Any way you run, you run before us
Black and white horse arching among us - Beach House, Zebra
Where do I start? How do I even begin to explain what my trip to Venice meant to me? So many thoughts run through my head these days that it feels impossible to prioritize them. They mostly consist of feelings, which makes it hard to translate them into words. But I will try.
Somewhere last summer I stumbled upon Zaïra's blog The Freaky Table. I was truly blown away by her dark and moody food photography, her writings which literally read like a book, and her and Francesco's raku pottery. I left a comment and from that moment on we kept in touch. First through our blogs and Instagram, later via e-mail and Facebook, I interviewed Zaïra for my blog and we slowly got to know each other. What we both felt, I think, is that even though our photography differs in some ways, our characters are very much alike. So we made plans to meet each other. Rob and I would fly to Venice, and spend some days with Zaïra, Francesco and her parents and they would come back with us, to The Netherlands.
While many may gasp upon seeing Zaïra's beautiful photos, she's also very good with words. Each blog post is a short story. About seasonal produce, her mother's meals, about her way of life, about a memory, about Venice or Tuscany. There is só much I could learn from her. Zaïra's storytelling ability is ironically 'beyond words'. During our stay with the Zarotti family I experienced some of her world. I feel lucky that I now know where so many of her stories take place.
When we arrived at the airport, Zaïra and Francesco were waiting for us. We drove to their house and met Luciano and Dorina, Zaïra's parents. Such kind people. I am utterly grateful for their hospitality. Their home is a dream. A farmhouse kitchen, spacious and bright studios where they create paintings, drawings and sculptures. A garden filled with fruit trees and a beautiful vegetable garden. I felt right at ease.
Of course we also spent time in Venice (more about that in a second blog post). Zaïra lives about thirty minutes from the city. We walked for hours, while talking and getting to know each other. After one day it already felt like we had known each other for years. It's amazing how we connected, all four of us. During the rest of our stay we visited an amazing vintage market in a nearby town, tasted Dorina's delicious lemon cookies, had long conversations at the kitchen table, and laughed so much that my stomach started to hurt. The best kind of instant happiness. We had many coffees and shared Tony's Chocolonely (chocolate) which we brought from Holland. And of course, Francesco showed us his pottery skills. I even created my own cup (che figo! I.e. how awesome)!
On our last day in Italy, Zaïra and I did some baking and quickly took some photos. The cookies you see on the photos are Buranelli. A yellow biscuit which is a specialty from the island of Burano, near Venice. We visited this place on a stormy and wet day, but I had so much fun nevertheless. The cookies come in two shapes, a circle and a -s-, and are perfect to have with a cup of espresso. Back in the day, Buranelli were typically baked on Easter Sunday, but you can now find them year-round, or bake them yourself! By the way, if you are in Venice, I'd really recommend a visit to Burano. It's quiet and so colorful. I loved it.
After four days, Zaïra and Francesco came with us to The Netherlands and we enjoyed each other's company for another week before saying goodbye. Actually, I refrained from saying "good bye", because I am sure we will see each other again. So it's was more like a 'ciao!'. <3
250 grams all purpose flour
3 egg yolks
200 grams granulated sugar
100 grams butter, room temperature
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
1 organic lemon, zest and juice
How to make it:
1. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and the sugar. Mix with an electric mixer until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Add the butter and mix until fully incorporated. Add the lemon zest and juice and combine. Lastly, sift the flour in the bowl and add the vanilla. Mix until everything you have a smooth cookie dough.
3. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
5. Create S-shaped cookies and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The time depends on the size of the cookies, when the edges turn a little brown and the cookies look golden, they are ready. Enjoy!