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A Cenone for New Year’s Eve

December 2005
Male Appetito
It was New Year’s Eve and on NYE in Italy you eat a cenone. A cenone is a big cena, which is the Italian word for dinner, rather like a calzone is a big sock, you thought it was an Italian pastie what you get in pizza restaurants didn’t you? Well it is, but it means a big sock, which is a pretty good description if you think about it. Anyway, a cenone is a very big dinner and on NYE it commences about 9pm.
Facing a Cenone
Facing a cenone in one of the region’s best-thought-of restaurants, when your appetite has gone missing, as mine had done for a couple of days since, is rather like the man with no arms or legs who enters a swimming competition, jumps into the water and sinks straight to the bottom. When they fish him out he splutters, “What a time to go and get cramp in the ears!’. Whereas I had to face the following tweleve-course meal:
12 Courses
1. a plate of cold stripey-grilled vegetables; courgettes, aubergine, mushroom, onion and olives, preserved in oil or vinegar or both.
2. some olive ascolani and cremini, olive ascolani are large green olives special to the region of Ascoli Piceno, which have been de-stoned and the resulting hole filled with a mix of chopped beef, veal, turkey and pork, the olives are then coated with flour and deep-fried. Cremini are little cubes made from a mix of flour, egg and sugar which are then coated in flour and deep-fried, so the result tastes rather like deep-fried custard, if you can imagine such a thing.
3. something resembling a slice of mushroom quiche.
4. a mushroom omelette
You may have detected at this point that someone who doesn’t like eggs or mushrooms could be disadvantaged – yes indeed, the menu planning could be improved, notwithstanding the restaurant’s reputation. I like both eggs and mushrooms but unfortunately not that evening.
5. pig's trotters and lentils as a kind of thick soup.
I was looking forward to trying this and it was quite palatable, even for someone with no appetite.
6. mushroom ravioli in a creamy sauce
yes, yet more mushroom.
7. a slice of vegetable lasagne, vegetables including mushrooms.
8. a plate of sliced duck meat with an Italian pickled onion
(less harsh than the British form as done in red wine vinegar, not malt vinegar, so not too awful to eat).
9. a pork chop from a young pig, with potato cubes done in the oven in the pig fat.
10. a plate of salad.
11. a dessert of a kind of jam- and cream-filled sponge.
12. coffee and chocs.
With this came four bottles of wine, a fizzy white one to go with the starters, a light red one for the pasta, a darker red one for the meat, and a sweet fizzy one for the dessert.
Going Out For Air
Fortunately, now that smoking is banned in Italian restaurants, the Italians are forever getting up and going outside for a smoke during their dinner, so I was able to wander out for some air now and again, without seeming to be rude or out of place.<
A Jolly Do
But it was quite a jolly evening nonetheless, with much wandering around and shaking of hands at midnight.
Going Out For Air
And I’m pleased to report that by the time we came to drive back to the UK on 3rd January, my appetite had been found again.


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