Other than the people and the beautiful views, one thing I would definitely miss is the food. From the €1.50 piece of pizza, the freshly made and customized panino (fun fact, it’s actually “panino” for one sandwich, and “panini” is the plural word!) the cheap but also fresh pasta from the bottega, the full four or five course Italian dinner that takes 3 hours, to the scrumptious but cheap gelato, the food here is just heavenly. It might be the fresh ingredients, or the time, dedication, and passion the locals pour onto preparing them.
(Before reading the post, I’d like to apologize in advance for te lack of photos- I always got too busy enjoying the meals/the conversations or cooking to take photos! But hopefully my writing would suffice.)
Let me tell you something. Even the things that I don’t like (or would rather not eat) back home, somehow taste 100 times better here in this country. I’ll list a couple of them as examples: red pepper, mushroom, chicken liver (I would gag if I had to eat them back home or in the US!), eggplants. But here, they taste oh-my-goodness so delicious you don’t even care what you’re eating! The chicken liver here is processed and seasoned so so well, and then put on top of the crostini/bread like a spread. It’s actually become one of my favorite antipasti! Another unique food that I tried here, which I have tried before but am not really passionate about, is tripe. It’s the inner muscle walls of a cow, and is a regional specialty here in Tuscany. I tried this dish, which is called “la trippa”, in one of the restaurants that had been recommended by a local, and I really liked it!
While staying here in Siena, I’ve also had the opportunity to attend a cooking class with the other Notre Dame kids here at the school! It was so much fun, and we learnt to cook a full Italian dinner, which consists of the antipasto or appetizer, primo piatto (first course, normally pasta or rice), secondo piatto (second course, which would be meat, chicken, or other protein), and dolce (dessert, yum!). We all worked as a team with the chefs who helped to teach and supervise us while we prepare the food. For the antipasto, we made some bruschetta and crostini with vegetables on top. For the primo piatto, we made a thin pasta called “stracci.” We all got to make the pasta from scratch! It was my first time making pasta from flour and eggs, and using the pasta machine. It was so much fun, kneading the dough and rolling the pasta machine. And then for the secondo piatto, we prepared rolled turkey breast with spinach filling. I also had the privilege of whipping the cream for the dolce, and stirring it all together with the gelatine, milk, lemon zest mixture. The dessert was a scrumptious creamy concoction with berries and a cookie on top, called the Bavarese alla Crema.
But I think that what I enjoy the most about my meals in Italy is how much they brought the people together. The dinners I had with my friends take at least 1.5-2 hours (sometimes more). Whether it was at a full meal in a restaurant, an aperitivo (a pre-dinner warm up, yum!), a picnic, or a homemade dinner in my own kitchen, we had really good conversations during those meals. There were dinners when we talked about the Brexit issue, politics in Spain and the US, about life in Siena, about the meaning of friendship, about the places we had gone to, about our faith and beliefs, about our home and family, or just about life in general. Friendships were started and built through inviting people to have meals together. During those conversations, you got to know the person’s perspectives on things, their cultural and family background, their values and identity. It was beautiful, as I look back now, how much the power of food could really bring people together. It’s definitely something that I would miss as I leave Italy, but it’s also something that I want to keep doing as I go back to Notre Dame.
Here’s to all the good meals in the future! :).