Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bike Club Meeting at "La Locanda di Nemo"

Today I participated in the annual planning meeting of my bike team. On a Sunday. I thought it was a bit peculiar to have a club meeting on a Sunday. Because it was planned to be a luncheon that took place about a hundred miles away from here. So it meant that you couldn't ride. I couldn't understand why a bike club would give up a ride for a meeting. Because meetings in Italy are never short encounters. They take all-day and they're more like weddings. You get the whole package, minus the happy couple. A 6 course meal. Singing. Entertainment. Wine. Grappa. The whole family comes, including the kids, who sit at their own table. There was even an animal farm on the premises to keep the kids from self-destructing.

Our meeting which took place at "La Locanda di Nemo" was in the middle of the woods, way up north in the Mugello region, deep deep in the wilderness. Transporation had to be arranged for those without cars. What should have taken 1 hour to get there, took 2 1/2. Because nobody was on time. Everyone was late, including the president and team captain. (I was wondering if those sneaky bastards snook in an early ride). As I was waiting for them to pick me up, I wasn't surprised to receive an SMS "Siamo in ritardo" (we are running late) as I waited in a pastry shop in Piazza Beccaria taking my 3rd caff� of the day. "Siamo in ritardo"...the most common SMS message that I receive here in Italy. Nobody cared about being late. Nobody apologized. Nobody was sorry. Nobody was anxious. Except for me.

I guess they really wanted to get our attention and our complete dedication. I might sound like I'm being critical, but I'm really not. It's just a matter of breaking out of the American mode of getting to the bottom line. You ride, you meet, you eat, you go home and do a million other things. Not here. Life in Italy is slow motion. It is affecting my metabolism, my mind. But that's the beauty of Italy.

It was an all day affair. Lunch consisted of the typical Tuscan prosciutto, bruschette, salume, mortadella, ribollita, tortellini, beefsteak, wild boar, potatoes, porcini mushrooms, zucchini and desert. Wine of course. Four different desserts. Grappa.

With a cleaver the size of a chainsaw, the locally famous 70 year-old owner/butcher, Nemo, demonstrated his cutting-edge skills by butchering the side of beef that would soon find its way onto our table with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and somehow avoided keeping his inflated belly out of the beef. He was probably the same guy who killed the cow.

Then all the waiters started singing ancient Tuscan songs. The whole restaurant sang and laughed. It was difficult to decipher the conversation because there was a great deal of old dialect going on. But somehow I survived.
I am really tired of meat, the staple food of Tuscany. Cows, pigs and wild boar. Lard. Fat. Each one is wonderful in moderation, but in Tuscany it can get a bit overwhelming. Try finding a fresh whole fish. Not possible. If you're a vegetarian, you could survive on the fresh produce in Tuscany, but at the same time you would be tortured by the overwhelming sight of meat everywhere. Today's meal made me crave the cuisine of my southern Italian heritage.

After this gluttonous meatfest, we were supposed to have a meeting. Unable to move, I somehow made it out of my chair into the meeting room. For another hour the 14 participants actually had a cohesive, productive, organized meeting with a clear-cut agenda. I was shocked. Everyone agreed on everything. No stodgy board debates. No dissertations. No arguments. The board approved the T-shirt design that Rebecca presented. Everyone agreed on the Raduno route propsal for next year. Everyone agreed on the Christmas party. Everyone agreed on going to the Maratona delle Dolomiti. Everyone agreed on the annual club outing. Everyone smiled and agreed as their lips sunk further into their second and third glasses of grappa.

Now I understand why meetings are preceded by feasts. And wine. And grappa. Everyone agrees to everything.  So there's a method to this madness.  Only problem is that the next day nobody can remember what they agreed upon.  So they gotta do it all over again !!