One of my favorite desserts on this planet (yes, we’re going for High Melodrama today, also, it’s that wonderful) is affogato, which translates from Italian as “drowned.” The lucky drowner is top-notch vanilla gelato, and it is draped in a single shot of freshly-pulled espresso. I see you arching your eyebrows and you are full of questions, aren’t you? Isn’t that horribly bitter? Doesn’t it melt the ice cream? How can it be your favorite dessert if it has neither butter nor chocolate with it? All are legitimate concerns but the thing is, when it’s done right — and there really is a magical balancing point between the volume of ice cream and the amount of espresso, that is, sadly, rarely achieved — the resulting mess is a semi-slumped mound of cold and sweet vanilla cream with a trench of faintly bitter latte around it. It is the ultimate grownup dessert — sure, you get the ice cream you’ve been angling for after dinner since you were 3.5, but you also get a bracing hit of espresso, just enough to keep you up past your bedtime, you know, when all the fun begins.
So, I didn’t really know how to tell you this earlier, but we’ve gone to roam. I mean, we are in Rome, here, for a week and a half. Why so long? Why Rome? Does it even matter? The itch for travel that was more than an overnight book trip to one city or another was intense, as I remember a time pre-kid when we used to go places all of the time, just following the promise of cheap airfare passable-enough hotels to Vienna and Prague and Paris, just because. But we were scared of travelling with a three year-old because I don’t want to wreck the reputation of the one that’s been assigned to us, but you see, as normal as this makes him, he doesn’t always listen. Sometimes he yells? He’s not so good at airplanes. Or fancy restaurants. But I knew there would be a point where the inconveniences incurred by travelling with a preschooler would feel less of a burden than spending another minute taking a serious family vacation somewhere we’ve always wanted to study up close, to linger in long enough that it might almost feel routine after a few days, and here we are. At last.
We spent last weekend in New Orleans. I’d been invited to be on a panel about recipe development at a lovely conference, and we wove that together with a baby-free mini-vacation for our anniversary weekend. We’d only been to New Orleans once before, just a couple months before our wedding in 2005, not realizing how strongly we’d feel connected to the city when our wedding and Hurricane Katrina fell on the same date. Meanwhile, we managed to miss another hurricane — and her damages — entirely back home. We’re lucky people.
We spent the last week in what I call the vacation trifecta: among beaches, wineries and farm stands. The vacation was supposed to be a reward for getting my book finished by August 1st. Instead, I all but tried to cancel the vacation when I realized I wouldn’t be done. Despite all of my practice over the last few months, I’m not very good at not finishing things. I don’t like going to bed with dishes in the sink, I’d rather stay up until midnight getting something done than have to start the morning with an old item on my to-do list and I did not want to go on vacation until I finished my project. Oh no. I did not. I might have even dreaded it.
Look, it wasn’t my finest moment but my Happy Valentine’s Day gift to my husband was an epic meltdown over book deadlines and recipe flops and the near impossibility of getting anything done with a toddler underfoot in a kitchen that doesn’t actually fit the two of us. It wasn’t pretty. We ordered pizza and watched How I Met Your Mother.