Sambuca: an Italian anise-flavoured, usually colourless, liqueur. It is flavoured with essential oils obtained from anise, star anise, licorice, and other spices… the oils are added to pure alcohol, a concentrated solution of sugar, and other flavouring. It is commonly bottled at 42% alcohol by volume. (Wikipedia)
He had a commanding presence – physically and vocally. He had lived in Canada 35 years but could barely speak English. He commanded and we dropped everything and did as he said. My children – very young at the time – were terrified.
He took an interest in me. I think it was the Italian origin of my first name (although, alas, I have not a drop of Italian blood).
Everything about his house was stereotypical. I felt like I was on the set of The Godfather – right down to the vats of red wine in the basement. He ordered the grapes from California. Back in the days when his own children were young, they stomped on the grapes with bare feet. The old-fashioned way.
It was lovely wine. And the food that he and his now-grown daughter prepared was among the tastiest I’ve eaten.
He would forage for mushrooms on the neighbourhood lawns. And more than once I’d come home and find him planting things in my garden. I never knew what to expect – communication was almost entirely by gesture.
Mid-morning he would invite (command) me to join him for coffee. Nervously leaving the kids at home alone, I would sit in his kitchen and try to drink the coffee he offered me. It was always laced with Sambuca, something I don’t care for.
Especially at 10:00 in the morning. 42 % alcohol.
Apparently, it was a treat – reserved for special guests. I should have felt honoured.
O Sole Mio. The quintessential Italian song. The Three Tenors – Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo in their performance at the World Cup in Rome, 1990.
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