Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ciao time!

I'm not a gourmand. I'm okay with just about anything (as my substantial girth bears witness), though I'd have to be starving to eat cuttlefish, okra, and most internal organs, excepting liver. I prefer fresh fruit and cheese to dessert (unless it's Hagen Daaz) and Diet Coke (with lots of ice) to wine. Back home, I'm happy with Taco Bell. I tell you all this as a way of lowering your expectations.

Florence is glutted with eateries. Most are the Italian equivalent of fast food, offering slices of pizza and/or panini (sandwiches) and/or gelati. Most of it is run-of-the-mill. New York pizza leaves the local variety in the dust. They put dumb stuff on their pizza, like tuna, or french fries, and never enough sauce, and the crust is too much like bread. Most of the sandwiches are ham. The chicken sandwiches are made of reprocessed chicken cutlets, and are to be avoided. And it's all sort of pricey for an American these days - 4 euro ($5.50) a slice, 5 a panini. The only bargains I've discovered are (gulp) the Turkish kebab (=gyro) places, where for 4 euro you can eat well (if you go for the chicken - the other type looks too scary to think about). MacDonald's is also a bargain, but I've managed to find only one of them, and it's kind of far from my apartment, like 10 minutes by foot. You can get a burger there for a euro! Of course, you need 4 of those to satisfy, and satisfaction is followed within minutes by regret. (My first time there, I spent a couple minutes pondering what its cloth banner meant - "ti 'nivol m'i" - until I realized it was meant to be read from the other side.) There are no Starbucks, and people look at you funny if you ask for a venti in the coffee shops. And here I thought I knew some Italian!

But that's not what you want to know about. You want me to go on about the local cuisine, the tastes of Tuscany! Well, I haven't had a lot of experience with that so far, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I didn't come here to feed my face. I came here to nourish my intellect, to feed my soul on art. I'm so taken by my surroundings, I often find that the day is drawing to a close and I've forgotten to eat! Secondly, and more honestly, real food is expensive! I get by most days with fresh fruit and yogurt (to wash down the taste of the inadequate pizza). Sometimes I eat at a cafeteria, which offers a wider variety of choices, including various kinds of pasta, roast chicken and beef. About every third day or so I treat myself to a real meal at a proper trattoria (restaurant), of which there are several on every block. There are 4 on via delle Terme alone! Most are small, no more than 20 small tables. Just about everything I've eaten in them has been good; some has been much better than that. The best stuff I've had so far has been the simplest. I will always remember, for example, a split pea soup I had a few nights ago. It was made with yellow split peas and was soupier than I'm used to; the Greek equivalent, fava, can be almost pasty by comparison. The chef had thrown in a handful of barley, and seasoned it, unexpectedly, with rosemary. Had I known, I wouldn't have ordered a second dish. I wanted to carry the taste of the soup home with me. I've also taken to a vegetable soup called "ribollita," which is made of carrots, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, parmesan, olive oil, all cooked with chunks of bread that go mushy and fall apart in it and give it its peculiar body.

Like I said, I'm no gourmand, but if I eat anything between now and the time I leave that I think you should know about, rest assured, I'll fill you in.


Trinitarian said...

Your Grace,
Check out Acqua Al 2 - Great food at great prices (at least it was 14 years ago). Then again it was my honeymoon sooooo...

Also, check out the iconography in the baptistry and the gregorian chant at the monastery. Of course, I left the best for last -- the cappucinos.

Walt Trachim said...

That soup - the "ribollita" - sounds lovely. And it can't be that difficult to put together. I'll have to try making some when I can stand on two feet without difficulty.

As for the rest of it.... No big surprises there. I was in Dusseldorf a few years ago for a spell. What you describe about the fast food environment sounds very similar. Too bad.

Agape said...

How you managing with ice for you diet coke- is ice still scarce in Europe? In Greece I have actually been charged for ice before...I sort of got use to not having it all those years in London.

The soup sounds lovely!Yum!

btw. Fr. Christos' favorite food is "bamyes", hehehe, and has been a long standing joke in our family since before we were engaged. ; P

Jacob Pardes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
+Savas of Troas said...

Come on, T! You know I like to play the "ugly American" at times, if only to get a rise out of people like you. But I'm sticking to my guns here. French fries do not belong on a pizza. Neither does tuna. Nor do peas, cabbage, carrots, tangerines, bananas, coconut, squid, chocolate... The list goes on and on. It's just not done!

I envy you the dhansak. But lamb, I'm sure you'll agree, would never do.

Jacob Pardes said...

Dear +Sava,

I apologise, I was just playing the indigant European! I removed to comment as it was unnecessary! I continue to read your blog with great pleasure.