Today we talked about the La Cucina Italiana in class. As we studied the food pyramid of Southern Italy (olive oil, pasta and bread, fresh fruits and veggies, wine, fish and a little bit of meat, cheese, and sweets), I thought about how I’m coming to love the food culture here. Fresh and local ingredients prepared slowly with “moderation and respect to social and religious traditions,” according to the Mediterranean food culture exerts, to create shared meals with close friends and family definitely make for a happy Siobhan.
I love that I can walk into 4 or 5 different shops during one grocery trip. I walk straight out of our apartment complex to the nearby salumeria for prosciutto and cheese, then onto a paneteria for bread, a street side vendor for fresh tomatoes and nectarines, and then to the open-during-siesta-time, large grocery store a couple blocks away to buy the remainder of my list. I like that I can say “ciao” to each friendly store-owner and they might ask where I’m from, why I’m in Lecce and finally, how many servings I need. I like the responsibility of getting exactly what I’ll need while its fresh and preparing it so that I’m not wasting anything when I finish. This preservative-and-package-free mentality means that things spoil more quickly, but also that I get to enjoy food at its most fresh. I have become a little bit more conscious of what goes into a meal, something I didn’t full get in the American world of processed, prepared food.
This doesn’t mean I don’t miss food from home. As we compared food cultures in class, I thought about the my American grocery list:
-Peanut butter (uses: preferably with apples, but really on almost anything)
-coffee grounds for drop coffee (espresso is great and all, but there’s nothing like sipping from a steaming cup o joe)
-Cracklin Oat Bran and milk (they have cereal and milk here, too, but it’s just not emphasized the same way. Italians don’t even refrigerate their milk… Weird)
-everything bagels (cream cheese)
-canned chicken noodle soup
-cheddar cheese (don’t get me wrong, cheese is great here, but I’ve nonetheless struggled to find a cheese with the same versatility and tasty sharpness as my beloved Cabot)
-Caesar salad dressing (and makings)
-Brita filter (for free water is not safely or readily available here)
After Star Market, I will continue on to either Anna’s Taqueria for a chicken burrito, a Thai food restaurant, or a diner in search of a scrambled eggs and homefries- laden breakfast for dinner. With ketchup.
But while I’m here: our classes are competing in “cooking wars” tonight and we will make orecchiette pasta with cime di rapa sauce and cianfotta summer veggie stew. I’ll definitely have to “struggle” to enjoy the palette in Italia…