500 Flavours of Italy
I had my very own ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ moment. No, it wasn’t a moment of absolute clarity while getting in touch with my spiritual side in an Ashram in India, and unfortunately it was not falling for a suave and sexy Javier Bardem type while exploring exotic landscapes in Bali. No, my moment quite scarily reflects that of writer Elizabeth Gilbert after spending some time in Italy indulging in the local cuisine. My jeans barely fit. It became most evident to me that something was amiss after attending a barbecue with some new friends in Rome.
We’d eaten an outdoor feast the likes of which I had never seen before, starting with freshly toasted bruschetta, a tasty cold pasta dish, sausages, skewers, and an ingenious dessert that consisted of small fried dough balls covered in nutella.
Lying in the grass under the gleaming sunlight, I felt comfortably satisfied with the days intake but, as I went to sit up, I found that my jeans and my upper body seemed incapable of forming a 90-degree angle without some significant discomfort.
It’s true that every tasty morsel that’s crossed my lips has been entirely of my own accord, but I can’t help but maybe spread some of the blame for my new fuller figure upon Italian cuisine as a whole. It’s a challenging task trying to resist food when it tastes as good as it does here in Italy, especially when your introduced to the concept of dessert for breakfast, which is amongst some of the new food theories I’ve discovered during my time in this flavorsome country. I find myself faced with the dilemma of healthy eating, in a place where healthy eating ends up with whipped cream on your gelato. However, being a new resident in this fine country, I feel that it’s the least I can do to try to assimilate by eating and experiencing the local produce, and so I have. Probably more so than necessary if the indentation around my hips left by the band of my jeans is anything to go by.
Sweets are supposed to be occasional entrant in the configuration of a person diet right? As the cookie monster so aptly put it “cookies are a sometime food”, correct? Well, maybe not. A typical breakfast for Italian champions consists of a coffee, with sugar of course, and a croissant, that come in a variety of fillings including, but not limited to, nutella, jam, custard, and cream. Those who have less extravagant breakfast tastes may choose to simply have their coffee with a few biscuits. Everyday. Don’t even get me started on gelato.
Or do, because there’s only one thing I love more than eating gelato and that’s talking about gelato and the gelato culture in Rome that never ceases to amaze me. Come rain, hail or shine you’re likely to find an Italian with a gelato in tow. And me right behind them.
In recent years it’s been drummed into many of us that the sweet and sultry carbohydrate, while appealing in all its many diverse and lovely forms with its ‘come hither’ eyes, is in fact evil in it’s very core. However, carbohydrates are and have always been a welcome guest at the Italian dinner table and I must say, I think it’s the tastier for it. My previous high-protein, health-conscious diet in Melbourne, has been turned on its head. Tuna has been replaced with pasta, steaks with pizza, and chili con carne with risotto. The carbohydrate has taken back its rightful place as king of my diet and kicked the feisty protein competitor to the curb in the magnificent and delicious battle for flavour.
It’s recently occurred to me that while my waist line is expanding I don’t see the same happening to any of my Italian comrades, and the thought crosses my mind that perhaps it’s not what I’m eating but how much. But that thought leaves my mind as soon as the next Gelataria passes my vision (about every 2 meters) and all I’m left to ponder is the answer to a very important question: “Con panna oppure senza?” Who am I kidding? With cream, of course.