It’s not everyday you re-connect with a person you met 8 years ago when life was throwing you a few curve balls; for example……living in a foreign country with a new-born baby and a toddler; your husband going off each morning to bury himself in the archives of 16th-century Europe, or trying to work out when you should leave the apartment so it fits in with feeding schedules for the baby, toilet stops for the potty-training toddler and last but not least, trying to figure out how to make friends.
I met Melanie at a local English speaking church (St. James) where a bunch of mums started a mother’s group for English-speaking mums living in Florence. It was something I really needed and a chance to speak to someone other than my 3-year-old son.
Melanie also had a boy the same age as Max and a new born a few weeks older than Alex so I’m sure we had lots to talk about….Oh did I also mention she is a chef and one of the best cake designers I have seen; her website should explain her work better than I can write about it. Anyway, I say ‘I’m sure’ because to be quite honest I don’t remember a whole lot of the early days when Alex was only weeks old, however, I did remember Melanie and I did remember talking to her about food, cooking classes and a few other bits and pieces even though we never had a strong connection as I left about three months after meeting her. Thanks to Facebook we reconnected a few years ago and have been following each others career ever since.
When we found out we would be heading over to Florence this year I was so excited to reconnect with Melanie in person and basically pick her brains about all she had been doing in the 8 years we have been living in separate countries. I was also happy to learn she felt the same.
Once we settled in to our place in Florence I gave Melanie a call and she invited us all out to the family olive grove for a much needed swim in the pool, a relaxed, delicious meal, vino and lots and lots of talking. This was an offer I was not going to refuse!
It was a really hot day when Paolo her husband came to pick us up at 4 in the afternoon. Foolishly I thought it wouldn’t be so bad re. the heat, and when I stepped out of the house into what felt like an oven on full range, all I could think about was a pool and a cool breeze.
I had never met Paolo, and we laughed at the fact that we really were complete strangers getting together on a chance meeting that happened 8 years ago when our lives were very different. This is stepping out of your comfort zone; if I’d never of connected with Melanie over the internet once back in the comforts of the world I knew, we would never of arrived at the olive grove and we would of never been able to talk for 4 hours straight about our lives both in and out of the kitchen- it was fantastic!
Melanie has since had a third son and all 5 boys got on like a house on fire; swimming until their fingers were shrivelling like dried prunes; gathering sticks for bows and arrows, making swords, daggers and anything else you can whittle out of a piece of wood. Running through the olive grove trying to catch the fat bunny that feeds on all the vegetables will be forever in their memory, this I can guarantee!
As the air cooled Paolo stoked the BBQ while Melanie took me around to the outdoor kitchen and we played with produce that was grown a stone’s throw away (seriously, a dream come true for me). We used olive oil that was pressed from the trees around us and I had a hard decision wondering which tomatoes I would use for the salad.
We decided to keep the food simple and stress free. I made one of my all time favourite faro salads before we left home. I can’t seem to get enough of it at the moment, though I’m sure this will pass when I eat it one too many times…….well maybe?
We were in for an absolute treat. As Melanie was cutting off slabs of pecorino cheese onto a plate she was telling me of their family’s butcher who goes and hand picks the animal he slaughters and then lovingly butchers the beast, then sells it from his shop in the back hills of Southern Florence (I have been promised a visit to his shop as it is quite difficult to get to if you don’t know the area……..YES, I am excited!!)
So a quick reverse, the pecorino Melanie was cutting (pic below) and also the prosciutto we ate with the melon were from their wonderful butcher, honestly the man can do no wrong in my book!
The other treat Melanie had in stall was the 35-year-old balsamic vinegar she drizzled over the pecorino: a brilliant flavour combination and the texture of the balsamic was syrupy, sticky, rich and divine to put it simply.
Melon, prosciutto and homemade salami..I could of eaten this all afternoon..
I don’t have to tell you the olive grove holds a special place in my heart and being asked back for a second week was heavenly for all four of us. We will have many more fun days/nights with Melanie and her family this I am sure of but for me this will be a memory I will hold onto when I’m wondering what an earth I have done with my life……I feel very lucky indeed.
How idyllic! So glad to hear you have friends in Florence from last time, that will make a huge difference to your experience! I’ve been following Melanie on Pinterest for a while now – she has beautiful taste and looks like she makes divine cakes!
Her cakes are fantastic, not only do they look brilliant but they taste amazing!!
So you could say you have died and gone to heaven! what a wonderful experience.XX
You would love it……just another reason to come and visit!
Mmmm, all that delicious food brings back memories! Why is it that it’s never quite the same here? So glad you have reconnected with your friend. I can certainly relate to how important that is to making life bearable in a foreign country. I’m still thankful I met you on that adventure! And how wonderful for the kids to have playmates and be old enough (hopefully) to remember them this time!
I agree, you were my first friend here and that means a lot. You must remember Melanie? Mind you she was telling me things from last time that I couldn’t remember!!
What a special experience, once an expat always an expat doll, and you are enjoying all that it brings. Lush. Very happy for you all. X
Lush indeed Lynz!! It’s hard not to be loving every minute, but I don’t have to tell you that xx
I think I only went to that playgroup once. Can’t say I remember her. I just remember how long a walk it was to get there with kids in tow!
I rarely get online and am truly envious of someone’s life. But honestly….this is so amazing. Swimming in an olive grove, cooking outdoors, Italian butchers….I am so glad you are on my feed list. I would be crushed to miss any minute of this! (I want one of those tomatoes….)
Thanks Susie, I can’t quite believe it myself! I’m glad you are enjoying my posts x
I hope you are not all putting on weight. had wondered about your old friend. hwo good to re-connect and what treasures she brings
We walk to much to put on weight!
Thank Camilla – we had a great time as well. It’s so much fun to see how well the kids get on together. Mine are still playing the “ungdet game”
Ha,haa mine are are we speak!