November 22, 2007

ESD XXVI Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American holiday; I'm not American, so I get to interpret it pretty loosely. It's about being strangers in a new land, being welcomed and helped by the people living there, about sharing with friends and family, and even strangers, about expressing gratitude for whatever we have, and for helping those who may not be so fortunate. It's a concept that resonates strongly with me--I'm a stranger in a new land, I've been helped by the the people living here, and I'm extremely grateful to my new friends and family for welcoming me in Friuli. I think everybody can find some part of this holiday to celebrate--surely we are all grateful for this wonderful life we have.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving here is a list of things to be grateful for on Thursday night. To Fra Jacques, who blessed the meal and was in turn grateful for the groceries brought by ESD members to be given to less fortunate members of his parish; to Lucio Degani who serenaded us with improvisations on his violin; to Joe Pennello, grateful for his second chance at life and success of his book launch, "The Penny Drops"; to Matteo Burani, who brought along the gorgeous wine from Felluga (see; to Mark Waters, who brought along music and goodies from the base at Aviano; to Betti Paron who provided nibbles; to Gianguido de Carvalho, Giovanna Pontelli and Kerry Hall who prepared the piece de resistance of the evening--the turkey along with all the delicious vegetables; to Penny Heysen for the sweets. And of course to Luigi Deciani, for being such a generous host of these ESD events this year, opening his home and heart.... Last but not least, to all ESD members who have shown their support, and have embraced this concept of sharing experiences and cultures on Tuesday evenings with enthusiasm. Thank you one and all!!

Remember--keep checking this blog for information about future ESD events.

Penny Heysen

November 13, 2007


Funny thing about these dinners--no matter how many familiar faces there are, there's always someone new. This Tuesday's dinner was no exception. We welcomed the Gasparis to their first ESD, and welcomed back some friends--Roberto Pirzio brought his mother Fey to delight us all.

And the Visconti Puglnigs excelled themselves with the simple menu at this ESD. The roasted pork and zucchini parmigiana warmed us all, and the homemade apple strudel from the talented Maria went down a treat. Good honest fare for a cold November night.

A special mention should go out for Grazia Massa, who brought along a selection of books that she had written and in some cases even illustrated. The evocative landscapes and their accompanying poems served as a reminder that summer is never all that far away.

Penny Heysen

November 6, 2007

ESD XXIV Cosy nights by the fire...

When the wind chills your cheeks, and the damp night seeps into your bones, the best thing to do is gather yourself up, and head for a warm hearth and the company of friends. I love the summer, and the coming winter always makes me a little melancholy, but last night's dinner with old and new ESD friends banished the gloom of winter, even if just for the night.

Fra Jacques gave us a brief history lesson on the Middle Eastern problem, and when talking of his life in Palestine, you could almost feel the sandy heat blasting from the desert (or maybe that was Luigi who had just thrown another log on the fire...).

And the menu itself also lessened the heavy weight of the coming winter, with a risotto made from the first radicchio di Treviso--reminding us that the cold winter also brings us some joys--red chicory, chestnuts, steaming bowls of soup, nights by the fire, and the cosy company of friends.

Penny Heysen

October 30, 2007

ESD XXIII The Court of Count Dracula....

They say that putting on a mask or costume frees a person to behave in extraordinary ways. That was certainly true this Tuesday, when over half the guests at the special pre-Halloween party turned up in masks, cloaks, witches hats and other ghoulish disguises. There was dancing, there were horror stories, and brains, worms, and other gore galore--it wasn't your usual calm dignified Tuesday ESD. Also lots of scary new faces--or maybe they just seemed new--I didn't recognize them because they were in costume.

They also say that we choose costumes that are the opposite of what we normally are. And so there were wicked witches, devils, demons, a crazy paranoid chick, and of course, Count Dracula. Oops, well so maybe Luigi was pretty close to his costume character Count Dracula, just not mortally dangerous.

There was a special Halloween inspired menu too--ending with roasted chestnuts and ribolla to ward off the shivers and chills of the night. What better way to welcome the coming winter than cosying up to the fire with a coven of witches and whatnot?!

November will see the last three ESDs of the year, finishing with a special Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday November 22 (instead of the normal Tuesday). Please book your place soon for this special American holiday--space is limited. Hope to see you there!

Penny Heysen

October 23, 2007

ESD XXII A Real Multicultural Crowd

This week we had an authentic middle-eastern cultural meeting: Mustafa and Fra Jacques, an old ESD friend just back from the Holy Land, spoke intensely in various languages (including Arabic), attracting the attention of most of the participants. Among the new guests, we were glad to welcome an old friend Guido, a famous ecletic artist.

So it was a nice dinner even though Luigi wasn’t with us. We know that despite his absence (the lucky guy—he was escorting his daughter Margherita around Ireland), he was present in spirit if not physically in his usual place at the head of the table. We look forward to hearing all about his trip and the new ideas he might have collected abroad.

Gio Pontelli

October 16, 2007


Last night’s ESD was extra special: not only because of meeting Mark and Carol, who came from Aviano with their colleagues from the US Base Serge and Louise; not only for the send off Tiffany and her friends wanted to give Deborah--going to work in north America (good luck and have fun, Deborah!!); not only for meeting old and new ESD friends like Taira and Giulio who came with Alison, not only for having Kerry who drove from Verona to be with us… but also because it was Penny’s birthday!!! Happy Birthday, dear Penny, from all of us.

The home made style dinner offered by the Visconti Pugelnik family in front of the fireplace created a cosy and familiar atmosphere, and the Vin de Ville with labels taken from the Deciani family photo album carried on the homemade theme. Nice chats in front of the cast iron stove led to an Italo-Anglo-American agreement for the next big event: a Thanksgiving dinner to be held on Thursday 22 November with the help of our friends from Aviano. Places will be limited, so let us know soon if you'll be joining us for the traditional turkey dinner. Just send an email to

And remember to break out your scariest costumes for Halloween--this year we'll be celebrating it a bit early, on Tuesday 30 October. Treats will be given for the best costume, and scariest ghost tale. So come along for what looks to be a fun night!

Luigi Deciani

October 9, 2007


Our ESDs have settled into a nice rhythm. Some regular attendees confessed that at first they felt awkward speaking in English, but now have gained a lot more confidence--which is great--one of our goals is to provide a place to use those all important language skills. I guess a lot of that must be due to the warm, accepting atmosphere--everyone is so friendly.

And even those who don't need to practice their English get a lot out of the evening. Many have taken the opportunity to bring their friends and family when they're visiting Italy--no more language barriers, or having to translate the whole menu to people unused to the Italian style of ordering! So it was that Alan Munford brought his mother Iris, who was over from England for a visit--now I see where Alan gets his charm from!

So whatever your reason for coming we hope to see you again soon.

Penny Heysen