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Mon. 19 September

On waking, I weigh a hair below 80. Five more kilos and I'm there, although I note, again and again, that I'm not dieting — several-course meals at the Umbria including dessert and wine, for example — and therefore if I just keep on the way I am now (no butter, no chocolate, not much meat) my weight may continue to drop below my target until it stabilizes of its own at whatever my body feels it should weigh: so that this whole weight loss should be viewed maybe not as an action but as some kind of well-like process, of just allowing the water to find its own level, of letting myself out quietly as it were. Anyway, for today I'm delighted.

[. . .] I want to be near a rink — does it really matter now what the climate is like here?

Around 11 A.M. So much for Italian law — I walked in cold off the street with my Nationwide Bank VISA card and got 800 ML here in Todi. I then came back and phoned the embassy in Rome — a good thing, too: open for notarization only from 9 to 12 A.M. Thought I'd go skating today instead, but then tomorrow I can combine it all and save a roundtrip to Rome.

Bought film, gave my roll to be developed — went to post office, mailed my letters (only 1650₤ — a postcard, also airmail, costs 1100), got stamps for postcards for later — but must allow from here on ½ hour for any transaction in bank or post office or similar place: the waits are tremendous, and the flip side of the Italian character is that they all worm ahead of you —

Preparing dinner — what a difference cash makes — I went and bought more food, including truffles, truffle sauce, grappa and wine — plus regular stuff — all put it came to 93 ML but I nearly went to the Umbria instead which would have been around 60, and of course I have supplies for days — for weeks with that one bottle of grappa. The truffles have a wonder­ful fragrance totally unlike that of French truffles, although the flavor is different and much less concentrated. I got 3 bottles of wine 15ML (= $3/btl.) all from the Todi area, DOC Colli Martani all of 'em — a Grechetto, a Trebbiano and a Sangiovese — So I'm preparing dinner: little dry sausages from Perugia as my antipasto; then a primo piatto of strangozzi umbri (slightly rubbery shoelace-thickness long pasta) with truffle sauce and grated pecorino; a contorno of fagiolini all' aglio; fruit and yogurt — I found a malt-flavored yogurt, sounds horrible, of course I bought some —

[. . .]

In bed, 8:20 P.M. I'm happy these days. But it's easy to feel happy in a fool's paradise! I'm on vacation — no pressure from work — I'm coasting on my mother's money here (although in fact this is cheaper than my 1991 trip to France, by a long shot, and I could probably have done it quite on my own) — I'm by myself so don't have to deal with anyone else at close range. In such a set of circumstances, how could I not be happy?

After lunch I washed up and unexpectedly fell asleep in bed wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket — to wake up around 3:30. I then went down to Todi Scalo on the main road to Colvalenza and easily obtained a (somewhat fragile) phone cord adapter; then to the Azienda, a full schedule of trains to and from Rome; also various shops (alarm clock, groceries); back to the apartment, cooked and ate dinner: tortellini with fresh mushrooms and Francescana purée (a commercially bottled purée of various mushrooms & herbs); salad of lettuce and the remaining green beans and garlic; a glass of Sangiovese (less distinguished than the Grechetto); for dessert, ricotta flavored with a deep-red liquor 18° smells like Scope cinnamon,​a slightly sugared (recipe given to me by fellow customer in a shop when I asked the shopkeeper what to do with ricotta — it's excellent, doesn't taste at all of cinnamon, and a lovely color of cerise); a few muscatel grapes; a dot of grappa. As Augustus Carp would say, a light but satisfying repast.

[. . .]

Later Note:

a The liquor is called Alchermes (a variant of the same Arabic word that gave us carmine); it's a raw alcohol infusion of cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and coriander, additionally perfumed with rose and jasmine, and tinted, at least originally, with cochineal to about this color. Note for the squeamish: cochineal is made out of dead bugs; no, I'm not joking.

Every time I go to Umbria I buy a bottle of Alchermes, use it about four times, and abandon the remaining three-quarters. I don't know, nor have I been able to guess or invent, anything to do with the stuff other than as recorded above. Maybe next time.

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