When I was a child - back in the middle of the last century - one thing always appeared amongst the oranges, small games and hard candies in my Christmas stocking: a lump of coal. Why a lump of coal? That was for the times I'd been naughty and to remind me that if I had been good all year there would have been another gift worthy of a good little boy. Sort of a cruel Christmas guilt trip to lay on a kid which frankly didn't work. By the time Laurent and I started exchanging stockings coal had become a thing of the past and impossible to find - though one year I did find candles shaped like a lump of coal. And this year I hit the mother-lode.
Last evening, after one of Signora Paola's dinners at Trattoria der Pallardo, we took a stroll through the Christmas Fair at Piazza Navona with our friends Lorraine and John. It wasn't as crowded as we thought it would be and even though it was early by Roman standards - 2130 - some of the stalls where closing. We wandered into the beautiful Church of Santa Agnese in Agone, reputedly built on the site of the brothel that the Saint had been sold into, and happened upon a chamber quartet playing one of the Corelli Christmas concerti.
Afterwards we wandered back into the Piazza and there they were: lumps of coal! A veritable vein of carbon piled into a pyramid amongst the sugared almonds, marzipan and fruit jellies at a candy stall. Carbonne dolci (Candy coal) that the vendor said was for the stockings of Le donne cative (Naughty ladies.) Given the history of the area during Roman times, it seemed highly appropriate. I'm sure its pure sugar and will rot teeth on contact but each of our dinner guests will be getting a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking. And Laurent will be getting an extra big one.
As for me -sadly I didn't buy enough but then I've been a really good boy this year!
22 decembre - Santa Francesca Cabrini