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The travels of Chef Luigi

Mar. 20, 2012 6:30 pm 
Updated: Jun. 4, 2012 7:52 am
Clip Clop Clock went off right on time as always this morning. Having had a late night with the Tutti Twins I decided to avail myself of the snooze button and catch an extra ten minutes. The bed was so comfy I really didn’t want to get up yet. But the snooze button wasn’t having any of it! A cold nose had found its way under the duvet at the foot of the bed and it was slowly moving its way north until it popped out at the top of the bed, just beneath my chin!

It was time to pack up the Tutti Twins and get them up to Heathrow Airport. They had a long journey ahead of them. For those of you who are not aware, the boys are heading for Alaska! Lucky little mites!

The other day I received an impassioned plea from Alfredo to let him go with Luigi. Alfredo has never been to the states. What Alfredo doesn’t know is that Luigi made a passionate plea for us to keep Alfredo here! Luigi clearly loves Al dearly, but claims that Al, for unknown reasons, brings out the devil in Luigi and he worries that he’ll get drawn into some of Alfredo’s shenanigans and end up in trouble. After looking at the mess Al left the kitchen in after their midnight attempt at making a tiramisu, I’m afraid I’m siding with Alfredo! (Note to Alfredo – there’s more to a tiramisu than just the alcohol!)

So I contacted a girlfriend of mine, Laura Campbell, who is a purser with British Airways, to see if the boys could catch a ride with her on her next flight to the states. Laura said she’d be delighted but she didn’t have any flights on her roster this month that would get them anywhere near Alaska. Her next three flights are to Miami, but Laura said she could take them with her then put them on an Alaska Airlines flight up to Anchorage.

Excellent! Laura said that ‘if’ they behave, she’ll even upgrade them to BA’s new First Class cabin. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘the lap of luxury!’ British Airways have just launched the most innovative redesign of their cabins in the history of air travel. In many ways, rather than becoming more advanced, BA took the best of what travellers loved so much about their original Flying Boats and luxury rail travel and combined them into private compartments. From your seat, rather than seeing the traditional oval shaped windows, you now see what looks like the windows on a train, complete with electronic blinds. And while you drift off to sleep in your bed with luxurious Egyptian cotton duvets, you can gaze at the changing skyline created by a fusion of cool soft lighting that moves with the appropriate sleep-cycle.

I know they’ll have a grand time and Laura has been fully briefed about Alfredo’s antics. Those doe eyes of his won’t do a thing for Laura. Besides, I ‘forgot’ to mention to them that she has a black belt in karate!

I swung my legs off of the bed and whilst keeping my eyes shut I felt around with my feet on the floor for a thong. That’s the last thing I remember last night – slipping ‘em off and collapsing in a heap of exhaustion.

Descending the stairs I could hear through their closed door the Tutti Twins celebrating a trumpet fanfare; it reminded me of hearing Concorde in the distance when it crossed the Sussex coast just before lighting the after burners to take her to Mach speed across the Atlantic.

Last night I asked the boys what they wanted for brekky, hoping they’d say something like porridge or semolina. But Alfredo said he really wanted to have a ‘Full English.’ My first instinct was to say ‘great, we’ll hop in the car and run over to the café in the morning.’ But as it’s Mothering Sunday I have a full dance card this morning and ….no time!

The traditional ‘Full English’ Breakfast consists of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, fried bread, grilled tomato, Rösti (Röschti) potatoes (aka Hash Browns), or chips, and black pudding. It’s a substantial meal. Occasionally less hearty diners, (like me) will gladly pass on the black pudding.

In the United Kingdom, black pudding is considered a delicacy. It’s generally made from pork blood and a relatively high proportion of porridge; in the past it was occasionally flavoured with pennyroyal – a plant from the mint family, with a scent similar to spearmint. Black pudding is most popular in the ‘Black Country’ and the Northwest, particularly the towns of Bury and Ramsbottom, home of the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships. There the pudding is treated like fish & chips where it’s sometimes boiled and served in paper wrapping doused with malt. ‘Sorry.’ I whispered an apology to the twins who were still sleeping; we don’t even have any black pudding in the vicarage…hallelujah!

I'm not sure whether it’s the stoic nature of the British but when we order breakfast generally the only options we’re offered is the choice of fried and scrambled. And that’s not a certainty! For us, it’s either fried or not fried. That’s it. I remember years ago visiting a Waffle House restaurant in the states. Just the list of options for the egg meant I should have brought a toothbrush and a change of pants and the same happened when it came to my toast options.

The Twins scoffed down breakfast, copious amounts of tea and I filled a flask so they could have more on the hundred mile drive to Heathrow Airport.

We pulled off the M4, moving to one of the distant car parks at Heathrow. I have no problem parking in even the most remote areas now because Terminal 5 have the most advanced Automated Passenger Shuttle system in the world. The APT saves having to remember where you left your car – which means you have to make up new excuses for why you’re not home on time. It delivers you to your terminal and when you return takes you straight to the row where your car is located. The Twins loved it, but Alfredo wanted to go for a second ride. (He’ll never change!).

We stepped inside the magnificent terminal building. Terminal five is fascinating! Besides what you can see, the structure reaches eight stories beneath the earth! This represents the deepest dig for anything (that isn’t classified) in British history. As a nation so deeply entrenched in history dating back to the Palaeolithic era any commercial development first requires an archaeological review. Following that review, constant inspections and halts to development occur as a result of digging. Upon completion of Terminal 5 there had been over 80,000 artefacts found throughout the project, including pottery, worked flint, a hand axe dating back to 3000BC, a wooden bowl and a wooden bucket dating back to 1500BC – 1100BC. Of the thousand hectares of land examined there are still areas yielding artefacts.

I made certain to carry my BA Heathrow ID with me. For the past fifteen years I’ve been part of the clergy team. Years ago, when my children were small, we lived in a village next to Heathrow. Besides my parish and school duties I spent substantial time providing pastoral care and celebrating services in the airport chapel. It’s easy to forget that an airport the size of Heathrow is a thriving city unto itself.

With thirty million passengers a year, it can keep all service providers on our toes to ensure the needs of passengers, employees, and guests are met.

We had checked in online at home before we left, so all we needed to do was go direct to the Concorde Lounge. I don’t think I had even gotten my OneWorld card out of my pocket before Alfredo was pouring himself a glass of wine. He said he was nervous about flying. I just hoped it would calm him down. Luigi wandered off to get a half-hour massage and I did the same detestable thing everyone else seemed to be doing, slapping my fingers onto my mobile, trying to answer emails.

Just as Luigi came out, bearing a face of absolute calm their flight displayed on the monitor. We rode the private cart to the gate and cleared the boys with security. I decided to step on the aircraft to say hello to Laura and formally introduce the Twins. She welcomed them with her usual grace and charm and I got a peck on the cheek. (note to cheek – you’re not being washed tonight!)

I bid the boys farewell and thanked them for their stay. I was surprised when Alfredo handed me a small envelope. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. ‘It’s for you, Alfredo smiled.’ I was touched that they had thought so kindly of us to have written a thank you note. I bid farewell and waited until Laura pulled the L1 door closed. It was sad to see them leave. I held the envelope tightly in my hand until I reached the pod to take me back to the car. I stepped in my private transport and opened the envelope. Inside was a bill from our local pub. Alfredo had told Charlie that I said to just charge everything to our account! Scallywag! Utter scallywag! But I will still miss them!

Friends, keep in mind this is the last time you’ll have to endure one of my laboriously languid epistles. That is, unless you decide to come to visit. Then, all bets are off!

Hundreds of years ago when I was in my late teens I had the delight of spending several months in Rio de Janeiro. The people were so lovely that I quickly made friends with many shop owners, hoteliers and people who sold caipirinhas (their national lime drink) along Copacabana and Ipanema Beach. At that age I can say with a degree of certainty, I probably fell in love about a dozen times a day….okay, some of it just turned out to be prickly heat. But my goodness, the sun, the air, the beautiful people who loved the pleasures of living so, it was a Nirvana for a pale white English kid.

One shop owner invited me to a wedding for one of his daughters. Being always interested in cultural experiences I happily accepted and looked forward to the learning experience and being able to write about it for my growing travel journals. I was very excited about attending.

The day of the wedding I arrived at the then magnificent Hotel Nacional. Today, it’s a tragic ghost waiting to be levelled. I entered the grand ballroom, instantly taken aback not only by the luxury of the hotel, but the radiant beauty of the women attending the ceremony. The quartet was playing Jobim’s Águas de Março. It was one of those memory photos that will never leave my mind as long as I live.

The father of the bride saw me enter and greeted me with an effervescent bear hug. He had always been patient with me allowing me to make horrific mistakes with my slowly developing Portuguese and he often helped me replace words I got so horribly wrong that I may have caused offence. But on the wedding day he was so excited and proud to be presenting his daughter for marriage that he rambled off in his Brazilian dialect without remembering that I probably only understood about five percent of what he was saying.

The jest of it was that I was to sit next to his younger daughter Ana during the meal and she would introduce me to family members. Ana actually spoke better English than I spoke Portuguese and we both laughed as we tried to communicate. She was as stunningly beautiful as her sister and my guess was that she was about two years younger than I.

The music continued throughout the evening. There was dancing – oh so much dancing! Samba, Pagode. Forró, Axé, Frevo and a few others I can no longer remember. By the end of the evening I felt like Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot! But in my case my dance partner was absolutely mesmerising! Ana unexpectedly kissed me after one dance – I don’t think I’d ever had such lip movement since my electric toothbrush shorted out!

Near 2-ish in the morning the dancing, music and libation was still going strong. I could see the father moving about the ballroom, visiting every table, laughing and truly enjoying himself. From across the room he was looking around and caught my eye. I was smiling and genuinely happy. He jokingly cupped his hands as if to make himself into a loud hailer and shouted ‘Você está tendo um bom tempo?’ whilst pointing at his daughter. (are you having a good time?)

There was no way I could shout over the music and I certainly would not have considered shouting over the rather elderly people at our table directly across from me. So I smiled broadly, gave a simple wave, and gave the ‘Okay’ sign with my fingers. It all took less than two seconds and I was then engaged again in the discussion that was going on between Ana and her aunt and the other guests.

It was just the far corner of my eye that noticed a figure rapidly descending upon me before I was being pulled back by the neck of my shirt into the wall behind me. The next fleeting second I had the crimson enraged face of the father just millimetres from my own, screaming epithets at me that closely resembled words I had heard on Brazilian telly that sounded very much like ‘I will kill you’ and a few other choice words. My adrenaline was in my throat. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. And in the same second of time, the father had reached over me grabbing Ana and screaming at her, using words that I most definitely had learned because I was told what it meant when I was approached by several of them on Ipanema Beach.

The cool head of the uncle on the other side of the table helped to save my bacon. Eventually I had the arms of the somewhat inebriated father around me again, motivated by remorse and alcohol. The salve used by the uncle included words such as ‘stupid Brits, different customs, ignorant, and something along the lines of what do you expect, he’s the earlier version of americans!’

It wasn’t until around 4am when I was back in my little flat, most certainly feeling the worse for wear that I understood the events of evening. I, in my polite, happy nature, had used a gesture, which I believed globally identified that all was Okay and I was having a jolly good time. Instead, I had denigrated and maligned his daughter into being little more than what the two women who approached me on Ipanema Beach were, and I had indicated through my gesture that I was intending to be his daughter’s first client!

It took several weeks and a few gifts including a new watch and a book on understanding the customs of the English that the father and I finally got on an even keel again. But it was probably one of the most important life-lessons I’ve ever learned.

Our languages, our careers, our personal values- all can often boil down to ‘How I see it, How You See it, and the way it really is.’ What one person may hold as a representation of their personal values, another may see it as a condemnation. Thankfully, as our worlds come closer, these contrarieties are becoming fewer.

Take the people of Vanuatu. We visit them and consider them as primitive people because they have their toilets in a separate building from their homes. But the people of Vanuatu look upon Westerners as unclean and uneducated about life – how can someone defecate inside their own homes? It’s a repugnant and vile thought to them.

The list of these cultural and social differences is extensive. But through dialogue, listening, and sharing, we begin to understand those differences and in fact, we begin to recognise them precisely for what they are – just different. No one person is right, nor is the other wrong. It’s just different.

With the advancement of technology each of us participating in these blogs, sharing recipes, and offering glimpses into our lives becomes an ambassador for change. What kindness you extend in the ‘ether world’ is warmly accepted many thousands of miles away by someone possibly struggling to understand about your culture, your customs, and the words you use.

As we welcome them into our family and permit them to see who we really are, we begin slowly, to lower barriers that have been built often from misunderstanding, or deliberate political posturing, or even malicious intent to make us see and think of a culture as an enemy of our values and ideals.

I thank you all for permitting me to share (and celebrate) some of our British differences. In The Canterville Ghost (1887), Oscar Wilde wrote: "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language." And George Bernard Shaw stated that we’re two nations divided by a common language.

Amidst all our eccentricities, our ‘funny’ clothes, our ‘diverse accents’ our real teeth and our multi-national cooking, when you boil us down we are a nation of exceptional beauty and pride. The beauty isn’t just our green pastures, ancient castles, majestic mountains and glistening lakes, it is our people who make us what we are. Our forefathers fought hard for the freedoms we enjoy today; Try taking any of those freedoms away from us and you’ll have anarchy on your hands.

But even when we whinge and complain, the moment anyone asks us what makes us proud – stand back and watch.

Rather than my droning on, I thought I might share with you a glimpse of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. - and a little impromptu singing for the Birthday Girl. More than a million people gathered in Her Majesty’s Gardens and surrounded the palace to show their love and respect. In fact, you can catch a glimpse of me! (I’m the one waiving the flag!)

And if you’re not too bored by the end of that, you might like to see how we spend a warm summer night with our little ‘Sing Alongs’ called ‘The Proms.’ We hope you will join us this summer as this year the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is going to be a doozy!

Lastly, I thought I’d sign off with an extract of a film done by Tracey Ullman. In her inimitable style, Tracey takes the Mick out of us, our perceptions of class, accents, and cultures. She does a jolly good job on some of the cabin crew members I’ve met as well.

We hope you come visit us some day.

We’ll leave the light on for you!

Fr Bill+


ps: NO! The vicar doesn't wear a thong...Silly Bean!

Thongs are what americans call 'Flip Flops!'

But I do know a vicar who wears suspenders! 

A Simple Exercise

Mar. 21, 2012 5:24 am
All I can say is, there are some very lucky people in England who have you for their pastor! Thanks for sharing.
Mar. 23, 2012 12:35 pm
Where did all your blogs go? I was savoring them, what travelogues! Now I can't find them, sheesh
Mar. 23, 2012 1:32 pm
You have been a wonderful ambassador and even better travel guide. I have thoroughly enjoyed every blog and loved your photos. Thank you again for the thought and time you spent entertaining us.
Mar. 26, 2012 11:48 am
Where DID the other blogs go? I loved them and now I can't find them???
Jun. 4, 2012 7:52 am
LOL, as always thanks for the chuckle Father Bill
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Chef Luigi

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About Me
Hello everyone! I'm Chef Luigi, Chef Tony's little brother. My brother Tony got a new job, so I am now the new Allrecipes traveling Chef. I'll be traveling from home to home; cooking and having fun. I can't wait to visit everyone!
My favorite things to cook
I love to cook EVERYTHING!
My favorite family cooking traditions
Well, I have to admit cooking with my brother Tony is my favorite tradition. We've been cooking together since we were kids. Sitting on counters watching and learning.
My cooking triumphs
When my brother Tony said I'm a better cook than he is! Ha :)
My cooking tragedies
There are too many to list, but that's how you learn, right?
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States