I'm enjoying pasta in Italy… old story; new recipe.
For some of the family with us in Italy, this is their first trip across the pond.
Seasoned travelers love to give tips to first-timers – things like beware of pick-pockets (true), don't drink the water (for Europe, false), they hate Americans (also false), there are no peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches (who cares), and so on.
One thing, of a highly practical nature that is rarely mentioned, is toilets.
Is that do to the highly Puritanical nature of most Americans?
They don't mention the unmentionables?
For the sake of the comfort and ease of travelers everywhere, here are some hints for 'going abroad'. (There is a marvelous little book by that title, by the way – giving far more practical information about far more places that I can.)
For the record, this is most useful for women.
Not to be biased, but men never seem to give a thought to toilets; they have a whole planet to choose from and any corner or tree seems to work equally well (for the most part).
Women are more, er, discerning.
First: the public toilets in the cities in France are a thing of beauty (as far as toilets are concerned).
You will find them on street corners, in parks, where-ever the urge suits.
They're not tiny and smelly like American 'Port-a-Potties. They're large, easily big enough for a family of four.
One pays a euro to use them. After each occupant leaves the entire interior is washed down and dried before the next person can enter. How cool is that?
Warning – do not try to squeeze in on someone else's Euro – you will get wet. Either go in together or pay yourself.
(About 10 years ago New York thought they were so marvelous that they ordered a bunch for their streets. Unfortunately, they are not handicap-friendly, and there were protests that non-handicapped people were being treated preferentially by being given these outrageous outhouses to use, so the whole lot of beautiful toilets were sent back. New Yorkers just have to piss on the street, I guess…)
However, these lovely outhouse are not everywhere.
I shall never forget the first time I was faced with a 'necessary' that didn't have, what is to me one of the basic requirements: a toilet.
I walked into a perfectly proper bathroom in the Turin train station. I went into a perfectly proper stall in said bathroom. There was no toilet; just a porcelain basin with a hole in the center. I walked back out and went into the next one: same thing. And the next. And the next. There were little, old, decrepit ladies hobbling out of these stalls with their canes and walkers so I knew it could be done; I just hadn't a clue how.
I'm not stupid; I've pissed in the woods and behind bushes – even out of a moving car once in real desperation, but I wasn't wearing a skirt and pantyhose (tights) on those occasions. I have since learned that a skirt is better than trousers but, definitely, no pantyhose.
I went back in and sussed it out. There was no clue if one was to face forward or backward; there was no place to put my bag (balance it on my head?) and no bars or handles on the wall to grab on to. I remained utterly clueless.
I left, unrelieved.
One crucial thing I didn't think of at the time (but learned on a subsequent occasion), one must have strong legs. In the privacy of my very own bathroom I started practicing the fully-clothed squat. Not as easy as one would hope – and I weight-train on a regular basis. I think it's a combination of proper balance and knowing that a single misstep can be, uh, disastrous. I have since added deep-knee squats to my exercise routine – both fully and partially clothed.
It no longer seems so strange to see an entire family stop within feet of public toilets: the men pissing by the side of the road (next to the car) and the women going up into the bushes a bit. At least they have the bush to hang on to…
Proper etiquette, by the way, is to turn your head when you see someone urinating…. Not to try to stare them into embarrassment. It's accepted practice here (the urinating, not the staring).
Then there are the little things: do you flush (once you've figured out how to use it) by pulling a chain? Pushing a plunger? Pulling a knob? Pressing a button? And what about the ones that give you two flushing options: an eco-friendly low-water flush or the all-out everything-down-at-once gush?
In my typical fashion, I bought the book (mentioned above) to read up on this all important aspect of travel….I need some serious practice before heading to the Middle East…..
No way to smoothly tie in a recipe to this post – so I'll just do it.
Use a grill pan (it's like a mesh skillet) or a mat for these, if possible. Or thread them onto skewers (soaked in water for 15 minutes if wood) to make them easier to turn. We don't want them falling through the grill.
12oz (350gr) large shrimp (prawns)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cloves garlic
3 tsp sweet paprika (smoked if you can find it)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs lemon juice juice from 1/2 lemon
Olive oil for coating pan
Clean shrimp if needed, if not just rinse and let drain. Mix 1 tsp garlic and 2 tsp paprika in a small bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.
To cook on barbecue either put shrimp on skewers or cook in perforated grill pan with a little olive oil. Shrimp are done when they curl and turn opaque. When done, remove from heat, toss with butter sauce and serve.
Butter sauce: Mince garlic. Melt butter in small pan. Add garlic, 1 tsp paprika and sauté until garlic is tender, 2 – 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and whisk lightly to combine.
I served them over couscous, but they would make a great tapa – served with a chilled Fino sherry….