IceDaddy and I have an anniversary coming up this month. Last year, we had the opportunity to take a dream trip to the Mediterranean. This year, not so much. Given a choice between having a material good, and the enriching experience of traveling, I would choose traveling hands down. We still wax poetic on the adventures and especially the food.
I was browsing the cookbook section of Half Price Books the other day (yes, that is one of my favorite stress-relieving activities), and found a cookbook on Italian cooking. It was actually to accompany an old PBS series where a tv chef personality travels Italy and experiences various different cuisines. Besides the fact that the book only cost $3, what pulled me in was the cookbook editor, Maria Guarnaschelli. WARNING: Foodie Geek moment.... She is one of the better known cookbook editors, with a now semi-famous daughter, Alex - a chef and Food Network personality. Yes, dear readers, I chose a cookbook for the editor! The cookbook? The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. Have to say, not sure how authentic some of the recipes are, but I did experience culinary inspiration to focus on the basics of good Italian cooking - simple quality ingredients brought together with love.
So, with that in mind, I'll share my story of the most amazing meal we had in Italy and how that inspired me this weekend to cook some authentic Italian fare.
Begin Shameless riff on "Golden Girls"
Picture it... Sicily, er, Civitavecchia, Italy, 2009. A couple visiting the Mediterranean on a cruise pools resources with 3 other couples to hire a driver to tour Rome and Vatican City in 8 hours. After driving into Rome in what can only be described as INSANE traffic, the group tours amazing sites such as the Panthenon, the Coliseum, and the Trevi Fountain. Feeling famished, they decide to break from the intensity of that much sightseeing and enjoy a Tuscan lunch. Their driver, sensing they needed a break from the touristy places, takes them to a lovely restaurant literally across the street from the wall of Vatican City. There, the group observes the Pope's helipad (no actual activity noted) and dreams of the afternoon to come seeing the treasures not sold off to pay the legal bills of the Vatican for the abuse scandals.
The menu was, by American standards, elaborate for a lunch, but fairly normal by Italian standards. For 20 EUR each, we enjoyed an appetizer, pasta, main course, dessert, and bottled water and wine. The appetizer, for the meat eaters, was a charcuterie plate with bruschetta, salamis, and cheeses. For the pasta course, I think my favorite part was where IceDaddy took a bite and said, "wow - I didn't know tomato sauce could taste like this!" (His prior reference point consisted of debating the merits of Prego vs. Ragu). While starting to experience a food coma, we pressed on to the main course, a lovely veal scalloppini with fresh lemon and butter. To finish out the lunch was DECADENT chocolate cake.
But that's not where it ends - oh no! As we were on a mission to eat our way through Italy, we gilded the lily with gelato after seeing the Sistine Chapel. The words "sensory overload" cannot begin to describe the sounds, tastes, and overall feel of Rome - they are burned into our psyche and will stay a treasured part of us for the rest of our days. If ever you have the chance to experience your own dream destination, I promise, whether the day winds up perfect or not, you will always remember!