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.
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.
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.
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:
This is very convenient, and makes great coffee, but it turns out like this:
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.
Stir it until you get a wonderful caramel colored mixture.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And, of course, a whole mess of amazing fruit:
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)
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.)
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.
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.