February 22, 2012

Italy Trip, 2009

We went to Italy in June/July 2009. Since some time after that, I've had these next few posts about Italian food sitting as drafts. It was an amazing trip. It really was as beautiful, or more beautiful, than those Tuscan landscape paintings you see. That was the view pretty much everywhere we went in Tuscany-- which we visited along with Rome, Venice, and Florence, and was our favorite of all those places. Our next trip to Italy will be a trip to Tuscany alone.

I had read once that there is no other country as large in its influence on world cuisine for its size geographically. These are some things we learned about Italian eating, or generalizations we made after about ten days there:
  • Italians take a long time to eat. Dinner out, even at a casual restaurant, always took upwards of 2 hours. They just kind of leave you alone and expect you to linger.
  • Pasta everywhere we went was homemade.
  • Breakfast is brioche (a croissant) and cappuccino.
  • Breakfast is eaten sitting in the bar where it is purchased (rarely, as it is a lot more expensive to sit) or standing at the counter. We didn't see any paper to-go cups the whole time we were there.
  • Italians have espresso in the late afternoon. In Siena we enjoyed seeing a nun and her friend standing at the counter in a "bar" in Siena having their afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Bread is bad. Or at least it wasn't my thing. The bread in the basket at dinner everywhere was stale.
  • Risotto is just rice there, not necessarily the cooking method and the creamy texture that you think of as risotto.
  • They always have wine with dinner. Fully enjoying one's meal is not a special occasion.
  • Seemingly all Italians know how to cook. Some of our best meals, and the wonderful gnocchi and tiramisu we were taught to make and ate, were prepared by a man our age who ran our "agriturismo" (a place that is farmed-- in this case, for olives and wine grapes-- and where they also host guests).

A few favorite recipes we learned on our trip to follow.

I can't wait to go back someday. Napa Valley (another favorite food and wine and idyllic-lifestyle destination) is on the horizon for this spring as a sort of fifth-anniversary trip...so maybe Italy again in five more years!

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