Woman cannot live on pasta alone

blogging from the boot winner's badge

When I told people that I was moving to southern Italy, usually the response was something along the lines of, ‘oh, the food’s WONDERFUL there!’ This would closely be followed by something about endless sunshine. The sunshine bit is holding up pretty well today – it’s nearly 4pm on a late-November afternoon and my flatmates and I all have clothes hung out on the balcony to dry, and most of the doors and windows are open. On the food front, however, I’m a little disappointed. Yes, the pizzas are far better than even the best UK versions, and there is fresh veg aplenty. However, Italians are desperately provincial about their food. If it doesn’t originate in Italy, you are unlikely to find it here. Curry spices? Not a hope. Peanut butter? Well, you can get it, but only the Skippy stuff, at hugely overinflated prices. In the UK it’s very easy to evangelise about food being local (I’m a big proponent), but it’s also a doddle to cheat and pop down to the local corner shop and pick up some bananas, or tomatoes in the middle of December, when you’re sick of eating turnip for the third week running.

Italians are, however, exceptionally good at bottling seasonal fruits and veg. If it can be shoved in a jar with some herbs, salt and/or olive oil, it will be. Pomodori alla contadina, carciofini, acciugi (which become alici when bottled, for some reason), peperone piccante, capperi, passata – the list goes on. This is a saving grace when cooking, and means that pasta sauce can be easily spiced up with something a bit more interesting. That does bring me onto my next point, though – pasta. There are entire aisles dedicated to the stuff in the supermarket, in every possible shape and size. Doesn’t really matter, though – it’s still JUST PASTA. I know that Italians will evangelise about it, and say that you can only eat certain sauces with certain shapes of pasta, but ultimately it’s just a starchy carb, which is a vehicle for some sort of sauce. It’s dull. Variety, for me, has become eating penne rigato instead of fusilli. I long for Thai, Indian or Mexican food, and I am SO looking forward to going to England at Christmas for a proper roast meal. *drools*

Cooking here is taken very seriously. The three-hour lunch break is not just because of the heat in the summer; it’s because it takes that long to cook, eat and digest a decent meal. I approve of this mentality, it must be said, and, bizarrely, am losing weight despite eating pasta twice a day. Hooray! However, there are times when the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove. On hungover mornings, an English fry-up is a mammoth undertaking, involving substituting pancetta for bacon and marinading cannellini beans in passata, salt and pepper, boiling water on the stove and dry-frying bread in a pan, as baked beans are impossible to buy and Italians don’t do small kitchen appliances. Finishing work at 9pm (as I do) and then having to cook a proper meal isn’t much fun, either. However, on the occasions when I just can’t face it, there is always the local delicacy, taralli, to tide me over. These are similar in texture to breadsticks, but are flavoured with stuff like peperoncini, cipolli or oregano, and are formed into little twists, looking a bit like bready kisses. Usually combined with one of the local Salentino wines, they’re known in our flat as scooby snacks, due to being impossible to put down. Pringles have nothing on the addictiveness of these things. Yum.

Photo by Sebastian Mary on Flickr

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
This entry was posted in Eating Like a Maniac and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Woman cannot live on pasta alone

  1. Burgundy says:

    wow! I had no idea you'd moved to Italy.

    You are very right about food in that, complain as we might (and do) in England about how badly we eat, we are an extraordinarily open nation when it comes to flavours and world influences. We don't stubbornly assume our way is already good enough, thank you.

  2. Katja says:

    Bit of an impulse decision, it has to be said! I retrained in April, worked for the summer in England and off the back of that got a job in Italy, so it was all quite whirlwind.

    I haven't actually tried it, but there's a new Japanese restaurant in town, which is causing a BIG buzz among the locals. Could the Italians finally be coming round to multiculturalism after all?

  3. Pete says:

    No Curry? Woah.

    I think variety in diet is a particularly good thing, I love different types of food. But if I did have to have just one Italian would probably be it ahead of others.

  4. Jane says:

    ONLY THE SKIPPY STUFF? That is the NECTAR of peanut butters. Just push through the first jar or two and you'll never look back, I swear. I now have to buy it in bulk from CostCo. Sunpat is dead to me.

  5. Katja says:

    Pete: Woah, indeed. I think if I were to choose something for the rest of my life it would be Thai. I reserve the right to change my mind as and when I feel like it, though.

    Jane: I confess I do actually like the Skippy stuff, but I'm not prepared to pay 4 euros a jar for it. In the UK I eat LIDL crunchy stuff, which is DELISH.

  6. Tina says:

    I know this post is a couple months old, but I had to comment. Oh my gosh do I know what you mean about peanut butter. I have a good recipe for tortillas if you're seriously jonesing for Mexican. Just leave a comment on my blog and I'd be happy to pass it along. :-)
    Cheers from Perugia

  7. Cherrye at My Bella Vita says:

    They have crunchy peanut butter in UK Lidl stores? Boo! Great post! Reminds me so much of my Calabria!

  8. Katja says:

    Sure do, Cherrye! Oh, but I miss crunchy peanut butter (and LIDL, actually – there isn't one anywhere near where I am here).

    Thanks for dropping by. Great to see a fellow southerner here. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge