Food, glorious food…
I realized something while walking around Bologna today, Brittany and I spend a good bit of time thinking about food. Does this mean that we are becoming fat slobs eating all the time? It might sound like it sometimes. In fact, while Brittany and I have a competition to see who orders the better meal off of a menu (WCBDOMC), because of how much we talk about eating pasta, bread, and gelato, my sister and her husband have a humorous bet about who will come home next year having gained the most weight (I assure you…it will be me). But, in reality, we do so much walking that neither of us are really fluctuating much. So what do I mean by my “always thinking about food” comment? Well, it’s a three parter.
First, although we have gotten much better, we still haven’t completely mastered the art of eating when Italians eat. These guys eat quite a bit later than we are used to, and most places have very specific opening and closing times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t go at just the right time, you might miss out. So that’s part of it…we have to think about food, because we have to think about when to eat.
Secondly, and a much bigger part, there is food everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. For instance, if you walk the two minute walk to get to the end of our street, according to Brittany, you are met with a delightful aroma. That’s because there is a café there. Don’t like what you see in their window? Well just go a few doors down to find a falafel / Chinese place. Still not what you’re in the mood for? How about the fruit market just past that? No? Go the other direction a bit to find a place specializing in french fries, Patatata. Their fries are delectable, and a medium cone of them is more than two people can eat (if they are foolish enough to think a cone of fries is a side to a calzone apiece). Plus, they have over 20 different condiments for your fries…Ketchup, Mustard, Mayonnaise, Tarter, Cocktail, Curry, Barbecue, and so many more that I don’t even know how to translate.
And our little imaginary food trip doesn’t even count the pizza places we pass because there are so many of them. At these stops you can buy a slice or a whole pie. It also doesn’t take into consideration crossing the street, where there are several more options available.
All of that within a five minute walk of our house – it’s no wonder that we are constantly thinking about food.
The third and final part, almost all of the food looks extremely tasty. I say almost for one reason…at this point in our trip, when passing a fish market, whole (and usually giant) fish, squid, eel, crab, and globs of what you can only assume are aquatic animals don’t quite seem “tasty” to us yet, mainly because we have no idea how to clean and cook any of it.
But every thing else…it’s kind of a problem. Every item in a pasticceria (pastry shop) makes your mouth water…chocolate tarts, pies in all flavors (apricot, peach, blueberry, strawberry, even mustard), cookies, donuts…I want them all. Every cheese shop, every butcher, every fruit/vegetable market, every vendor selling freshly made pasta and lasagna…all drag you to the window so that you can marvel at what food should be. But you can’t try everything…right?
Pasta / Pastry:
And nestled in-between all of these fresh markets are ristoranti (fine-dining restaurants), trattoria (home-cooked restaurants), and osteria (restaurants with large, shared tables); each with their own unique menus providing antipasti (appetizers), primo piatto (first dish), second piatto (second dish), and dolci (dessert). If it helps to put things in perspective for you, when Brittany and I went to 7 Archi for her birthday, a huge, mouthwatering portion of lasagna was on their first dish menu and steak was on their second dish menu. We had an appetizer, and I had the lasagna and felt like I would be full for a week. I can’t image adding a steak and some type of dessert to our meal. So much food…
The date I’m actually writing this blog is October 11, 2015. 20 days before Halloween, a couple of months before Thanksgiving, with Christmas just around the corner. While Thanksgiving is a given (for those of you that don’t know…the Italians don’t celebrate the great feast of turkey…not sure why), Brittany and I have seen 1…let’s count that again…1 advertisement for something having to do with Halloween.
Before we left, which was in August, there were already stores at home with bags full of candy stacked in every conceivable nook; here we have seen one little ad, in one little pizza shop’s window, for one little Halloween themed event. (As an update, since starting this post, we have now seen the same ad in 2 other locations, so for the sake of honesty I must say that we have seen 3 Halloween ads…for 1 event.) No candy flooding the aisles of the grocery store. No masks in shop windows. Nothing. It serves as both a relief and a shock. The relief – things are not as commercialized here (note I said “not as” meaning it’s still commercialized just not as much). Also, the markets are tiny to begin with, I can’t imagine trying to navigate through one where the little bit of maneuver space has been packed with candy. The shock – I want my bags of tiny candy! Some of you may claim that you buy candy for the trick-or-treaters, but let’s be honest, you buy the boring candy for them and the Laffy-Taffy, Nerds, Snickers, Reese’s, Twix, etc. for you. I have no lie to tell…Brittany and I have never bought candy for trick-or-treaters, but we have bought several bags of Halloween candy for ourselves; but there’s none to buy here. The trade off is fair though, it’s difficult enough trying to navigate through a place where very few people speak your language. I imagine the difficulty would multiply exponentially if those same people were also wearing costumes…regardless of costume choice.
On a different page in the same book, I saw on Facebook that some people had already seen a Christmas ad or two on TV back home. Christmas? We haven’t even started with Halloween here! When will the jolly fat man start appearing in shop windows? Will he be available at the mall for children to take pictures with?? I’m wondering if they even know how to properly celebrate holidays here?!?! Don’t they know they have to spend all their time shopping? Standing in long lines? Eating until they literally feel like they are going to burst? (Ok, those first few were sarcasm, but we’re seriously going to miss the last one.)
I’m a giant…
I’m tall, but I’m not really tall, or very tall, or even pretty tall…just plain old tall; however, sometimes in Italy I feel really, very, pretty tall. I feel a lot like Buddy the Elf while he’s at the North Pole. This is especially true in our apartment.
Here I am in the living room, trying not to bash my head against the bed (yes, our bed is above the living room):
Here I am in the shower:
Here I am forgetting to duck when I come in from the balcony:
And here I am with the world’s tiniest coffee cup:
See…I’m a giant.
In reality I do bang my head on the ceiling pretty often while showering, but there’s not really much room to get momentum going so it doesn’t bother me. (Other than my second shower where I thought I was getting into nice, warm water. It ended up being melt your flesh water and my first instinct was to jump…bad idea.) The only time I’ve actually, seriously bashed my noggin was coming in from the balcony. I was thinking more about the laundry we were putting up than the door. I plowed right into the door frame and had to sit down for a while after. That one still hurts a bit.
Italians, more specifically, Italians from Naples, are the creators of all things pizza, so they have a little more leeway when it comes to their topping choices; still though, Brittany and I have been surprised by a few. When Brittany inadvertently ordered anchovies one day, we were surprised, but we still ate it. After all, anchovies may not be a popular pizza topping back home, but it is an option. No, this post is about the items we wouldn’t have even thought about putting on pizza. For instance, Nutella. Granted, that’s a dessert, and putting Nutella on anything seems possible here, but still…it’s not something readily available back home. There’s also slices of ham. Yes, we have ham, Canadian bacon, and bacon bacon on pizza, but here sliced deli ham has been on several slices we’ve ordered. Blue cheese is another delicious option not frequently found on topping menus back home. But by far, the most prevalent “odd” topping we’ve come across is the potato. Almost every pizza establishment has at least two readily available staples; in America these would be Cheese and Pepperoni, but here they are Margherita and Patata. Margherita pizzas can be found back home, although they are a bit fresher here, but they consist of tomato sauce and mozzarella. We have seen the Patata (potato) pizza served in a couple of different forms (whole, small potatoes and french fried potatoes), but I’m sure it comes in others. Regardless of form, it is usually served with sausage. Brittany and I have both tried the potato pizza, and while I was really excited about french fries on my sausage pizza, I must say that neither of us have been exceedingly impressed so far. I think it’s because the potatoes taste too much like potatoes. Toppings on a pizza are full of flavor and add to the overall spice, potatoes just kind of potato along. We’ll keep trying though.
Other interesting toppings of note: radish, hot dog, zucchini, artichokes, tuna, and mixed vegetables. I also had a pizza that consisted on fresh tomatoes, spinach leaves, cured ham, and no sauce. The only thing “cooked” on the pizza was the crust. As things tend to be here, it was delicious…but fairly difficult to eat.
Oh well, we’re happy to experience new pizza toppings. After all, it’s still pizza!
Italian word(s) of the day: marito and moglie – husband and wife (because Brittany and I will be celebrating our 6 months anniversary on the day this is posted)