Lit­tle shop of won­ders

Cel­e­brat­ing happy days and a taste of sum­mer, by Gio­vanna Eusebi

Sunday Herald Life - - Food & Drink -

‘Ali­men­tari” is the word for gro­cery store or deli in Ital­ian, its lit­eral mean­ing is good food and ca­ma­raderie. That is what was cel­e­brated each day in our deli in the east end and in the cur­rent west end restau­rant to­day. The busi­ness then, as it does now go be­yond com­merce, it is about the peo­ple who come to eat with us and the peo­ple who work here. That is what makes Eusebi so spe­cial.

The east end shop was of­ten de­scribed as a bea­con of light in an area of Glas­gow that was cited by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion as hav­ing the low­est life ex­pectancy in Europe. It was renowned for its bad diet, crime, bet­ting and boozers and it cer­tainly wasn’t on the map as a culi­nary destination. I, how­ever, ex­pe­ri­enced only heart­felt kind­ness and price­less gen­eros­ity of spirit. When you pushed the door open to our hole-in-the-wall Ital­ian shop, the smell of Mor­tadella sausage, pro­sciutto and stinky cheeses hit you. It was cramped and there was only room for cus­tomers to stand if they wedged them­selves be­tween shelves of pasta, oils and a prim­i­tive fridge cab­i­net that was filled with hig­gledy-pig­gledy cheeses and meats. The counter was crammed with pizza and cal­zone freshly made by my Mum that day.

We made ev­ery­thing from scratch in the deli. Pasta was rolled on an an­cient im­pe­ria ma­chine and meat­balls hand-rolled to per­fec­tion by a sprightly 100-year-old called Maria. The food was as full of love as the peo­ple who made it and it still is to this day. Maria worked with us un­til she was 100. The un­stop­pable cen­te­nar­ian would ar­rive at 2pm each day, hav­ing walked 40 min­utes from one end of Shet­tle­ston to the other. She would stand at the door co­quet­tishly, look­ing through to the kitchen, un­til she was in­vited in. Maria would put on her pinny and be­gin her task of rolling pasta and meat­balls, ready for cook­ing. She had the nim­blest hands and would put any chef to shame. Her sto­ries were ones of hard­ship of another time but she never dwelled on the past.

Oc­ca­sion­ally she would in­ter­rupt her shift with a visit to the den­tist (she still had all her own teeth!), or a trip to the hair­dressers to main­tain the blue-black tones of her hair. “Here comes Liz Tay­lor,” my fa­ther would shout from the kitchen.

She rev­elled in the play­ful at­ten­tion and gig­gled like a school­girl. I put her longevity down to her young-at-heart spirit. She never saw age­ing as a bat­tle, and if it was, she def­i­nitely won.

In the evenings I would carry her bags up one flight of stairs. Just like her ap­pear­ance, ev­ery­thing about her home was im­mac­u­late. She would set­tle back into her arm­chair and pick up where she left off with her sewing. I watched in dis­be­lief as she pushed the limp thread through the nee­dle with ease – she didn’t even wear glasses.

The evenings were a time of quiet re­flec­tion. She was a gen­tle sweet soul, of great faith as well as a proud mother, grand­mother and won­der­ful friend to all. Her part­ing words to me each night were, “good peo­ple are scarce”. My fa­ther would brush away her sen­ti­men­tal­ity with the one-liner, “well that’s another day done and another one nearer the box for us all”. She would laugh un­con­trol­lably, as we hugged her tight.

The lit­tle shop was like any typ­i­cal gro­cer’s dot­ted around the hill­side towns in Italy. It just hap­pened to be sand­wiched be­tween a ke­bab shop and Neil Casey’s book­ies. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a sharp re­minder of our lo­ca­tion would fall through the door de­mand­ing a tin of dog food or 20 Ben­son. We got tired of ex­plain­ing that we were not a newsagent or bet­ting shop. In­stead we em­braced it, with my dad shout­ing, “sorry Jimmy, we’ve just sold the last tin of Chum”.

Po­modoro Sum­mer Soup

If you know me, you’ll know my love of toma­toes! Now is the per­fect time for this sum­mer soup as toma­toes are in sea­son and have their fullest flavour. It’s a great way to use up any toma­toes that are over­ripe as this only adds to the flavour of the dish. This sim­ple recipe is like sum­mer in a bowl and quick enough to whip up on a week­night when you fancy some­thing spe­cial and a real burst of flavour.

Serves 4

In­gre­di­ents

500g over­ripe toma­toes ½ gar­lic clove

20g fresh basil

30ml ex­tra vir­gin olive oil Tsp dried oregano and thyme 1 thick slice, slightly stale crusty bread

Salt and pep­per, to sea­son

To gar­nish

A few basil leaves and few tea­spoons of ri­cotta cheese

Method

1. Place the toma­toes in a food pro­ces­sor and blitz un­til liq­uid. 2. Add the bread, basil, thyme, oregano, gar­lic and olive oil to the pro­ces­sor and blend. If the con­sis­tency is too thick add a lit­tle wa­ter to thin. Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste.

3. Trans­fer the liq­uid to a bowl, cover and re­frig­er­ate for 30 min­utes.

4. Stir the soup well and then di­vide amongst the bowls. 5. Crum­ble the ri­cotta and sprin­kle a lit­tle on top of each bowl along with a basil leaf. Serve with a glass of your favourite wine and en­joy!

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