A travel moment in Napa Valley

Seth and I were fast friends. We met when I was renting an upstairs bedroom in a Victorian house in the Napa Valley. The family that owned the house lived downstairs and rented out each bedroom individually. I liked Seth before ever meeting him. He replaced Morgan, the scrawny, pale Dungeons and Dragons playing son of the owners who occupied the bedroom before Seth came. Both in our early twenties, we had all sorts of similar interests. He was working at the Mumm winery and was allowed to bring home any open bottles from the tasting room. We always had Champagne in the fridge and that alone gave us reason to sit out on the roof sipping bubbles, smoking cigars and talking for hours about the
women we were dating, career goals, or just making fun of Morgan. After living with Seth for about a year we moved our separate ways. Two years later Seth got an opportunity to work at a winery in Piedmont, Italy. As a wine aficionado I knew their wines were some of the best in the region and amongst the greatest wines of Italy. Naturally, this gave me a reason to go and a place to stay in one of this planet’s most beautiful places. And when Seth told me that he was saving his invitation to eat at the owner’s grandmother’s house for my trip I immediately booked my flight.
After long anticipation, we were greeted by a four foot eleven inch woman with wild hair. We sat down to fresh prosciutto-wrapped melon and insalata caprese. Both dishes were redolent with cool, refreshingly bright flavors. Next was a beautiful cappellini al pomodoro- pasta with tomatoes never tasted so good. Seth and I exchanged glances immediately recognizing the simultaneous feelings of satisfaction and anticipation. A deep sheet pan came out and I suddenly took pause. It contained cooked ham rolls filled with polenta, peppers and green olives- all things I eat with passion. Yet all of those delicious flavors were buried in a thick, jiggling layer of aspic- meat jelly. The thought of digging in reminded me of eating a hoagie sandwich still wrapped in cellophane.
When I looked at Seth, I noticed that in two or three bites he had consumed his entire portion. I couldn’t risk offending the nona and had to fall into a meditative state in order to control the acids in my stomach from revolting against the jiggling dish. I slowly mustered the internal fortitude to let the slimy substance slide down my throat, bite by painstaking bite.
After dinner, we thanked nona profusely and headed back to the vineyards. As soon as we got in the car I looked over at Seth and said, “Wow, you really enjoyed that ham roll dish.”
“Are you kidding? I knew if I stopped eating for a second it was coming right back out!” With those words our laughter filled the Fiat and didn’t stop until we got back.

K Fergel

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