One of everything

by Laura A

One of the nice things about Italy is that there’s no end to the food discoveries.  The latest favorite Italian flavor combination in our home is pizza with gorgonzola and pears, which Italians tend to run together and call “gorg’ e pere.”

Sarie and I have been putting a half pizza dough into our little iron skillet and baking it in the oven for lunch.  We got this idea from the Piemontese style pizza baked in a brick oven, called a padellino (little pan).  Our oven is just an IKEA oven, but it still turned out nicely.

The people at the local market told me that another popular variation is gorgonzola and chocolate.  When I expressed surprise, they said, “Oh, yes! And there’s Nutella pizza, too! Only, you should wait until you take the pizza out of the oven before putting on the Nutella.”

Before Easter, I saw little panettone shaped like doves, called colombe, everywhere I went, and the windows were stacked high with chocolate and candy eggs. One window had a large chocolate egg carefully broken so that a little chocolate chick seemed to be emerging from it. There were also rows of white sugar lambs with red and gold flags, an obvious Christ symbol. And there were buns with a cross made of bread dough over a whole, unpeeled egg. More things for me to figure out next year, I suppose!

The Via Cernaia Grom on a weekend afternoon

When you hear Italians talk about food, you start to wonder why they’re not obese, and how they don’t spend their entire salaries on specialty foods. I think maybe they just enjoy the food they do eat more than Americans do. And they use it as an occasion to socialize. On any decently warm day you’ll find Italians of all ages lined up out the door at Grom (thankfully less expensive here than in New York), buying ice cream cones with wonderfully concentrated flavor. And it’s not just Grom. There are so many gelaterias here that on any given weekend afternoon, you’ll run into people with cones coming and going.

And as you’d expect, the Italian grandmas take any hesitancy to eat as an indication that you just need more persuasion. Yesterday Sarie and I visited a mom friend with her new baby boy, and received a little bundle of candied eggs (blue, naturally) wrapped in sheer fabric. Our friend’s in-laws, the new grandparents, were visiting from the Naples area. Despite our insistence that we didn’t need anything to eat, we were fed cookies, accompanied by a bitter soft drink with sugar around the top of the glass and a lemon perched on top, and then another plate of the candies, which were sort of like M & Ms with almond paste.  (“The ones from Naples are the best kind,” they told us.) When Sarie tried one candy, the grandmother insisted that it was good luck to have three.  But Sarie, whose Momann verges on Italian when it comes to offering food, was ready. “Oh, but I had two cookies already, so that’s perfect!”

We love food. But it will be some time, I suspect, before we master the art of eating everything Italy has to offer.