My monger takes his work very seriously. He never sells a defected cheese or one that’s suffered in transit – it’s quality over a profit-driven model and a trustworthy rapport with small producers and clients that matter most. But outside of work and when it comes to the lighter, laughable part of our day, he is like a 15-yr. old prankster with a sexual innuendo laden sense of humor. He’ll sing Piemontese lullabies at the top of his lungs and once delivered the punch line of a joke by dropping his pants in front of a mozzarella maker during a business meeting. At Cheese, an international biennial festival, to rouse the crowd towards the end of a 12 hour shift, he started selling our made-in-house cream as Viagra. And there’s also Monica L., the shop’s vaccum sealing machine named after Bill Clinton’s former secretary.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when he proposed sharing a raclette with childhood friends he hadn’t seen in months and playing a joke on them to have a good laugh. He prefaced the mass-text message invitation with the false news that Gianni, his friend and one of the guests, had married an American woman (me) and would be bringing her to the upcoming dinner. Drunk on polenta topped with butter and mountain air, I agreed I’d play along.
As the big cheesy night approached I learned that my monger’s long-time friends were some of the most persnickety, gossipy women in town, the sort of clients that routinely dismiss me if I’m behind the counter. Some of them even came by the shop to interrogate my monger about his friend’s new American wife while I hid in the laboratory wiping down the prep area unnecessarily until they left. As soon as I realized I’d be sharing my first raclette in the company of these women I was dreading the occasion.
When the evening arrived, I couldn’t back out.I put on a dress and met my “husband” for an apperitivo at a nearby bar so we could get our stories straight. And so I could down a glass of wine. Then we joined the crowd together and I pretended I was from Nashville, Tennessee and that Gianni and I had met two years ago while I was singing gospel and fallen in love. My enrollment at the nearby university was just an excuse to reunite with him in Italy, and, unable to restrain ourselves, we’d married last weekend in the mountain comune where he owns property and we’ll likely head stateside to celebrate with my family this coming summer. (for the record, not my preferred storyline)
Keep in mind, he’s noticeably 25+ years older than me. Now pass the piping hot boiled potatoes and proscuitto and scrape some bubbling, browning cheese on top, please.
After three portions of raclette and a lot of acting on my part, the busy-bodies believed it. One of them even brought a cake with rings interlocked on top.And, classically, one of them called the Comune the following week to verify whether it was true.Some people really have nothing to do.Others might lie through their teeth for melting cheese.To each their own.