Saturday, June 9, 2007
Prosecco with Basil
The cicadas are out in Chicago. A great, biblical plague of them - clinging to trees, crunching underfoot, and finding their way into our clothes with alarming stealth. (I've had an Indiana Jones moment or two myself since I've been out here).
The cicadas' life cycle is a peculiarly timed affair. The insects wriggle about in the earth for 17 years and then, curiosity piqued by the first hot day of their 17th year, stream out into the fresh air to moult, mate, and die. It’s all a bit like a senior spring gone horribly wrong. Apparently this isn’t even a bad season. 17 summers ago, there were so many cicadas that the ground itself seemed to be moving.
Fortunately, and despite the occasional discovery of a large, plump insect on the back of my neck, it’s too hot in Chicago right now to panic. The only thing to be done is to slouch with cold drink in hand, try to ignore the deafening screech of the cicadas, and watch Teva the retriever gulp down as many of them as she can hold. They are, after all, considered a gourmet feast in some parts of the world.
I’ll stick to my prosecco though. It’s truly one of my favorite summer drinks – mildly mineral, straightforward, and simple, prosecco is the perfect hot weather celebration wine. The prosecco grape, thought to be a native of Friuli where there is actually a town named Prosecco, is now grown in the Veneto.
But for me, the wine is probably more woven into the fabric of my life in Florence than anywhere else. There, once I'm safely ensconced at a café or enoteca table in the shady corner of an old stone piazza, prosecco makes the most restorative and relaxing break from a day in the heat.
Lately, and in anticipation of my upcoming trip back to Florence, I’ve been drinking my prosecco with a sprig of basil. Some Italians like an olive and some orange rind in their prosecco, and I’m hoping to try that soon. But, served in a bulbous glass usually reserved for bigger reds, the fragrant combination of the chilled, gently peachy wine and the blunt, earthy, floral basil washes over the senses like summer itself. Pinch a few small leaves into your next glass and revive.