her head and saw the giant face of the cruise ship going against them, as close as she had never seen before. She said she thought she was going to die... it looked so near and so threatening, that she ran out of the stop to go inwards, but with the wet floor she slipped and hurt her knee. Thank goodness, the three tug boats managed to avoid the tragedy, but... boy, that was really creepy! Although, allow me say, I find creepier that no measures have been yet taken.

Brugnaro now pushes for the excavation of another canal, which should really be avoided, while the most useless of infrastructure ministers Toninelli is clearly unable to decide. Not that I expect anything good from the 5 stars... Toninelli was an insurer until yesterday, so I don't see how he can take a serious and educated decision. And unfortunately, if I look at other European cities and at the U.S too, I don't see much hope. So many people have criticised Greta Thunberg, and yes I do agree that she is only 16 and the way she lives is not practicable by everyone, but I admire her deeply and consider her more intelligent than most of the world's politicians and economists...

In these moments of mistrust, I find shelter and strength in the arms of my husband who always tries to see the bright side of things. He says that in the past some things may have been better but many other were not and have improved with time. The quality of the houses we live in, for example, has greatly improved. The quality of water too had improved until a while ago and will improve once again if only we stopped allowing cruise ships (and I am also referring to the smaller ones, which still use the heaviest and most polluting petrol in commerce). In the 80s, there were no places open for the younger generations after 10 pm while now it's the contrary, and so on... so, he says, I should stop worrying and just keep practicing virtuous everyday choices. We can't save the world, but with our choices we can do a lot to improve it...

To joke Vito sometimes tells me I even turned him into 'a fighetta' (delicate and picky pu..y), able to recognise ripe tomatoes at a glance and always seeking for Italian and locally grown produce. Even with regard to alcohol, he has switched from cocktails and long drinks to natural wine, craft beer and artisanal spirits... so, he says, if he's improved, the world can too! So, to conclude this post, I just want to remind you about a couple of really interesting and SLOW activities you can do while in Venice and with a simple recipe for poached pears.

For nature and slow living lovers, my tips are:

- check out the events organised by BIRDWATCHING VENEZIA and seize the occasion to explore in a slow manner the lagoon and its unique fauna

- support the local artisans based in the convent of Ss. Cosma and Damiano on Giudecca

- take an entire day to visit the magical and peaceful island of San Francesco del Deserto

- choose an afternoon to visit the Armenian island, its convent, library and gardens and learn more about their special rose petal jam

As for the recipe, it's a guilt free poached pear dessert made with baby pears from a nearby region, marinated in a fruit syrup (I used the juice of my prunes in syrup), honey and oil, served on a base of cookie crumble. Easy, seasonal, delicious and light! Hope you will like it!

Bye for now and talk soon ;-)

RECIPE: LIGHT POACHED PEARS

easy, serves two

Ingredients:

6 small pears

1 cup fruit syrup of choice

1 Tbsp olive oil

1Tbsp honey

2 oat cookies

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven at 180°

2. Peel and core the pears leaving them intact

3. Grease a baking pan, place the pears horizontally, pour over the fruit syrup, a Tbsp of oil and and some honey.

4. Bake at 180° for about 30 minutes, turning the pears every now and then to let them absorb the juice homogeneously.

5. When ready, serve hot over a cookie crumble and top with its juice.

#sweetrecipes

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