Food! Mangi! Solamente Verdure!

May 9, 2009 at 09:15 | Posted in Italian Cooking, Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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Only greens!

Only greens!

 One of the things we hear constantly over and over is “Mangi! È solamente verdure!!” It’s only greens! Yeah! Let me assure you that this is the understatement of the ages! There is not, never has been, and I guarantee never will be anything approximating only greens never ever in Italy!!!! Now I am perfectly willing to admit I have several pounds to lose. And I know in my head that vegetables are good for you. A nice healthy dish not top heavy in calories, bad carbs, or fat content. I can even accept that Italians tend not to over-salt or drown in heavy creamed or buttery sauces laden with grease. But nothing that tastes as wonderful as their fresh picked salads and vegetables will convince me that is impossible not to overeat myself to 500 lbs.

    We foolish Americans look at huge artichokes in the supermarket and willingly pay $2.99 each to take them home and peel apart and discard half before we find the edible parts. Then we stuff the remainder full of breadcrumbs, butter, salt, spices, and even meats. And then we proceed to drown it in some form of greasy gravy or hollandaise sauce. But Italians will tell you that is the worst possible artichoke – one that they would toss as garbage and use to feed the animals! How can one be sure it is an artichoke anyway?  

Tender Artichokes

Tender Artichokes

Artichokes in Italy cost somewhere in the vicinity of $3.00 for eight to ten small to medium sized artichokes. I will grant the size is smaller but that is because they were picked sooner before they spread out empty and dried out. Instead one eats almost all of the smaller tender artichoke. No heavy sauces or greasy goo for these artichokes! They are stewed lightly on top of the stove or baked in the oven with a small amount of olive oil and an easy hand on any of the seasonings. Occasionally they are dipped in light flour and fried in a skillet. That means one appreciates the wondrous flavor of the artichoke itself. Yes. An artichoke actually has a flavor all its own!!!  

Fresh Fava Beans

Fresh Fava Beans

  And so it is with most greens in Italy. Great care is taken to allow the diner to taste whatever it is they are eating – not the sauces or gravies or seasonings but the main food item itself. Even the wine is chosen to complement, not over power the food. Even in the poorest homes, dishes are changed between courses so that one flavor does not remain in a dish to over-power the next course. “Mangi! È solamente Verdure!”

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

     

Olives!Olives!Olives!

Olives!Olives!Olives!

Next Few Days

May 1, 2009 at 09:17 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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Lesson I

Lesson I

Monday: I was treated to a personal pasta-making session. My sister-in-law makes the best handmade pasta – pasta that reaps the benefit of the love she puts into everything she does for family! Soon I will be adding many more pages to the family cookbook that were given to me by all my sisters-in-laws. Leaving Tarquinia is never easy even when we are this eager to travel down to Itri to see more family.

After my crazy work schedule before I left, I have been ready for rest. I have not slept more than a couple hours here and there so I am at the exhaustion stage. While Val and sister gab on the drive to Itri, I opted for the backseat to grab some much needed rest. Once again it bears mention that the backseat of this car is NOT meant for comfort – the seat is like being on a rock bench so I have rearranged baggage to have some cushioning! It has been rainy so it is a good day to drive and not miss precious time. Family is waiting and we are all anxious to be there!

Grazing Cows in Itri

Grazing Cows in Itri

Tuesday: We are ready for our first full day in Itri. We have gotten up earlier to enjoy a leisurely breakfast enjoying the view and the sounds – song birds are doing their best to sing a welcome and we can hear the bells clanging around the necks of the white cows we see walking on the not too distant mountaintop. The view to the ocean in Formia is beautiful – almost too beautiful to pull ourselves away from but we already have a full day of plans to accomplish. First on the list is a trip to City Hall to make a request for family information. We arrive and can only interrupt our friend for a few moments of his busy schedule. Our marriage is registered properly and we are given an Atta di Matrimonio – not sure why the Consulate does not have it after thirty-two years? Seems we are still being tracked in Boston even though our Florida address relates to Miami. We leave with a promise that our friend will try to locate information on Val’s maternal family line.

While at the Commune, we visit the Information Center and again old friendships are renewed. They are only too happy to share a wealth of information with us and literature as well as posters and old photographs. Their help as well as generosity is astonishing and I am extraordinarily grateful to them. All that was asked in return is for me to give credit back to the Commune of Itri, something I am more than willing to do! No matter how many times I hear others criticize Italians for being rude or not helpful, I know this does not relate to anyone in the Commune of Itri – everyone has always given freely and generously of their time. It reinforces my dream to make Itri our second home.

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