I just returned from a wonderful trip to Italy with my family and wanted to share some with you. And even though we spent time in museums and places of historical significance, what I found the most illuminating was how people lived and ate.
My son, a great cook and of course, a foodie, had us eating the kinds of foods that were unique to an area, and the best - like cicchetti in Venice and suppli in Rome. Because of my son's adventurous nature I found myself tasting foods that, on my own would never have entered my mouth, like octopus salad, salted cod (bacala) and even donkey.
In Rome, he ordered tripe but we didn't try it even though it looked really good. Although we told my ex-husband, also with us, who did eat it, that he was eating noodles. Not nice.
Venice was my favorite place on this trip - we also visited Florence and Rome, places I had been before. Imagine coming into a town from the airport on a water bus (vaporetto). Incredible to see all this old beauty from the inside of a small boat -not like a ferry at all.
Cicchetti, (pronounced chiketti) unique to Venice, are like tapas - small servings of delicious tidbits like fried meatballs, artichokes. Many of the places that offer cichetti are wine bars and the natives stand while savoring both food and wine. You could compare them in some ways to crostini or little sandwiches with cheese, smoked meats, marinated fish etc. Delicious and inexpensive.
I really discovered that to learn a country's culture, eat like the people who live there, live like them. We stayed in wonderful old apartments, not hotels. The buildings were hundreds of years old. Would American apartment buildings survive centuries? Dinners start very late - 8 pm being early. And my first night in town after many airport delays, we were eating pizza at 11 pm, as were a lot of other people. Families were out walking the warm summer nights at midnight, which is something I wish for here in California.
And pizza is not like California pizza- every area seems to have their own delicious style and we may have tried them all.
allowed to pick out the produce yourself - that was weird. We saw artichokes and eggplants like nothing I've ever seen.
The only thing that was a problem for me was the wine. It tasted great but after a few minutes I would start sneezing and my nose would get stuffed up. That rarely happens here with wine. I know its not the sulfites, so what could it be?
The outdoor markets are beautiful but you are not
One last thing - the plumbing is very different. My granddaughter was surprised when a toilet at a restaurant lacked a seat. It was always an adventure. More plumbing stories are a bit too personal for this newsletter.
When I returned home I was hungry for the intense flavors of Italy and have been working on creating some here - not so easy. Though I did make a delicious mushroom risotto the other day. And as obsessed as I have been with TASTES, particularly of wine, it was a welcome change to have the ultimate focus on food. What I also realized - how much I love photographing food - NOT with a microscope. And capturing all of life. How grand is that.
A wonderful opportunity came my way right before I left for Italy- to once again explore the inner expressions of wine. I've been so busy writing health books these last few years, that my wine passion took a back seat to book deadlines. Fortunately the wines for this new project were delicious, elegant and rich; and their images reflected that sensual beauty and complexity. Perhaps in the next newsletter I can share some with you, once the winery has them up on their website.
Until next time, enjoy what you eat and savor each moment of the day.