This morning we went to the Festival of St. John the Baptist (San Giovanni Batista) at San Lorenzo Nuovo. We parked near a chapel and walked down into the market, which was like a Thursday or Saturday market at Orvieto but on a much bigger scale. There were people of all ages buying things of all kinds. The first stand we stopped at was for Erika to buy some eel, which I did try later and did not care for much, but I tried it anyway. They had the sweets set out in big bins, licorice, candies, sweet dried fruits everywhere. There were porchetta vendors and bakers and tons of clothing stands, as well as garlic.
After buying cheese and bread and meat, Erika found the fried fish man. A small stand was set up under an umbrella where men stood around talking while they waited for the fresh batch of fish to come out of the frier. The vendor was pudgy and probably in his late thirties. He received a cell phone call while we were all waiting, and I watched him gesture in Italian even through the phone lines. When the fish came, it was hot, so hot he almost burned himself when he served it to the men ahead of us. A big bag full of tiny silver fish, about an inch to two inches long each, which he mixed with shrimp and breaded octopi. Everyone ate together in a cantina. The table we got was inside, luckily, and due to the stone walls, was very cool. We ate with our hands. I tried the fish; they were meant to be eaten whole, and when I heard this, Carol, one of the Americans, said to me in a slight Chicago accent: “Don’t think, just eat,” and she popped a few fish into her mouth. I followed suit, trying not to actually look at the fish, whose entire skeletons and eyes I was eating. They tasted pretty good, but I didn’t like the swallowing part, when the tail is just a tad too crunchy for me to pretend I’m eating something else.
Conversations floated around about politics, about the Civil War, about divorce rates, about vegetarianism. The wine was aleatico, a sweet red, one of my favorites from last semester. A family must have owned the cantina or bottled the wine; they stood by the entrance to the deeper part of the cantina tunnel, one of them with bright blue eyes. Satiated, we wandered back through the other part of the market, admiring the porcini mushrooms that seemed to come in all shapes and sizes. Strings of red garlic lay in a large heap next to two old gentlemen whose photos I tried to take without looking too conspicuous. I got a shot of my hand, instead.