When it comes to food, Italy is one of the foremost countries to visit. In 2003 we crisscrossed Italy in search of beautiful images and tasty foods.
In 2003 as part of a Slow Food Dominican convivium I attended an international conference in Naples, Italy. My husband and I decided to part with the rest of the delegation and spend a few weeks exploring Italy.
This trip was without doubts one of the highlights of my life. The “why” is self-evident.
Armed with a crummy 3-megapixel digital camera (look up the size of your phone camera for comparison), the one I used at the time for taking pictures for our site, and fueled by an appetite for knowledge and good food. We stocked up on maps, lots of patience, and the humility with which the neophyte approaches Italian food. We stayed in small hotels and traveled by train, and I marveled at my husband’s incredible capacity to find his way round in any city. We bought from vendors peddling their fake Guccis and Dolce and Gabbanas and visited a flea market in Rome where we bought things that I’m not really sure where they are now.
We chased the locals into popular eateries where the staff didn’t speak a word of English, and I had to fend for myself with the then-rusty Italian learned when I was a teenager. We ate gelati in small parlors tucked away in dodgy, out of the way alleys. We walked for an hour from our hotel in Milan to find a pizza place that the hotel staff had highly recommended. We had coffee after coffee, and I’m sure we broke as many rules as the Italians follow when it comes to choosing what coffee for what occasion. I ate so much cheese that… OK, I’ll spare you that.
One thing I learned from that trip was that Italians take food seriously. Very seriously. And they are proud of their culinary heritage, and will take any opportunity to inform you of it in no uncertain terms. One cannot help but detect a hint (?) of bragging, and cannot but accept that they have ample reason to. After all, is there any country whose cuisine has spread far and wide like Italy’s? Is there any other, with the possible exception of France, that epitomizes haute cuisine – or, more accurately, alta cuccina – like Italy?
I can understand why perhaps they are not completely ecstatic about what passes for Italian food in many a place, and the sins perpetrated against pasta everywhere. And while I feel a measure of sympathy, the truth is that once you release the monster there is no chaining it back. Sorry amici, ain’t gonna stop loving my Pastelón de Espaguetis, or my decidedly-non-Italian Espaguetis.
You’ll have to scusi me.