So, I have heard from some that my blog concentrates rather heavily on food. Well, wait until you read this blog. Since thanksgiving is coming up (for those of you in the States), I thought I could focus part of this entry on food.
Well, I’ve found that in Italy, food is more than a part of life. Eating, the way you eat, the way you cook, and the things that take place around the table are all part of the culture. The Italian language makes constant references to food, even when it has nothing to do with it. For example…you get soaked in the rain? You would be “inzuppato” or literally “dunked in the soup.” When you’re really tired you say, “sono cota” which means you are “cooked.”
My absolute favorite word describes that feeling of sleepiness and contentedness you get when you are absolutely stuffed. In English we may call this a food coma, but in Florence we call it having “abbiocco.” For me, food comas are commonplace. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but my host mom is an incredible cook. Actually, she teaches classes out of her home to American students like us. She has even let us participate in her cooking classes. So far we’ve had two lessons with her. I even get a little recipe book. First lesson we learned to make one of my favorite things which is this tomato bread soup called “Pappa al Pomodoro.” This is quintessential Italian comfort food and pure genius. You ever wonder what to do with that stale bread sitting in the breadbox? Well, I cannot let you waste it anymore.
Here is the recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro (you will thank me):
Good for about 6 people.
7oz. dried Italian type bread (usually without salt)
2 bouillon cubes
2 14 ½ oz. cans of stewed peeled tomatoes
About 4 cups of water
½ cup olive oil
Rock salt (to taste)
Fresh sweet basil (again to taste)
3 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spicy you don’t have to add this)
Place in a terracotta pot (or in a crock pot) all of the ingredients listed above before putting it on the stovetop. If you do not have the crockery type pot, choose a heavy-bottomed pot. The bread should be broken up a bit and the garlic and tomatoes chopped. Cook on low, covered, stirring often so that the bread dissolves (some families…not mine, but others…like the bread in the soup to be more chunky. But this is all according to personal taste). Cook for about an hour until the garlic is done and the bread has become a thick soup. Be careful that it doesn’t stick! It may be necessary to add more water. If a smoother soup is desired, pass through a food mill using the large-hole disk or use a whisk. Serve with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, but NO cheese.
This type of bread soup goes back centuries. It’s like eating history, but yummy, delicious history… not the dusty, dry type.
Since I’ve been here though, I have eaten my share of what many in the States may consider strange. I’m sure you all remember my experience with rabbit (and how much I love it), but I have also eaten trippa (tripe), and laprodotto (a cow’s stomach lining).
Here are some pictures of meals (not necessarily the strange ones...but all delicious ones):
Giant sandwich with spinach
seafood and pasta
I must mention as a side note that I have acquired a new talent. I can crack a nut using just one finger! This may be a very useful party trick.
Other great things (besides nut cracking) that have happened these last several weeks:
Well, my two art history classes are becoming a bit more intense work-wise. After this program ends, if I never see another Crucifix or Madonna and Child for the rest of my life, it may still not be long enough. But, I love our professors, and wonder how it is humanly possible to retain so much detailed information.
Sadly, we finished with our Italian classes last Wednesday. I got 100% on my final (but in all honesty, it wasn’t that hard). As my Italian teacher Umberto says, it was “Molto facile! Molto simplice!” (Very easy! Very simple!)
|This is our Italian class! Last day :(|
Drawing has become more interesting because I have begun to draw my FIRST male nude! Not too different from the female…well, except for the obvious things. Oh, and last week I finished my cast drawing of the face of St. Theresa in ecstasy.
Keep in mind: I am only and art HISTORY major
The last few weeks I had been stressing about work, the end of the program and other silly things (like what am I going to do with the rest of my life). Thankfully, a few weeks ago my Italian family brought us to their little house in the Tuscan countryside. They call it “il castello,” and they go there almost every weekend. It’s not actually a “castle” per se, but it has fantastic views, a grove of olive trees, grape vines, fruit trees, and lots of other little treasures. I got some really great pictures of the Borgo (little town) and the surrounding area there. There is nothing better for the nerves than some time in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of a city center.
La mia famiglia italiana.
Speaking of cities…Our program took another big trip this past weekend to….wait for it…ROMA! I don’t know what it is about Rome, but I can’t wait to go back already. We went to see St. Peters, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and I even got to see the very bones of St. Peter himself who was buried right below the church. Our tour guide happened to be a priest in training from Oklahoma, and for a while I felt like I was back in the states. I saw so many works of art that I had only seen in pictures before. This happens all the time in Florence, but in Rome, every time I turned a corner there they were: the ghosts of works from classes past. I saw several pieces by Bernini (the Baldachino, the Seat of Saint Peter, the Four Rivers Fountain, the Trevi Fountain, all the statues in the Villa Borghese). Also, I finally got to see Caravaggio’s paintings of St. Matthew. I had to fight the urge to hug some of the ancient works in the Vatican (of these were the Belvedere Torso and Laocoon). I know this is weird, but because these works appear in so many art history classes, they are almost like old friends. Oh, did I also mention that I got to see the Pieta. I mean THE Pieta, the one by Michelangelo.
Well, It’s official. I am definitely a nerd. If my sincere love for ancient sculpture and food didn’t confirm it, this next thing will.
I mentioned a long time ago that I was working on my senior thesis here. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t going as well as I planned. For the first half of the program I wasn’t particularly focusing on my thesis. Incidentally, however, I don’t think I could have done much formal research without first learning some Italian. Anyways, for a while now my professor and I have been trying to get in touch with foundations and study centers where I could find resources on my topic. We found this place called the Fondazione Michelucci. This place is an entire center devoted to archiving the work of Giovanni Michelucci and providing resources to those interested in studying his work. So, this afternoon I took the number 7ataf bus up into the hills of Fiesole overlooking Florence. I only had a vague idea of where the foundation was. To be honest, given my sense of direction, it was a miracle that I found it. The foundation looks just like a normal house, complete with housecat, as I realized once I was inside. When I arrived, I met with a few of the people who run the place and chatted for a bit about what I was writing, what resources I hoped to find there, etc…
My Italian is really rough, but they didn’t seem to mind. I try to live by the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle when it comes to language now. And, just like that, I had an armful of heavy books filled with letters, photographs, and newspaper articles from the 1930s. I was even shown political cartoons about the station I am studying. Blueprints, floor plans, you name it. It’s all there, nestled away in the Tuscan countryside. Mind you, all these sources are in Italian. What better way to improve my reading and comprehension skills (but it will definitely take some work on my part)! Today, I just skimmed the titles of things and read a little bit. If I thought something was important, instead of making a photocopy (which would cost me) I would just snap a photo with my camera. I plan to return on Friday morning for more of the same.
Seems there are good things to come yet. Now that I am nearing the end of this blog, I would like to acknowledge those readers who (thanks to good ole’ mom and dad) I have heard so much about. It makes me giddy with delight to know that people are actually reading, and I hope, enjoying this blog. Because I love hearing from my readers…if you leave a comment and your e-mail I will send you a recipe for “salami dulce” aka: the best Italian dessert I have ever had (no worries vegetarians, no pigs are harmed in the making of this dessert).
To my grandmother and cousin Grace, I would like to wish you a happy (belated) birthday! Also, thanks to those of you at Sedona Winds (you know who you are) who have followed my experiences here. To all my family, friends, and unknown readers I would like to say “grazie mille" (Thanks a million).