This is probably going to be one of those “you had to be there” stories, but here goes anyway.
On Friday three of Stefano’s colleagues/friends came over for dinner. Okay, correction: of the three, only one still works in his office. The other two are former colleagues who transferred to the company where I teach English. They are both students of mine. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable evening, even though they talked mostly about work-related stuff and other colleagues that I haven’t met yet. As usual, the meal that chef Stefano prepared was fantastic.
Part of the enjoyment was due to the fact that Stefano and I were able to pull off a joke. As follows.
As I often do now, I had baked two loaves of bread with rosemary (see my post/page on acrylamide) and other herbs from our organic garden. Toward the end of dinner, managing to keep a straight face, I casually asked the women if they liked the bread since we were trying out a new bakery…
Colleague A answered immediately that it was delicious and that she had enjoyed it very much. Colleague B answered that it was very good but a bit salty (very true, I had exaggerated a tad with the salt this time). Colleague C instead screwed up her nose and answered that, even though she hadn’t yet tasted the bread (!), it looked a bit moldy to her.
Pointing to my precious chopped up herbs, she said, yes, look at all these little green things, what are they? Her actual words in the Tuscan dialect were mah, senti, a me un mi piace ippane che sembra sc’abbia la muffina…icchè sono ‘sti aggeggini verdi?
Stefano and I glanced at each other and began roaring with laughter. After he had somewhat recovered his composure, he explained to our rather baffled guests that I had made the bread. Yes, yes, with my own hands. They were all sooo surprised, even though my reputation as a baker is well known (every year, Stefano’s colleagues receive packets of my U.S. Xmas cookies, and I frequently prepare sweet goodies for my students).
Well, Colleague C was absolutely mortified. A look of (mock) terror settled on her face as soon as she realized that, because of this faux pas, she might flunk her upcoming English exam (hehe…I confess I got some mileage out of that one…).
In an attempt to “mollify” me, she began stuffing my “moldy” bread into her mouth and raving about how tasty it was. She announced that she wanted to take the rest of my bread home and spread Nutella (a popular Italian chocolate-hazelnut cream) all over it. Nutella on rosemary/sage/thyme/origano/moldy bread…hmmm, not quite sure about that combination.
The saga continues. Yesterday at work I discovered that the moldy bread story had made the rounds of the office. Colleague C, a very funny young woman with a good sense of humour, had told everyone what had happened on Friday evening.
She greeted me with an enthusiastic review of my bread and declared that it was the BEST part of the dinner, the best bread she had EVER tasted and would I please make some more so she could take it home to her family. She went a bit overboard. She had even done all of her English homework and more besides. I, of course, was much amused.
But I wasn’t finished with her quite yet. Over the weekend I had chosen and prepared a short text in English on the topic of, you guessed it!, “mold.” I knew she wouldn’t recognize the word, and I deliberately made sure that the text wouldn’t give her any easy clues as to its meaning. During our lesson, I told her that she needed to practice reading English out loud and handed her the…moldy text. She diligently read the first two paragraphs (containing words that were very difficult to pronounce, hehe), then got a bit suspicious and asked me what “mold” meant in Italian.
Ahhh, how I enjoyed the look on her face when I translated the word for her. More laughter.
Later that morning, my other students begged me to be lenient toward Colleague C. This was all done in good fun, of course. They know me well enough by now and, truth be told, Colleague C is my best student. And a wonderful smart and cheerful person, too.
Besides, and even more importantly, she made me laugh more than once, and that alone is worth a whole lot more than a good mark on an exam.