Wow, that title’s a mouthful isn’t it? So is this:
It’s been awhile. I know. I’ve been lazy. And preoccupied. With life. And this guy.
I apologize I didn’t take more photos of the pork, I was too busy yelling at him for pissing on the couch. I’ve actually been having dreams about him peeing outside. If anyone told my 14-year-old self these are the types of “wet” dreams I would have one day, I wouldn’t have believed them.
His name is Mulligan, by the way, and he’s the newest member of our residence. There’s likely to be lots of photos of him going forward. #Mulligan
My hot gf and I moved into our own place… when was it… 6 months ago? I think it was May. She’s confirmed this. Time has gone so fast since then she could tell me it was 6 years ago and I would believe her. The day we moved in together, I had all these ambitions about the blog:
“I’m going to post every week! Our new geriatric Italian neighbors will be incorporated! We’ll branch off into doing farmers markets!”
Since then, I have fulfilled none of them. My hot gf, on the other hand, has continued to cook for me, regardless of how busy she has been. But I’m taking a stand to change my ways, starting today. As in yesterday. I have already gotten delayed.
Chef’s Note: It’s okay. I have been putting off doing a gallery wall in the living room. Pinterest can make one really ambitious until it comes time to actually sit down and do it. I’ve wanted to start meditating and perhaps my mantra will be “I will be motivated, I will be motivated…”
I was abruptly awoken at 6:55am by my (mildly) frantic hot gf.
“Sal’s lying on the floor and Teresa needs you to help pick him up,” she exclaimed.
“What? Oh god!” I rushed downstairs in my flannel pajama pants and stretched out undershirt, half awake, wishing what she had just told me was a dream. As I entered our neighbors’ bedroom, I discovered my elderly Italian landlord lying helpless on the floor next to his bed with his eyes half closed and wife standing beside him.
“Vincenzo!” he greeted me exasperatedly, but in his usual cheerful tone.
Thank god. He was responsive.
He extended his hand and I pulled him up, positioning myself behind him to support his weight. Dazed, he stood holding the door jam while I helped him balance as his wife positioned a chair underneath him. She instructed him to sit, and eventually, after double-checking a few times, he lowered himself down. We all paused for a brief awkward moment while he sat in the chair, in his underwear. Then I collected myself and enthusiastically uttered, “Buongiorno!” I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy, as he appeared a little embarrassed. Perhaps I’ll get him some flannel pants for Christmas.
His wife promptly led me into the living room, thanking me and speaking quickly in Italian as if I had any clue what she was saying. She’ll often do this while I politely laugh and nod until we go our separate ways. My hot gf has gotten much better at interpreting.
“She said normally they call the police when he falls, but today she waited for me to come outside to walk the dog so we could help them.”
“She waited for you? How long was he lying on the floor?”
“Well, they wake up at 5:30 in the morning and—“
“5:30? How do you know all this?” I interjected.
“She told me they wake up to watch Mass with the Pope every morning. The point is, I don’t think it was an emergency—she let Mulligan pee before she even came over to me. If it was, she probably would have called 911.”
“She let Mulligan pee? He’s lying on the floor in his underwear and she’s waiting for our dog to pee? They need to start ringing our bell!”
I don’t know what point in life you become more worried about imposing on your neighbors than helping your immobile husband, but I suppose when you’ve been together as long as they have you’re in no rush. It’s encouraging to know what it’s store for me in the future. Wow, what a morning. I’m just relieved he is okay.
Chef’s Note: I usually understand maybe every 5th word she says. From this I determine my version of the story she is trying to tell. I generally think I am spot on. Either that or I’m just making stories up about their life, which is also fine. They wouldn’t know.
I trudged back to bed, my mind overcome with the fragility of life, and beauty in love, and parallels my romantic relationship has with a couple 50 years my elder, and how I should probably stop drinking as frequently and start taking care of myself if I want to actually be here 50 years from now. I reassured myself I would not lie down too long so I could take full advantage of the day ahead of me. As I nodded in and out, the decadent aroma of spices and fried pork fat emanated from the kitchen, teasing my nostrils. When I awoke at 10am, I was annoyed I hadn’t requested someone assist me in getting up.
Moments later, the doorbell rang and I could hear my hot gf speaking with Teresa in the stairwell. Now what happened? I entered the stairwell and was presented with a bottle of homemade wine.
“Oh, thank you—grazie! Really, you don’t have to do this. How is Signor Vito feeling?” I asked. She rings the doorbell to give us wine, but not when her husband is on the floor whining.
Through the doorway into their apartment, I could see the silhouette of an old man holding a cane shuffling about the dining room. I walked in.
“Eh, Vincenzo!” he replied, in a noticeably better state. I wanted to invite him to watch some football with me, but instead resorted to talking about soccer, a sport he likely appreciates that I know virtually nothing about. Fortunately I happened to see part of a game the day before.
“Today, I am watching football all day. You know, American football? Yesterday, I watched your “fùtbol”—Barcelona y Madrid. You know; Ronaldo?”
He seemed to comprehend and said something along the lines of wanting to watch Italy but being caught up in all the news about Paris. Before our stimulating conversation could hit a lull, my hot gf approached him with Mulligan, whom he adores. Teresa went on to tell us about a little dog they once had that had 11 puppies, a story she tells us at least once a week. Then she reached down on the floor near their TV and picked up a large container filled with water. In it, two miniature turtles were floating around.
“Oh nice! These are your pets now?” Upon closer inspection I noticed a set of tiny stairs inside the container. The thought of these turtles using the stairs made me laugh.
She responded by saying something about the rosemary plant in their living room. According to my hot gf, they are watching them for one of their grandkids.
I love these people. Sometimes I wish there wasn’t a language barrier between us. I want to get a translator just so we chat over a meal. While I am at it I should probably get a defibrillator too.
I could only imagine the stories they have and wisdom they could share. They probably have some fantastic cooking tips—after all, they came straight from Italy. One of these days I am inviting them over for dinner. I don’t care if we can’t understand a single thing anyone says the entire night. It will be worth it.
But maybe there is no need for language. Maybe the connection speaks for itself. Teresa calls us “famiglia”: it’s a language I think we all inherently understand. We watch out for them, and they watch out for us.
Through them, I see myself and my hot gf. I see our future. I see a bond between 2 people needless of words. I see two turtles, slowing moving through life together, with a set of stairs to guide them, one step at a time.
As they say in Italian, “Bisogno di parole”.*
Chef’s Note: There are no language barriers over food – everyone understands. I’m pretty sure Teresa and I could be in the kitchen together all day, cook up a feast, and no one would know that we couldn’t actually communicate by words. Plus, it is amazing how much I can understand just based on Italian hand signals alone. Buon appetito!
*This is a Google translation so it’s probably wrong. I’ll check if it’s correct with my neighbors later. I’ll also get a picture with them so you can see what they look like.
Savory Slow Cooked Pulled Pork and Crispy Coleslaw
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 8 hrs plus 20 minutes for final prep before serving
Serves: 6-8 sandwiches
- 7 lb. pork butt (this was bone in but I have used boneless - I actually tend to prefer boneless as it is easier to manage but this guy was on sale)
- 2 tbsp canola oil for browning pork
- Spice rub:
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- pinch of cinnamon
- pinch of cayenne
- 1 tbsp salt, freshly ground pepper (be generous)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 chipotles in adobo, whole with some of the sauce from the can
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp mustard (I used deli but dijon would be fine)
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2-3 tsp wondra flour (to use after pork is cooked)
-Make sure pork is fully defrosted. If it was frozen this can take a couple of days in the fridge. Also, take the pork out at least a half hour before you want to start the recipe so it starts to come to room temperature. This helps in the overall cooking of the pork.
-If the pork is very fatty, trip away excess fat.
-Get all of your ingredients out and ready - the prep is quick for this, so you want everything available.
- Put chopped onion and garlic on the bottom of a slow cooker and set it to warm so it starts to heat up.
- Make spice rub my mixing all spices together in a bowl and generously rubbing into the pork. Let the pork sit while you prepare the sauce.
- Make your sauce: put all remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk together (brown sugar, chipotles, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, apple cider, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, and molasses).
- In a large skillet add canola oil and brown pork on all sides. This will take about 10 -12 minutes.*
- Place your pork on top of the onions and garlic. Add sauce to the slow cooker along with the rosemary sprig. Set slow cooker on low for 8 hours (this could even go 10 if you have extra time).
- Once the pork is done, transfer the pork to a plate to cool. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker into a small saucepan.
- Skim as much fat as you can from the liquid. Turn heat on low and whisk in wondra flour. Whisk until it starts to thicken nicely. Keep the sauce on a low simmer while you shred the pork.
- With 2 forks start to shred the pork into bite size pieces. For serving top pork with sauce, serve on rolls with coleslaw.
*I use a hand towel to help me move the pork around.
Cook time: none!
Serves: 6 as side dishes
- *1 bag cole slaw mix
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced and some of the leaves
- 2 tsp celery seed
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Juice from half lime
- 1 tbsp chopped dried cranberries
- salt, freshly ground pepper
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning.
*I took a short cut here as honestly this is one of the easy grocery store items that I really like to use. I bought a package with green/red cabbage, small pieces of broccoli and carrot but use whatever you prefer. I found that mine didn’t have enough carrot so I added some extra.