Learning Italian: The ancient Italian coffee machine and an Expat accident

It was a dark and cold morning much like every morning during winter in December. Lazily I slung my legs out of bed, wrapped la sciarpa around my neck, slipped on my furry slipper Crocs and headed to the kitchen for morning coffee.

When I told my Sardinian mother that our electric coffee maker was broken, she happily opened the door to an old wardrobe and gave me one of hers. You see, in Italy every house has at least three; the one gifted to us is roughly 25 years old and I was proud to brew the morning’s coffee, daily, until nine days ago.

Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life

The culprit aka la caffettiera

My scream pierced the frigid morning air and Hub flew out of bed faster than a lion chasing a long-awaited meal, it gave me just enough time to turn off the flame and rip my boiling hot pajama pants off. When he reached me I was naked from the waist down, standing in a pool of steaming hot coffee with painful tears streaming down my face.

The gift, the ancient Italian coffee maker fell from its perch on the stove and spilled its boiling hot liquid down the front of my thigh, then did a fast flip as the bottom of the coffee maker scorched the outside of my calve. Small splashes of scalding coffee fell to the top of my foot making an abstract form of burnt skin on canvas.

“Che cosa è successo? Oh mio dio!”
“It’s hot, it’s hot, I didn’t know what to do.  There’s no skin! OMFG! The skin?! OoooooooHHHoooooooo. It hurts.”

He helped me to the bed, and in all honesty I don’t remember much after that. The fog cleared twenty-four hours later and I learned that the lovely neighbour heard about my plight, and was given an ancient secret potion that is brewed in the mountains of Sardinia. Hub religiously administered the potent medicine to my leg, through my heavy protests and tear-stained face. The neighbour spared only what she had left, leaving her household bare of this essential medicine, I am eternally grateful at her kindness.

We have since finished the secret brew and have switched to natural aloe vera. It’s a lovely miracle that my Sardinian mother has a giant aloe plant growing in her forest of earthly delights. Daily, Hub chopped large leaves of the golden liquid and administered it to my healing burn.

That was nine days ago.

A large aloe leaf, sliced in half sits slippery upon my wound, as I type this post. It’s a slow process, one I have never experienced in my life and one I hope to never experience again.

Today was the first day I tied my shoes myself, touched my toes, went for an hour walk and had a beautiful hot shower without the plastic bag duck-taped to my leg, and most importantly, all the above relatively pain-free.

The locals in town have been very helpful in offering advice and well wishes. I am a stubborn one, and during this nine-day ordeal, I still made it a point to get the daily groceries and enjoy the lovely December sunshine.

“Oh, Signora, che cosa hai fatto?”
“Ho bruciato la mia gamba.”
“Con cosa?”
“Caffe.” As I stimulate with my hands the turning of the ancient Italian coffee machine.
La caffettiera?”
“Si, Signora. Sopra tutta la mia gamba.”
“Devi andare a Cuppodia. Li, c’e una donna che si prenda cura di te. E ‘doloroso, ma non ci saranno cicatrici. Ho sentito che brucia l’ustione con una bruciatura.”
“Vai al Cuppodia.”

A woman in Cuppodia who can take care of me. It’s painful but there won’t be scars. Words from every local in town is that this mysterious healing woman burns the burn, with another burn!

Yeah, I don’t do pain very good and decided to pass on the mysterious woman in Cuppodia. I said my thank you s and have a nice days and limped on home with fresh bread and local tomatoes in my recyclable shopping bag.

Words learned:

  • cicatrici – scars
  • la caffettiera – Italian coffee machine (possibly only known as such in My Town, Sardinia. In other parts of Italy it’s known as La Moka).
  • bruciare – to burn
  • And that sometimes, ancient remedies are the best.
  • Scarpa – shoes and sciarpa is scarf. Thanks my virtual friend. 🙂

Have you had any expat accidents? Did you prescribe to the ancient forms of medication? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

45 thoughts on “Learning Italian: The ancient Italian coffee machine and an Expat accident

  1. La caffettiera (also called moka) has a security valve on its side for letting out steam if the normal route (upwards through the grinded coffee) is blocked. I’ve never heard about these little tools exploding! I personally over the years destroyed several caffettiere forgetting them over the gas but they simply melted (the plastic or rubber parts).

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  4. Jennifer & Hubby

    Hope you are healing well and doing better! Thank goodness your husband was there to help you! Take care and have a very Happy New Year! May God Bless!

    The Sard/American

  5. Oh dear, I felt bad ‘liking’ this post! I actually squirmed while reading it (I speak ok Spanish so I understood most of the exchanges). Hope you heal soon – natural, weird remedies are the best.

    I had my second major riding accident today (MUCH better than the first – no spine/head trauma) and the best remedy recommended by my trainer and the doc is ‘100 inside, 100 outside’ = 100 milliliters of vodka takes internally, and the same rubbed over the injured area (nothing broken, just some bruising and pinched nerves)! Not sure the outside bit applies to your or burns in general, but I feel much better after the medicine was administered to my insides 🙂

  6. Great story! I had a spill when I had lived in China about a year and a half where I did a face plant in front of half a dozen people and almost broke my wrist. The difference – no one offered to help me! Glad to know you are on the mend.

      • Yes, most likely. Chinese people will do anything for family and friends and pretty much nothing for those they don’t know. I think it may be a coping mechanism left over from the cultural revolutions. The security guards and onlookers obviously didn’t consider me part of an inner circle. They likely wouldn’t have helped a Chinese person either.

  7. Nice blog, sorry that you had the accident with the bialetti – I know this term from my Sardinians but also caffettiera and moca. I have several of them at home and they look more or less like the one in the picture. I tried to clean one in the dishwasher once – don’t do it, that’s my advice. BTW I know bialetti only for this shape of coffeemaker, it is also written on the box when you buy it.

  8. Owww, poor you, drink tea instead, it’s safer using a kettle! I once got bitten badly by a dog on my shin whilst visiting a hermit in the mountains.. he rubbed in some gin and lemon juice and bandaged me up and it was fine…

  9. Ugh, the same thing happened to me but it wasn’t that bad. And happened to me in my house in India (I have Italians in our family). At first, I only made coffee that way till it fell off the stove and nearly started a forest fire. They use yoghurt here though to cool the burns.

  10. I was sorry to hear about your burn. Good to hear your improving with the Sardinian remedies. My mom is Sardinian and when I was a child and had a cold my grandfather would make me a coffee drink with egg and whiskey. While it could have been the liquor, of course, I ALWAYS felt better. I wish my mom (she is 86, family from Bono (Marrosu) knew how to make this medicinal drink. I think your readers would love to hear about other Sardinian remedies, especially the potions of the Sardinian “witches.” There has been a long standing rumor that my grandmother was trained as one as a girl in Sardinia. As a new born she put a coral bracelet on me to ward off the Malocio evil eye. Keep up the good work. Your stories are always very compelling! Steve Miller.

  11. I had one of those, they’re called “Bialetti”, explode on the stove while I was sitting on the toilet enjoying some relax time….I bought an espresso machine since, they don’t explode I hope!!!!

  12. Jennifer

    I am so happy to hear that you are on the mend form your terrible experience. When I was a child growing up in Connecticut, I was riding my bike and slipped on some heavy road gravel and went toppling down right on my wrist. I hobbled home and my wrist was so very swollen. My Uncle Patsy (A Sard naturally) had just come home from work and he immediately washed my wrist of all of the dirt and gravel. He warmed olive oil and rubbed my wrist and proceeded making an beaten egg white concoction and put it all over my wrist and wrapped it very tight with gauze. It totally secured the wrist, no moving it! The next morning I went to school, the school nurse use to check all of the students. When she came to me she asked what doctor cast my wrist for it was an amazing cast, I told her that it was not our family doctor but my uncle! The wrist healed wonderful! Yes the Sards even brought their home remedies to the US for all of us! I still use many of my parents and his methods today and they still work wonders!
    Get better soon!
    The Sard/American

  13. I’ve heard this little coffee-maker referred to as ‘una caffetteria’ in many parts of Italy, Jen: it’s not just a Sardinian term. From personal experience I remember how difficult it can be on a gas stovetop to get them perfectly balanced: is your stove not specifically Italian, maybe? Still, you’ll be far better off when your electric machine is fixed: I had recently to spend four days with my Gaggia and nearly went bonkers!

    • I did ask in an expat Italian group and a lot of the main-landers know it as La Moka. I guess every town has their own terminology. 🙂 I need to buy the metal thingy that goes under la caffetteria to prevent further burns.

  14. I had a serious motorcycle accident near Tempio Pausania coming off Mte Limbara in 1972. A helicopter landed in the soccer field 3 days later to take me away. the stands were full as it was the first time anyone remembers seeing a helicopter there. I was given up for dead by the locals; when I returned 6 months later I was proclaimed to be a ghost. I left Sardegna in June of 73 but have full intentions to return either this summer or next on a different motorcycle. I am sure the old timers in the town will remember the incident.

  15. I’ve had run-ins with my moka as well, but nothing quite that bad. I have also had problems with boiling pasta water, gas leaks, badly wired electric sockets and failed stairway railings.

  16. Loved this post and so sorry for your leg!! Ouch. Just yesterday I went to the dermatologist to remove a wart on my finger. Instead of freezing it off he numbed my finger and cut the wart out..gross. I now have a hole in my finger, and maybe a scar in the near future. After staring into this hole I became really faint and almost hit the ground. The good news is I learned the word for wart: verruca, to faint: sventare, and scar: cicatrice! I enjoy your blog!

  17. Oh what a terrible accident, Jennifer! I shuddered as I read your horrific account. Your hubby was so great, as I’m sure that some men would have just fainted on the spot. A very painful way to learn Italian, and I too would have passed on the “mysterious healing woman.” Hope the burns heal perfectly for you. xx

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