One of the highlights of my summer is when one of my American guests told my Italian mother in law, in perfect Italian, that he would like to wash the vaginas.
Ah, the joys of learning a new language; all the things that are lost (and gained!) in translation.
This summer, my parents, along with a couple of their oldest friends, came to visit us at my husband’s family home in Moneglia. It is always a joy for me to have my american family and friends visit, but it can also be hard work to blend my two worlds. I spend dinner time dizzyingly translating anecdotes and niceties back and forth between the two families who couldn’t otherwise communicate. I often find myself weary and linguistically confused by the end of the evening; and will begin accidentally speaking to my mother in Italian, or translating English to English for no one’s benefit.
My parents’ friend Mark, however, has quite a propensity for languages and already speaks good spanish, so he was able to both understand and communicate quite well in Italian. Mark is also an excellent cook and a BBQ pit-master, and offered to cook dinner for the family one night, giving the aunts a much-needed break from the kitchen. He was able to work his way around the kitchen, asking the ladies for what he needed in impeccable Italian, and finding himself right at home… Until it was time to wash the figs.
Remembering the which nouns are masculine and feminine in Italian is a problem for americans, and I still blunder regularly after 10 years in Italy. Some nouns are a more sensitive to these types of errors than others, however. One tiny letter can instantly transform the word “fig” from a late-summer fruit into a rather vulgar term for the female genitalia.
Fortunately these mistakes are more hilarious than offensive, and make for great ice-breakers. My mother-in-law diplomatically ignored Mark’s unusual request and the dinner proceeded beautifully. The main dish, a perfectly-grilled pork tenderloin dressed with caramelized, grilled figs, was an instant success. Silence fell upon the table as the flavors melted in our mouths and we allowed the dish to speak for itself in a deliciously universal language.
Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Figs
- 1 whole pork tenderloin
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- fresh figs, washed, dried, and cut in half
Bring the meat to room temperature, brush with olive oil and massage with salt and pepper while you prepare the grill. Grill the meat, turning every 3-5 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C), about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the grill, wrap in aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grill the figs: Brush the cut-side with the olive oil, then place them face down on the grill. Grill for 6-7 minutes, until they are slightly browned and soft to the touch.
When the meat has rested, remove the aluminum foil and cut into 1-inch slices. Transfer to a serving platter and dress with grilled figs. Serve immediately.