Sunday, December 16, 2007


"And inside the porcelain and pewter pots there was tea, milk, coffee; inside the beaded Bohemian crystal carafes, lemonade, fruit juice, Skiwasser: a thirst-quenching drink, this—composed, in equal parts, of water and raspberry syrup, with a slice of lemon added and a few grapes—which Micòl preferred above all else, and in which she displayed a special pride.

"Ah, that Skiwasser!  During the breaks between games, besides biting into a sandwich, which, not without some ostentation of religious anti-conformism, she always chose from those with ham, Micòl often gulped down an entire glass of her dear 'beverage,' constantly urging us also to take some, 'in homage'—she would say, laughing—'to the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire.'  The recipe—she had told us—had been given to her in Austria, in fact, at Offgastein, in the winter of '34: the only winter she and Alberto, 'in coalition,' had managed to go off for a fortnight on their own, to ski.  And though Skiwasser, as its name indicated, was a winter drink, and thus should be served boiling hot, still, in Austria too, there were people who continued to drink it in summer, like this, in the iced 'version' and without the lemon slice; and they called it Himbeerwasser, in this case.

"In any event we were to note carefully—she added with a comic emphasis, raising one finger—the grapes, 'very, very important,' had been her initiative, she herself had introduced them into the classic Tyrolean recipe.  It was her idea, and it meant a great deal to her: there was nothing to laugh about.  They represented, those grapes, the special Italian contributions to the holy and noble cause of Skiwasser, or rather to this, more exactly the special 'Italian variant, or rather Ferrarese, or rather . . . et cetera, et cetera.' "  (Bassani, Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini)

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