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Eating Abroad: Home-Cooked Meals in Florence, Italy

 Fresh produce from the San Lorenzo market

When I began planning my trip to Italy I was imagining I’d eat some serious Italian cuisine during my stay. I pictured most of my meals consisting of pizzas and pastas with some gelato to top them off, of course. 

It sounds great but then what happens when you do not want to spend and spend on eating out? Part of my budget coming into Florence was food, but spending it all on dining out was not part of the plan. Back home I did know the basics of cooking my own meals because I never really cooked much. I can bake a mean set of chocolate chip banana muffins but hesitated at the idea of cooking dinner meals.
My first week here, I loaded up on the sandwich ingredients. The supermarkets have a small selection of lunch meats and a few cheeses. I have yet to find American singles but that's okay because I discovered that mozzarella slices taste so much better! The markets have pretty much everything you can find at home but also remember most items will be the Italian version, no Cheetos or Doritos filling these shelves. 

Going into my second week I began to get a little more creative with my meals. I cooked omelets with veggies in them, tuna sandwiches, salads, and pasta! You cannot go wrong with pasta for dinner. Pasta is very simple to make for beginners and you can do so many things with it. I am now into my fifth week here and I grill chicken for my salads and even make rice. The other weekend I prepared cold pasta with sun dried tomatoes, cucumber, regular tomatoes, mozzarella, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and some freshly grated Parmesan. It was really good and my roommates loved it! 
 Grilled chicken and potatoes with a salad on the side
 Cold Pasta topped off with freshly grated Parmesan

When you go shopping for groceries you do not have to purchase all of your food from the supermarkets. A better place for your produce is the fresh markets located conveniently throughout Florence. They have veggies, meats, cheeses, spices, wines and bread. 

I did not know much about cooking and I was afraid that I'd eat my way broke and large (pasta weight) by the end of this trip. Since I have been living on my own here I learned to budget and prepare new meals for myself.

CEA also included a free cooking class for the students and we learned how to make fresh fettuccine pasta with chocolate cake from scratch! It was a fun and inspired us all to prepare more home cooked meals the Italian way.

If you have never made a meal in your life, studying abroad in Florence is a great way to push yourself and learn new things. I always want to try new dishes now and I am not afraid. My roommates and I cook dinner every night and they are learning more and more as well. I cannot wait to come home and cook meals for my family.
A Presto!
Diana Pietrzyk is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Florence, Italy. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago.

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