I am enrolled in a 'Culture of Food & Wine' class in Florence and have been food journaling. These notes in my journal have captured cultural adaptations and delicious treats throughout the semester.
These little laws of Italian cuisine were learning experiences that you just can’t get out of a textbook. I have quickly adapted to the espresso nature of Italian life. I have been stopping at Gilli (the bar below our campus) and saying “Vorrei per favore un caffe” and then taking my receipt to Padre the nice man that whips up a great cappuccino, and then I quickly sip it while I stand at the counter before saying “grazie” and heading to class. My habit of grabbing a soy misto has transformed into ordering drinks that I can sip more quickly and am less familiar with. I am forcing myself to step outside my comfort zone. in. all. aspects.
The first time I went to the San Lorenzo central “open-air” market I was first taken off guard by the many different chicken parts, horse meat counters, and bunny corpses in the cases. (Naturally). But after a few visits the market with my classes I learned how to shop at this fresh market without being intimidated. At home I make it my mission to only go to the grocery store maybe twice a month. I buy in bulk and have an organized list. I go into the store and get out. It is rarely an 'experience.' At the market everything is so fresh and it is perfect for a household of one. I can ask for pesto “per una persona” and am not letting a whole jar go to waste. The concept of buying food for what you only need that day is so foreign to me. It is so different to just pick up a single apple and a single banana to snack on at school that day.
The deli counter at home has always been so intimidating to me. I never realized that buying a few slices of meat could be so inexpensive. The concept of buying things by the kilogram comes off as more expensive initially. However for example after learning about the wonder that is Parmigiano Reggiano in my Food & Wine class I went to the market and it was 14.50 Euro per kilogram; I asked for just a small section and only spent about 6 Euro and it has lasted me over 3 weeks. By going to the deli I am not buying too much of anything, and am also able to try a larger variety of foods because unlike in America, I’m not attached to the bulk container of Turkey I bought.
The fruits and vegetables go bad more quickly because they are not glazed with the types of preservatives and pesticides that are found in mass markets in the U.S. Thus giving even more incentive to visit the market every other day.
I have made some friends with the market people and now have a special dried fruit guy, olive oil man, fresh fruit guy, fresh pasta gal, and a cheese man. Here is a picture of my produce team- Martino and Amir (aka Shakira).
It is such a new experience to be hugging and kissing the people you get your groceries from, I rarely get that type of treatment at Whole Foods back in Colorado. I've always said I can't cook; but I think it was really just an issue of limiting myself to grabbing only familiar items at the grocery store and making what was easy. But here I am forced to grab that weird vegetable that could be broccoli or cactus and fry it up in a pan with some locally made olive oil from Lucca and call it a day. I will never go back to my bleak frozen food habits; it is not only terrible for me, it’s boring and I am growing to love the event that is making and indulging in a meal, especially after learning of the 'Slow Food' community in class.
Danee Chavez, a Marketing student at The University of Colorado at Denver studying in Florence, Italy
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