The most discussed topic of the semester: the beloved Italian food
As I finish my semester abroad in Italy, it seems only fitting that I complete my blogging with a final post about the Italian food. The eating routine is very structured and consistent each day. Breakfast is very basic, Italians eat “pasta” (a pastry) and a cappuccino to go at the local “bar.” Bars in Europe are similar to American cafes. Lunch consists of pizza or a panino. Dinner is the most important meal of the day. Our host mom makes a four course meal and grocery shops each day to prepare for dinner. We are required to eat all the food or else it is wasteful and disrespectful towards her cooking. The food is based on what is harvested in each specific season. Once the berries are out of season, we will move on to seasonal veggies. Our host mother’s recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Her parents are from Siena so her cooking style originates from there. We read a short story about Italian recipes in our literature class. The story discussed how many family dishes are melting pots from all over the country. Similarly, we eat fish from the west coast of Italy or oranges from Sicily. I appreciate how much focus our host mom places on where the food is from, and during which season. My favorite course that our host Mom makes is her pesto gnocchi, white wine floured chicken, cauliflower and salad, bread salted with her homemade olive oil, and fresh Sicilian oranges. Lastly, for dessert, we have a few nibbles on a dark chocolate fondant bar. Beyond serving us, she also helps serve her kids and grandkids in ways beyond just cooking.
The role of the Grandmother (our host Mom) is essential in her family. She helps her adult children who are educated and have careers. It is modern of this family to have a daughter and son that have jobs. Employment is very difficult in Italy, and even more difficult for women. Her daughter is a lawyer and has two children. Instead of childcare, our host mother take care of the two boys during the day (bringing them to and from school) as the parents work. Our host mom is busy each day juggling the kids schedule.
The elementary and high school students eat a small breakfast at home and return home for lunch, too. That means that since the kids are so young, they need a guardian to walk them to and from school. Our host Mom, the boys’ grandmother, walks them to and from school each day. Students return to school after lunch to finish out two more of their classes and then do homework. Our host Mom’s walks the grandkids to our home to help them with homework before they return to their own home to eat dinner with their parents. The students heavily rely on their mother’s cooking. Italian culture and family revolves around the mother’s household. She runs the show all day preparing the meals and lifestyle for her husband and children. Students continue to live and rely on their parents after high school, too. Colleges in Italy only provide education. As a result, students live and eat at home all year round for another five years. This is different from American colleges because we pay for housing and food on campus (that is why it is much more expensive!). The mother’s and grandmother’s role as taking care of the household is a major priority and passion that she works very hard on.
As I think about heading home to the States next week, I am slowly realizing how much I will miss this high quality cooking. We did a last day celebration in our Italian class by cooking carbonara and pesto pasta and homemade tiramisu. The passionate chefs behind the scenes making all the dishes make the meal even more enjoyable. The way the Italians salt their boiling water so it is saltier than the sea, and how they insist that you eat more makes me wonder when I will return to a place like this again. Arrivederci Italia!