The Journey Home

So, after a fight with the Klingons, I flew really fast around the sun to travel back to the 1980s to bring some whales to the future to save the world. Spock was still really tripped out from coming back to life after he died saving the ship and put his mind in McCoy…. wait a minute. That can’t be right. This is a blog about food in Italy, not a fantastic movie.

So, anyway, I am writing this from home back in the USA, but don’t worry, I have had a lot of fantastic food in the mean time. So, lets get going.

To start from the beginning of the end, Saturday morning I moved out of my apartment in Rome, which, unfortunately, meant my last breakfast at my regular bar. I got a cornetto and a caffe.
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I talked to the barista, telling him that it was my last day, and that I was going down to visit family in Puglia (he then asked me if I was originally Pugliese, which made me happy that it wasn’t completely obvious how American I was), and when I was getting out my money to buy my last breakfast, he said “Ti offro io” – “This one’s on me.” It was a really nice gesture, and I will definitely be heading back there the next time I am in Rome, even if it is only for a day.

So, after that, I got on the train, and headed down south to visit my relatives again. When I got there, it was just about time for lunch. That is as close to the best way to start a visit as I can imagine.

We started off with spaghetti with red sauce, and fresh basil on top.
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I had already mixed it around when the basil went on, so here is the gratuitous close up – with cheese, but without basil.
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The spaghetti was absolutely delicious, and it was followed by meatballs and sausage.
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The meatballs that my cousin makes are more bready and eggy than the ones we make at home, but nonetheless they are delicious, and the sausage was amazing.

Of course, this was followed by fresh, homegrown fruit:
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There is a really interesting way to make coffee (always refers to italian coffee/espresso), and to get the proper crema on it. Now when they make coffee in a bar, there is a funky little attachment on the coffee machine that makes that fantastic golden brown froth that you have seen on the top of all of my coffee so far, however, most italians do not use a big fancy machine, they use a macchinetta (little machine).
The six cup (little cups) version looks like this:
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This is very convenient, and makes great coffee, but it turns out like this:
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Very tasty, but not as cool looking as what you get at a bar. So, my cousin showed me this trick.
Take a little cup of sugar, and put the first little squirt of coffee from the coffee maker in it.
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Stir it until you get a wonderful caramel colored mixture.
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Add it to the top of your coffee and stir a tiny bit., and get that crema you see from the professionals.
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This doesn’t really work if you drink your coffee amaro, or bitter, but that is fine.

Dinner was a lot lighter, but equally amazing.

The focus of the meal was on three plates of cold cuts. Now you might be thinking “Cold cuts? He is really slipping if he is excited about cold cuts.”

But that is where you are wrong. These were the cold cuts I am talking about:
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All of this was made from the pig which the family had slaughtered the year before, and was simply the most amazing preserved/smoked meat that I have ever eaten in my life.

There was pancetta, here a kind of smoked bacon cut very thin:
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Also capocollo, which basically doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think it is related to capricole ham, but it is definitely not the same thing. It is basically a dark, fatty ham with spices around the edges giving a distinctly piquant flavor. It was amazing.
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The last plate was speck, explained to me as a type of capocollo, and also unrelated to the meat called speck which you can buy in grocery stores. It was darker and slightly leaner as well as spicer than the regular capocollo.
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We had these with some thin slices of crusty bread.
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I also had some bruschetta and tomatoes and a little pork chop, all very good.
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The meal finished with fruit, as usual:
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Breakfast before heading out to the beach on Sunday was simple, but very good.
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Well, as pretty as that photo is, it is not that accurate, since I ate an awful lot more than one biscotto.
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That is a little more honest.

At the beach, I had several panini.
The first was mortadella
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then speck and prosciutto
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and finally pancetta
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These were accompanied by a small cup of Peroni.
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As I have mentioned before, generally the italians have a much more sensible relationship with alcohol. Sure they drink at lunch, but they don’t get drunk ever, and drinking is considered a side to eating, as opposed to a pastime.

Dinner after we got back, was big, on account of the light lunch (really, the lunch was very light despite being three panini).
We started with ziti with a red sauce and mozzarella and some egg with fresh basil.
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I really liked the pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella, but the egg didn’t seem to me to fit the tastes of the rest of the plate.

The secondo was a piece of chicken with some tomatoes on the side.
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There was also a cucumber, but I forgot to photograph it. It was a strange variety with scalloped edges and a very light green skin, almost the same color as the inside.

After dinner we had some fresh almonds. Now I had never seen a fresh almond before, and didn’t even know that they were edible raw, but they are really good.
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And, of course, a whole mess of amazing fruit:

Honeydew (shaped like a football with a bright yellow skin, but definitely honeydew)
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Mullberries, amazingly tasty but with juice that stained like blood.
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And the usual variety of fresh picked plums and pears, the little purple ones were the best, probably because they were the only ones that were completely ripe, but the other ones were very good too.
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For lunch on Monday, my last meal there, we started off with some pasta, or possibly soup with tons of pasta in it.
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Then a fritatta:
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and more bread, capocollo, speck, and pancetta.

And, of course, fruit. Here is my cousin Rosa with the fruit. She was very ready and happy to declare, “Tutto è nostro” – “All of it is ours” every time she served it.
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A little later in the afternoon, we all had some gelato.
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It was very good, but more like American ice cream than the gelato I had gotten in the city.

I brought a bag lunch on the train back to Rome.
Panino with capocollo:
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and lots of tasty fruit:
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The next morning was a sad day, as I was taking the plane back home. (Also because I had to get breakfast at a different bar, because I was staying with a friend in a different quarter of the city)

I started the morning with a cream cornetto and a caffe.
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Very tasty way to get going.

Lunch was a pizzetta or focaccia at the airport. The food goes downhill from this point on.
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Dinner was just barely edible. It was some kind of beef stew. Air Canada does not have very good food. On the bright side, I managed to convince the cabin crew that I was Italian and didn’t speak english the entire way back. (They were mostly french canadian, which was entertaining.)
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Dinner tonight was very good at home. We had good, old fashioned, American summer food: BLTs. I love BLTs even if mine tend to be more like BLTCPOs.

The star of the show tonight was the plate of tomatoes. We had fresh tomatoes from the garden, including a simply amazing orange heritage tomato, and these were topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil, fresh origano, and a little onion.
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They were so tasty they deserve a ridiculous macro shot:
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Here are some of the other fixings.
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Lettuce, bacon, and homegrown and homemade pickles.

And the whole spread:
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And my BLT+.
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Just to prove that American food can be good too.

Speaking of American food being good, I will be heading down to New Orleans in a couple weeks, and it will be restaurant week there, so you can expect some posts of great cajun and creole food.

The big question is, however, should I continue with this blog outside of traveling? Let me know what you think. I will be cooking, and we have some wonderful produce growing, so I ought to be able to make some decent dishes, along with the ones my family will be making.

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2 responses to “The Journey Home

  1. I was going to send an email, but it doesn’t look like you have any contact information posted! Anyway, I’d like to see more recipes of yours, and of course, more gratuitous close ups of Italian food (if possible).

    Are there any Italian restaurants in New England you approve of?

  2. nolongersuffice

    I will definitely be working on some more recipes, and will post them as soon as possible, and you can expect more gratuitous close-ups, although Italian -American food will have to substitute for Italian, now that I have come back to the States.

    Unfortunately, I do not know New England at all, so I can’t give any advice on that front.

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