Winter

Lost in the fog: a boat trip in the Lagoon and a dish of spaghetti con le vongole

I don’t know what silence is, I said, while I am floating in the void.
It looks like Paradise – however you call it – the place where we go afterwards, doesn’t it? Francesco smiles under the wet scarf.
I am tasting that new and inconsistent taste, the fog, the dense fog which enters the nose and rests on the tongue, a bit salty.
When you’re inside it, you can’t escape. It’s like being in a dream and trying hard to wake up, in vain, until the doubt of being already awake arises as an upsetting possibility.
My eyes are wide open but there’s nothing to see.The edge of salvation lies within the border of something that floats over a sidereal space, deep and blue. Am I on a magic carpet? In my bed? On a boat?
There’s only white light around me, it almost hurts the eyes, so bright it is. All landmarks are gone, all certainties become doubts in that fascinating, enveloping and attracting brightness.
Let’s go back, I asked Francesco squeezing my eyes, while the shape of something appears far away, as a miraculous answer. Land! Land!! Land!!!!

A white heron with huge wings rises from that purple strip and immediately disappears in the bright sky.
I know where we are – I almost screame! It’s our beach, pull over, pull over!
The tide of those green but transparent waters slowly carries us ashore, with its sweet cradling, so typical of the Venice lagoon.
The silence is deafening, it is broken only by the coarse cry of a cormorant, annoyed by our raid into that seemingly celestial space or the unexplored surface of another planet.
There are no craters but purple plants and flowers.
There are no footsteps on the sand, they have been canceled by high tide, which every 6 hours takes possession of those few meters of the beach , otherwise exposed.
The bottom part of the boat – the edge of salvation – smoothly lays on the dark sand, which is sprinkled by oyster and clam shells.
Apollo 11 landing. What a wonderful desolation, I say!
I am almost swallowed by the clayish ground, while I almost lose my boot and some cold water freezes my ankle. Craps!
If this is Paradise, and I am with you, it’s going to be great fun, I tell Francesco. What shall we do now? Are you hungry? I always am.

We walk together enveloped by the fog wetting our hair. We remember this place, we have already been here, but just like light alone can make a photograph beautiful despite an uncertain object, the seasons here prevent us from recognizing a known landscape.
It was summer when the pink sunset had set fire to the green waters, making them a red sparkling lava, and we were watching them exactly from this place, sitting on the bow of our small boat, our feet soaking in the water.
Another time, same place, a big mullet had directly jumped into our boat, almost offering itself after an unsatisfactory day of fishing.
We also saw the night falling from this place. Just like the fog, the night causes a sense of dismay, but instead of being enveloped by a white brightness, it is complete darkness. The moon, if it is up in the sky, is the only landmark. I don’t know which one of the two situations is more incredible, but in both cases the senses are the only resource you can use. The noises are muffled by the fog – or by darkness – and are amplified, just like the senses. The eyes are wide open and our sense of smell helps us distinguishing some invisible clues.
The rustling of rushes tells us where the canal begins, the smell of clay that land is near, the warm air that the tide is rising.

The small holes on the sand tell us that it is full of shellfish, especially clams… good ones, too! Those clams are very expensive at Rialto fish market in Venice, since they are a specialty of this area.
The water is cold and you have to insert your hand under the first layer of dark mud to catch them.
While we wait for the fog to disperse a little – something which will not happen – we talk of spaghetti with clams, the “caparossoli” as we call them in Venetian dialect or the generic and shorter “cape”. There are so many we could fill a bucket, but we take only a few of them, just to make our spaghetti dream real. We have parsley in our orchard, while garlic has already been picked and is drying out near the woodshed. They are both essential ingredients of this simple and very Venetian dish.
I push the boat with the oar towards the middle of the canal. We are only a few meters away and the shore has already disappeared in the still thick fog.
Venezia is down there, somewhere. On the opposite side is Chioggia. Behind us are the fields taking us right into the Venetian countryside, where we live. We will return home, you’ll see. We only have to follow our senses and a precise direction, that one, in front of us. Towards the spaghetti we will eat in a little while.
No noise. No color. It could be any place, any time.
But we know where we are, because it is our dimension.

***  Starting from tomorrow (November 24th \ 19:00 CET) you can find The Freaky Raku plates I used in this post here, together with other new unique items inspired by our favorite season in Venice, and these surreal landscapes and colors of our beloved Lagoon!

Spaghetti con le vongole
 
Author:
Cuisine: Venetian
Ingredients
(Serves 4)
  • 1 kg fresh wild clams (vongole)
  • 400 gr spaghetti
  • 1 big bunch of fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ glass of white wine
  • 1 tsp Sea salt (for the pasta water)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese *(optional, please don’t kill me!)
About vongole – How to proceed
Important: clams must be purchased alive and if they are fresh, they should all be closed.
To prepare clams before cooking, it’s important to purge them of any sand that might be inside the closed shells.The clams you find at the market usually come from fish farming and they are sold already purged, but despite that, it's very probable they still retain some impurities inside. Therefore, soaking them in salty water for a couple of hours before using is highly recommended. If the clams are wild, like the ones I collected in the lagoon, the soaking step is mandatory and it takes at least one night.
The salinity of the water is very important in order to allow the clams opening, so whenever possible, use sea water. If you just have tap water, you can add coarse sea salt and the quantity to be added is 35-37 grams for liter, thus about 2 tablespoon.
Consider that cooking salt is refined and, if you combine it with fresh water, you can just grossly simulate the chemical composition of sea water, so doses should be made with the greatest possible care. Clams should be left quiet, in silence and in the dark, inside a ceramic or glass bowl (avoid metal or plastic).
Instructions
  1. Put a large pan of water with 1 tsp of coarse salt over the heat and bring to boil.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a deep frying pan on high heat with parsley and garlic finely chopped. Leave a few parsley leaves aside.
  3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to packet instructions, until al dente. While pasta is cooking, proceed with the next steps.
  4. Very gently fry the garlic and parsley, add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the pan from time to time.
  5. After about 3 or 4 minutes the clams will start opening, so keep shuffling the pan around until all of them have opened. Add the wine and a big pinch of black pepper and sautè the clams for 2 more minutes without the lid. Take the pan off the heat.
  6. Throw away any clams that haven't opened and descard the shells of half of the clams... It'll be easier eating them!
  7. Drain the cooked spaghetti, and add to the pan of clams. Add some extra fresh chopped parsley leaves and toss for 1 minute.
  8. Serve immediately.
* I personally ADORE adding Parmesan cheese to this dish of spaghetti… even if it's a debated theme. Some people do not even consider the hidea of adding cheese to this pasta dish, but for me, it's really good!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Amandine 24/11/2017 at 16:13

    This place reminds me of those foggy Brittany landscapes so familiar to me, and those pasta … It looks amazing Zaira !
    Thank you for sharing with us a bit of your Venice magic. xxx

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