During the summers of our youth, my siblings and I spent time at our grandmothers’, which didn’t take a lot of traveling, since both our mother and father’s families are from Tuscany.
For our children, all born in the US, the story was quite different.
My family is in Tuscany, and my husband’s in Switzerland; which means we didn’t just have to cross the Atlantic, but also travel ‘whit in the travel,’ as we all came to call it.
The first visit, like in my youth, was the Tuscan countryside, followed by the seaside along the Mediterranean Sea.
From there we would leave towards the Swiss Alps, where the other grandparents vacationed.
Like I had done as a child, the kids always played using a lot of their imagination. At the beach, rules were a bit looser, compared to the ones we grew up with.
Besides building sand castles and racing marbles, the older kids, always in large groups, spent hours biking in the pinewoods beside the beach. Also, the children didn’t have to beg as much as we used to, to play in the water.
Old habits are hard to break and, as I had done as a girl, I took the children for long walks along the shore while the sun was setting, searching for the most beautiful rocks we could find.
That had a dual purpose: to calm the children down, after the energetic games they had played for hours and, yes, give myself a treat, since I have always been fascinated by the remarkable beauty of the rocks along the shore.
The children would help and enjoy the search. I have always suspected that, in those already very capable little brains, they had figured out that
if they agreed to play ‘mamma’s game’ towards the end of the day, she might, then, be very nice to them? Who knows, dessert?
Often, we, mothers, organized picnics on the beach at dinner time, when the sun was almost gone from the sky. One of the kids’ favorite dishes was rice salad, which they devoured to then go back to… play.
After dinner, it would be dark, and the children dedicated whatever was left of their energies (which seemed to be endless) to playing with flashlights in the dark.
Let me tell you, by the end of the day, it wasn’t clear who was the most exhausted; the children or their mothers?
Tip: The kids quickly learn that when you walk along the shore looking for the nicest rocks, on the way back to your spot on the beach, not only you see rocks you had not noticed before,
but, also, some of the ones you had discarded earlier look different, and gorgeous, under a different light.
Fun fact: After our seaside stay, my siblings and I used to bring our collected rocks back to grandmother’s house in the countryside. Of course also my kids (and I!), didn’t want to part with our treasures?
So, the rocks would travel with us to the little town in the Swiss Alps, that was our next destination. From there, I would send them back to the States through the Post Office.
The first couple of times I did it I was asked, “What is in the (heavy)box?” and I answered, “Rocks.”, the facial expressions of the, usually, austere Swiss tellers was a sight to be relished.
They, then, got used to my peculiarity in the small mountain town and didn’t pay attention to it any longer.
Here is the recipe for the rice salad we, moms, brought to our dinner time picnics on the beach, and the kids loved!
what is needed for 8 people:
1 pound of raw rice, either Arborio (a bit creamier after cooking)
or long grain (separates after cooking)
2 chicken bouillons
1/2 cup of canned corn (drained)
2-3 tbsp pitted and chopped black olives
2 tbsp cocktail onions
2-3 tbsp of capers
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
2 middle size carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks from the heart of celery, diced
2 salad tomatoes, diced
fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
extra virgin olive oil (best if first cold pressed)
juice of a lemon, 1/2 if large
salt and pepper to taste
what to do:
In a large pot, put enough water to cook the rice, and the bouillons.
Bring to a boil, add the rice and cook until done, to your preference, but not mushy.
Drain the rice.
While the rice cooks, put all the chopped vegetables into a large salad bowl,
and dress with some olive oil and lemon juice.
Add the drained rice to the veggies and mix all together, gently.
Let the salad cool off, and adjust the dressing adding some oil,
lemon juice, salt and pepper.
You might add any other fresh raw vegetable to your salad, as well as other herbs, like
cilantro (more pizzaz) or parsley.
For a more satiating dish, you might add hard boiled eggs, diced fresh mozzarella, or
small cubes of salami. I, obviously, am partial to the salame Toscano.