September 22, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Sincerely yours

By |2018-03-21T18:34:28+01:00November 1st, 2008|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Be grateful for small things. Photo by Stefano Fornari.

all is haunting. Hesperian depression can grab you before you’ve had a chance to turn on your lift-your-mood lights or find that little spot of sun in a piazza where you can soak in your Vitamin D. But it’s still turkey month, and Thanksgiving is on my mind.

I put aside news of endless war in Iraq, hunger and pillage in Darfur, Galveston’s devastation and crashing markets to give thanks for small things. The act of being grateful makes you immune to accusations of the maudlin.

So I’ll begin by giving thanks for Costaletto tomatoes.

They mean that the Rome sun is still shining in November, lording over the market at Campo dé Fiori. Consider please that there are plenty of countries — Russia, Finland, Iceland, for example — where “November sun” is an oxymoron.

I’m happy for my little red-ribbed jewels and the basil that Signora di Marco, my vendor, tucks into my bag.

I’m even happier when, on Wednesday, I take home a perfect mozzarella from Largo Argentina’s Carilli market (they arrive fresh Monday, Wednesday and Friday). They give November’s hard-won tomatoes a stylish send-off.

On the way to Carilli I’m thankful for the tall, colorfully-dressed African woman who stands by a sign that reads, “Sono povera ma felice.” She hums songs as she begs.

I love this woman, and I’m glad she’s happy, even in poverty, and singing instead of being maimed, or worse, by a rival tribe in her native land. I’m thankful I can give her something every now and then.

There are myriad beggars in our quartiere, and we’ve come to know them as neighbors. They don’t expect daily donations; they do expect that you stop to chat about the weather or their lives. They seek the acknowledgment that comes from nods and greetings.

I’m thankful for this implied giving-receiving agreement. We know where our donations go, or at least to whom. Which is unlike writing a check that’s sucked into the void of large charities. (Not that large organizations do not improve the world, but I much prefer the Roman habit of one-on-one giving.)

At this time of year, I’m also thankful for the familiar smells of pasta con ceci or penne all’arabbiata wafting from kitchen windows through the narrow streets just before lunch.

I’m grateful when the sun suddenly emerges from behind a dissipating rain cloud, bringing back the Indian summer.

I’m happy for friends that agree it’s time get out wool sweaters, closed shoes, and to pull out baskets for mushroom-hunting, pitching in together to get autumn on its way yet.

I’m thankful for changes of season. I like the challenge of winter. It keeps you on your toes, clears the brain, and eventually makes you thankful, yet again, for that day on which you first smell the sweet perfume of spring.

I’m also deeply thankful not to be 30.

I’m thankful for having found (over 30) my perfect helpmeet and love.

And I’m really, really thankful that the world had Paul Newman for a pretty long run.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.