The best-tasting Bartlett pears are the ones that are a little dinged up and smell as strong as perfume. Their aroma, more than the taste or texture, have always reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what it was. It was a good memory, of good times, but I couldn’t place it. So, whenever I’d come across a ripe dinged-up Bartlett in the grocery store I’d inhale deeply, smile idiotically, and wonder why I felt happy. This has gone on for decades. No kidding.
I just chalked it up to part of my personal quirkiness and let it go at that. Hey, you get your jollies when you can. I feel rather the same way about bean soup. Navy, not black bean, and only home made. I’m happy to just breathe it in, just can’t figure out why.
A recent bowl of bean soup brought back that familiar wisp of recognition, a remnant of the past that was on the tip of my tongue. Literally. But I couldn’t retrieve its meaning. I remembered that as a kid I didn’t like beans soup, and then it hit me! The smell of the bean soup and the smell of ripe Bartlett pears collided and I remembered why I felt such an emotional connection to them. The time and place had eluded me all these years, and then there it was in a flash: Italy 1962.
That’s where those aromas transported me. Instantly. I was a second grader again at the Parioli International Day School on Via Nomentana in Rome. My teacher, the beloved Mrs. Pensa, sat at the head of our long wooden table. The lunchroom was downstairs in the basement of the palazzo with high vaulted ceilings and thick stone walls. The whole school ate together each grade at their own table. The cooks, in white aprons, brought out Pasta e Fagoili (bean soup with macaroni) in heavy white bowls. The smell of the hot soup filled the entire room. It always smelled delicious. I remember thinking ‘how could something smell so good feel so bad in your mouth?’ It was a textural thing. And I remember just being near Mrs. Pensa was so wonderful because I was a goody-two-shoes and I adored her. I didn’t want her to like me less for eating the pasta and leaving the beans behind. And she still liked me. And I was relieved when the pears came for dessert because I liked those and I would enjoy every bite even though the juice dripped down my chin. I don’t remember anything else we ate, or any other memory in the lunchroom for that matter.
And you’re going, “this is why people shouldn’t have blogs.” Yeah, you’re probably right. But wasn’t that a nice photo of a pear?
Oh, and one of my classmates at the Parioli International Day School was Chistopher Wilding, son of Elizabeth Taylor. She and Richard Burton were living in Rome while they filmed Cleopatra. And yes, I went to Christopher’s birthday party. But that seems boring in comparison to the memory of the pears and the bean soup, doesn’t it?