As on most subjects I've written about, a day later I have more to say.
First, lest some think I only meet snooty, class-conscious aristocrats and aristocrat-wannabees, let me say that I met many wonderful people in Andorra, and many of those remain good friends, despite time and distance.
Second, lest some think I'm not entirely pleased in our new home, let me say that the majority of people we've met have been very kind and welcoming, particularly our new neighbors, both French and British.
It takes time to become a part of any new community, and an expat community has it's own pace and idiosyncrasies, very different from the rest and, I'm certain, from each other.
To a large extant, what binds the social network is not common interests but common language.
In a small community, there will be people of all classes, backgrounds and interests happily (or not) joining in the same functions; attending the same parties.
Many of these people, if still in their home countries, would never cross paths with each other, let alone consider sharing a bottle of wine or 'mug of tea'.
One gentleman in Andorra had a 'man-servant' for carrying his briefcase when he was still working in the 'East'. And of course 'full staff' at home.
Another had been in the French Foreign Legion for 30 years.
Another had sold a B & B in the wilds of Scotland but had a Cockney accent.
There were Dutch, German, Italian, South African, British, Irish, Scottish, Spanish, French, Maltese, Corsican, Australian, American, and others; but all shared English.
Some had attended posh private boarding schools, some inner-city schools.
Most had lived the majority of their lives in 'the East', 'the Far-East', 'the Near-East' and/or various countries in Africa
Under other circumstances, these people were not destined to become friends.
And, maybe they weren't friends.
But they had dinner together…. Played golf, ran the Hash, had lunch and shared a bottle of wine.
We lived in Ireland for a year; an English speaking country.
We made no new friends while we were there.
Admittedly, we were very busy during that year…
But, and this is the big BUT that is hard to grasp when thinking about moving to another country:
As an expat, when one moves into an expat community, one is joining other people who are looking to make a new life and new friends, whatever the reasons.
When one moves into an area without other expats, even an area without language differences, one comes up against the fact that most people have their friends from childhood and their friends from school and their friends from work plus their family and their spouses family….
One has to work very hard, be very active and patient, to become part of that community.
Becoming a part of the expat community is relatively easy.
We're all in the same position: those childhood, work and family connections are far away.
So we forge new ones.
We just have to sort out the sort we want to be friends with.
I'm reminded of a favorite Groucho Marx remark: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member".
How about some comfort food.
After the holiday over-indulgence I crave tomatoes.
A batch of Ragù Bolognese can go along way to assuage that craving.
The first thing we have, after the Ragù is done, is spaghetti, naturally.
This is the second:
Risotto Bolognese con Fagioli serves 2
The Ragù Bolognese makes a fabulously rich, gourmet risotto. Because it uses such a small amount I only make it with leftover Ragù (recipe here) …but it's worth making the sauce just for this!
1/2 plus 2 tbs Arborio rice (or other rice specifically for risotto – Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/3 cup dry, white wine
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 small onion
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese – freshly grated
Heat chicken stock and keep hot over low heat. Finely chop onion. In medium saucepan heat butter; add the onion and sauté until transparent then add rice and sauté, stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes until rice has white center. Add white wine and stir. Start condimenti. When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/3 cup of stock, stir. (No need to stir constantly but do stir from time to time.) When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/3 cup and continue adding 1/3 cup at a time and stirring. Before adding the last 1/4 cup taste a few kernels of rice. They should be just 'al dente' – slightly resistant to the tooth, but fully cooked. If more stock is needed add it 1/8 cup at a time and waiting until almost completely absorbed.
At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff – there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold it's shape on a plate. Add the Parmesan and the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately. It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be quite stiff. The risottos that we have eaten in northern Italy have all been served in soup plates (flattish bowls) and eaten with a spoon – not a fork.
1 cup Ragù Bolognese
8oz (250gr) white beans
Drain and rinse beans. In small saucepan heat sauce and beans, keep warm until needed.
Note: If you do not have Ragù Bolognese – make it!!!!
Or do this:
1 small carrot
1/2 rib celery
3oz (100gr) bacon or Prosciutto
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
2 tsp oil
Very finally chop carrot, shallot and celery. Sauté bacon or ham, using oil if needed. Remove and set aside. In same skillet sauté carrot, shallot and celery until tender, about 10 minutes. Open and drain tomatoes, discarding 'sauce'. Roughly chop tomatoes and add to skillet along with juices from chopping. Crumble bacon and add to skillet. Add herbs and beans, keep warm until needed.
House update Monday….