“Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity”.
— by Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
Our recent trip to Italy seems a bit like a hazy, pleasant dream at this point (maybe it’s just the jet lag or the lingering pasta coma). It truly was wonderful in most every way, and we are so grateful that it worked out how it did. It was a lovely balance of resting and running, country and city. Nonetheless, the one constant was the pursuit of all things Italian food related.
Not quite four years ago, I was told that my food-loving wife faced the very real prospect of never eating orally for the rest of her life. This prognosis was the result of the significant damage suffered to the nerves which create the intricate and complicated swallowing process that we all treat as a trifle. Blessedly, that and many other projections for her future were overcome in spectacular fashion. This trip to Italy was a celebration of many, many of those things, and today, in particular, I want to share with you a love letter of sorts, an homage to this particular, glorious gift that Katherine has been given again. Hopefully, you’ll indulge us as we share some of our epicurean triumphs, and you can take a short, vicarious taste of Italy without leaving home. Buon Appetito!
In our book, no food journey could properly begin without a nice, hot cup of the “black gold”. The friends’ house where we stayed had a great espresso maker, and I think we are officially hooked on our espresso-based drinks, ceremoniously taken throughout the day. Regular coffee cannot compete with that creamy top layer found on an espresso. Of course, sweets are the perfect accompaniment to anything coffee-related, and naturally, that duo found its way onto our breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables.
In recent years, I’ve really developed a love for cooking. I suppose it’s been very cathartic for me to spend that time just creating something special for my family. One of the absolute highlights of the trip was the simple time spent cooking, with soft music playing in the background, a fire crackling in the ancient hearth, and unbelievable tastes and smells rising up from the stovetop.
Aside from our adventures in cooking at home, probably our favorite restaurant experiences were had at small “agriturismos”, basically like a bed & breakfast with an attached restaurant where all the food served there was grown and prepared on the land itself. These were all located in the middle of the countryside, and we nearly always had the entire place to ourselves. I’m not totally sure how they stay in business, but we sure did our part in trying to help them!
No trip to Italy would be complete without pizza. We found whether we ordered it from a touristy spot, a humble, hole-in-the wall, or even if we made it ourselves from the grocery store’s frozen section, it was all phenomenal. Maybe it’s something in the water. Of course, covering the frozen pizza with truffles (extremely common in the region where we stayed and thus easily and cheaply found in the grocery store) didn’t hurt either.
And last but not least, there was lots and lots of gelato! So many flavors to try; we didn’t get to half of them, so we’ll just have to go back and try the rest another time.