Sorting through some old photos on what seemed like an endless flight from Seattle back to Houston where I live, I came across this wonderful image of linguine alle vongole that I shared with my wife and our oldest daughter three years ago while visiting Lecce province in Salento, the southernmost part of the heel of Italy’s boot.
More than 25 years after I visited for the first time and after countless trips there, it’s one of my fondest and most cherished memories of Italy.
In part, because it was the first time there with one of our children. In part, because we were visiting the Cantele family with whom we had already grown very close.
But mostly because this modest dish — long noodles, cooked al dente and then tossed in fresh clams that have been sautéed in olive oil and deglazed with white wine — was and is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Call it an escape from the worries and humdrum of contemporary life and living: The photo and memory reminded me that pleasure may be found in the humblest ingredients, combined in the simplest of ways.
No need to be financially privileged to enjoy this zenith of mediterranean cuisine. It’s within reach of anyone, even a middle-class middle-aged American copywriter who’s trying to raise his precious family in troubled times.
Some day, when our daughters are old enough, we’ll return to that spot on the Ionian sea to enjoy such a dish with them.
I imagine that I’ll spare them my lecture on how the simplest things in life are the best.
I’l just enjoy watching them eat it… It will surely be one of my life’s simplest and most rewarding pleasures.