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Italy in Three Bites…. Rome & Food

July 19, 2011

Once upon a time eleven years ago, Sean asked me a question and I said yes.  We were in Florence, in the Boboli Gardens to be precise, and he slipped a ring on my finger and asked if I would become his wife.

Since that trip we have dreamed of returning to Italy, to bring Aidan and introduce him to a place that holds such a special place in our hearts.

And we wanted to eat.

Over the past few months as I have been planning where we would stay and what we would do, the one thing that needed no planning was what we would eat.  Because I knew that we would eat well, and often, and usually with wine, wonderful lusty Italian wine, and of course, with big overflowing cups of gelato afterwards.

Just walking down the streets in Rome we were lured by food, warm chestnuts from a vendor near the Spanish Steps, wood-fired ovens from trattorias near our hotel, fresh pasta and cured meats hanging inside shop windows.  There aren’t words to describe what we ate, although if I had to choose a few they would be fresh, seasonal, organic, hand-made.

Perfecto!

Italians eat the way we aspire to here. Eat what just came out of the ground, because that is what is the freshest and what tastes the best.

We ate dishes with ingredients so fresh they needed nothing elaborate to bring out their bold, earthy flavors.  Simple, beautiful treatment with a touch of olive oil, a little sea salt, a squeeze of lemon was often all that was needed, because the produce actually tasted like something you wanted to try all on its own.  We enjoyed squash blossoms, artichokes, asparagus, lollo rosa and big, fat ripe tomatoes.  All of our old friends from the farm met us time and again on menus throughout the city.  We weren’t seeking out places that specialized in seasonal or organic produce, because we didn’t need to. Eating seasonally is not a trend, nor a restaurant “concept”, it is just how food is done.  It just makes sense.

We laughed one night when a waiter, explaining that the menu had a few changes based on what was in season, proceeded to change the description of every item on the menu.  Every. Single. Item!   I loved that.  Why eat the same mediocre things over and over again all year long when you can eat something spectacular, even if it is only available briefly in June?  That is what eating seasonal is about.  Savor something wonderful when it is at its peak, as nature intended, even if it means changing your whole menu.

This is how food is meant to be prepared, served and enjoyed.

For all of the news we are bombarded these days on how Americans eat, there is a lot to be learned from our Italian friends.  Meals were served with the intent to be savored.  There was no rush, each bite is meant to appreciated.  Portions were not eye-poppingly oversized, but rather they were rationed in reasonable quantities, enough to fill and satisfy, but not gorge.  We ate our meals slowly as we discussed what we had seen and enjoyed that day.  And, in my favorite tradition of Italian dining, after a fulfilling meal, we took a stroll after we ate.  In the evenings the streets were filled with families, walking arm-in-arm, talking and laughing in their beautiful language that became the background music of our trip. Walking nowhere in particular, we would join in, continuing our conversation, enjoying now the scenery as we had the meal.

And we stopped for gelato.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 3:06 am

    I remember hearing all about that trip to Florence! That seems like yesterday! What wonderful meals. I’m so glad you got to go back!

  2. Louise permalink
    August 7, 2011 2:48 pm

    I love reading your blogs! You are a gifted writer. We were in Italy last October and I love hearing about the markets and the incredible food. The Italians know how to live!

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