Guys…I haven’t written about food and I’ve lived here for over a year…how has no one called me on that? I must say that I haven’t written about anything lately to be fair. There have been a bunch of happenings and then Christmas came and went and now my dear American friend is visiting so I will have to get all caught up.
That all being said, I feel as though I do not need to explain the title of the post considering I’m in the country most famous for their history, their leather, their men (not together…but no judgment from me), and above all: their food. It is indeed, as legend proclaims: absolutely f***ing fantastic.
One ponders (maybe aloud), “Who is the genius that created pasta? The most simple and yet most necessary staple in the Italian diet?” And the answer is…ok I actually need to Google that… I got really ahead of myself there…
aaaand the first answer that came up said it was actually invented in China! I’m not doing too well here, am I? Wait wait, ok now it says that they invented noodles, BUT noodles are not always pasta and that the famous forms such as lasagna and linguini were invented in Ancient Rome (I’m sweating right now). So, yes, it was officially invented in Italy. I’m sorry, but while the Chinese do indeed produce everything sold in America, this one is going to the Italians.
Pasta: Do I get tired of it? Yes. And yet, every time I groan that I don’t want to eat pasta and that I’m sick of it, the moment I put a forkful of in my mouth, I am absolutely positive that it was the right choice. It is the most versatile food on the planet. Just the other day we made a frittata with left over pasta ragu we had for lunch. It sounds really strange, but it was amazing. Really, any way the Italians can find to eat pasta….
This is what I was afraid of when I first moved here: constant pasta. I am a meat-eater and the idea of having pasta more than once a week seemed just out of the question. It was something we had at home maybe once or twice a year. All of the Italians that just read that probably died of shock…we will continue without them, but keep them in our memory.
But it’s not just the pasta that makes Italy special; it’s the entire experience of dining here. This is such a treat and the wow-factor is long from wearing off.
Aperativo, for example is the time around 6:30/7 when you go and meet your friends for a drink and then miraculously receive FREE FOOD. This ranges from olives and chips to finger sandwiches, cheeses, meats, or even at one of our favorite places: pasta, risotto, and lasagna. What I’m telling you people, is that with the purchase of one drink, you have a ticket to a buffet of Italian food that could replace dinner. But it doesn’t stop there! No, even after you have gorged yourself on salami, pecorino cheese, garlic bread, and more, you then roll over to dinner.
This is where the magic happens…Every time I have gone to an Italian’s house for dinner, it is like having a dinner party even at the most simple of occasions. There are appetizers, more times than not champagne, and then more than one course. This was something I did not pick up on for a bit when I first moved here…There is the “primo piatto” (first plate) and the “secondo piatto” (second plate). Seems self-explanatory OR SO I THOUGHT. One would think that ordering a dish of pasta would suffice as a meal especially when said dish is an endless bowl of penne covered in sauce. This, my friends, is where we are all so very wrong. My curiosity finally got the best of me one night at a restaurant in Rome as I was perusing the menu. I was able to discern that the first plates were made up of pastas or rice and the second plates were meat. Ok, good first step. Then I finally asked and the answer was just more than I could handle. You are meant to order ONE FROM EACH SIDE! So you order your pasta dish, which is already dinner, and then you order your meat dish, which is again, dinner. So you essentially have two dinners. This is following your aperativo that could count as first dinner, but before desert and coffee.
“Impossible!” you may proclaim. “There is no way anyone can eat that much nearly every night especially when you see such svelte Italians walking around in their skinny jeans”. And yet, I am here to tell you that I have seen them in action and seen them walk away skinny jeans and all completely in tact.
It is utterly unbelievable and amazing all at once. Now, living with an Italian, I was so afraid about gaining weight from eating like this on a regular basis. But oh my god, the opposite has happened. We eat pasta nearly everyday and my jeans are falling off, I literally just put them in the donate pile last night. I know that everyone reading this hates me, it’s fine I would too (I’m a Leeeeoooo), but I’m serious and I’m just as in shock as the rest of you.
Eating here over the holidays was an Olympic sport. There were the parties leading up to Christmas, Christmas eve, Christmas, the day after Christmas, two days after Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, my boyfriend’s birthday, La Befana (the holiday that signifies the end of the holidays…only the Italians would build in a day off to remind everyone you just had a bunch of days off),…it was just sheer insanity. On one of the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we went to my boyfriend’s father’s house after eating a heavy pasta dish at lunch. Still recovering from that, we were served champagne (I’m not kidding, it’s the equivalent of water here), aperativo, a seafood pasta dish…ok at this point I was like, “I can’t. We had pasta for lunch and I’m still somewhat full” and then I looked around and everyone was almost finished with theirs and as soon as I put a forkful in my mouth I was like, “WHAT?! You eat this right now, you fool”. It was fantastic: penne with seafood sauce. Boom. And then my god, please no more….but oh, my friends, there was more. Out came potatoes, huge shrimp, fish and homemade mayonnaise. And just when I did not think I could eat anymore…I could. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s that you can always find room for food no matter how full you are and no one accepts “no” when they ask you if you want more. They do not care how you feel, you are eating it all whether you want to or not. And bread is a utensil…and edible utensil.
When people say Italy is a food culture, it is completely true. I never really noticed that sitting down at a table, with a tablecloth, and non-disposable utensils was so important. We always had really wonderful family dinners growing up especially around the holidays with a beautiful set table, but here it is every night that this tradition is upheld. To me, that is something lost in the busy world and it is the fault of no one: everyone has different schedules and long hours, but sitting down and blocking everything else out for an hour or two and talking while you enjoy your (AMAZING) home-cooked meal is a beautiful thing that I have grown to appreciate each day more.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go eat the eggplant parmesan with ragu sauce my boyfriend is cooking WAY-OH!! Ciao
And just a few more photos to upset everyone further: