Sunday, March 28, 2010

learning to travel

if by "roughing it" you mean bringing a hat instead of an umbrella, scented lotion instead of perfume, only one pair of trainers and one pair of flip flops for whatever weather might arise, dumping benedryl and excedrin into the bag instead of bringing actual bottles, bringing a scarf to double as a pillow, packing a dinky ikea blanket for when we're sleeping on the deck overnight on the ways between italy and greece, downloading extra songs and tv shows from itunes onto the ipod the night before for entertainment purposes on long spurts of travel in case the one book packed is finished and all future bookstores are in foreign languages, and using the logic that if you're only bringing one small bag and your straightner and laura mercier makeup can still fit then it's ok to bring those too.....then yes, yes we are roughing it.

buon viaggio!

3 weeks of school, 2 weeks of holiday.

easter break officially started on friday afternoon. one class in the morning - well, it wasn't a lesson, it wasn't quite a conversation - um - and then a free afternoon which was spent at jules' and david's apt. david made fried rice and chinese chicken noodle soup, sung made melt-in-your-mouth korean beef and naama made a sugary homemade apple and pear pie. it was nice and spring was in the air. a lazy, but very sunny saturday, was spent cleaning and packing - arina bought a bike and i got to ride on the back of it! a brave soul, she rode it all the way back from parma and through the streets of colorno. i am positive there will be tons of pictures in the near future!

so, in anticipation of our trip tomorrow, arina suggested making a greek dinner. she made a fantastic dish of chicken, roasted tomatoes, onions, lemon, green and black olives, white wine and topped with feta. we couldn't keep our fingers off the creamy feta and filled us with hungry eagerness at the thought of all the delicious greek food we would soon be consuming into our meat, cheese, and italian wine stuffed bellies. we invited david up as jules had already left to go back to belgium and so there we were, eating a greek meal, in italy, made by a dutch girl and eaten with a taiwanese boy and an irish/american girl (yes, i do have identity crisis issues.)


sooo tomorrow arina and i are off on our first adventure together. we are leaving in the morning to catch the bus to parma then the train to rimini, at the southern tip of emilia-romagna along the coast. also known as italy's atlantic city. hmmm. it's a seaside resort town, with 15kilometers long stretches of beach but, it's a sunday night at the end of march - not quite peak season for tourists...did i mention our hostel is called jammin' party hostel? HA. then greece on monday! :)

it's awesome that italians like their religious holidays, but we've only been in school for not even 3 weeks and we already have 2 weeks off!! when does real life start?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Parmese say you eat twice: first at the table, then by talking about it."

so true. i wonder if we'll ever get sick of eating and talking about food. hopefully not. probably not.

the quote comes from Patrick Symmes in this article i found about emilia romagna region, where we are studying and living, and the food that comes from here.

"It's Italy's unsung region, yet its food has conquered the world—or at least the table. Think prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan, porcini, and half of all pastas known to man (just for starters). The source of its power? Po Valley dirt—fine, dense, almost chocolately , accumulated over millennia."

i like it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

il miglior amico dell'uomo

so appropriately, and necessarily, after our two days on pig farms, production facilities and learning about the full circle meat-making process, we had two days of afternoon classes focused on cured meat tastings. the morning classes for those two days were cheese tasting. phew, what a week!

Cheese: we learned the proper way to evaluate them from a professional cheese taster, cristiano de riccardis. it is very, very important to touch the cheese with your fingers, lift it away from the plate to smell directly under your nose, then bring it away to allow your nose to breathand take in the smell completely. then do it again. when tasting it is ob-lig-a-tor-y to keep your mouth closed and chew a couple times.

evaluate first externally:
  • rind - present, rough/brushed, flowering mould or plastic
  • undercrust - present (color stronger), uniform distribution, soft or hard
  • colors - milk white, greyish white, ivory white, straw yellow, yellowish-gold, orangish, grey-ish green
  • eyes - absent (very, very important parmesan reggiano), round (dot->nut size aka Swiss), lengthened partridge (teardropish) , irregular (Roquefort) -> take into account # and distribution
then by smell and then by aroma: lactic, vegetable, floral, fruity, toasted,animal, spicy, and fermented/other family sensations.
they had smells that were described with words such as: rendered butter, boiled milk, fresh cream, humus, leather, cooked cauliflower, fermented hay, toasted hazelnut, pineapple, dried apricot,honey, bread, yeast, banana, mushroom, animal sensations, brioche.
the aroma was what you tasted and included words like: garlic, sage, toffee, white chocolate, yogurt, yellow apple, boiled potato, white pepper, clove, green onion, nutmeg, white flowers - chamomile, violet, rose, chestnut honey, animal hair, acacia honey, olive oil, green peas, amaretto,white asparagus, meat broth. yes, hearing someone say a descriptive word out loud generally means that you automatically can taste that flavor too. it's hard.

then by taste: sweet, umami, a little acidic, bitter - never spicy or salty.

it is very, very important to identify them from the strongest to lowest levels. ob-lig-a-tor-y.

the first four cheeses we tasted were brie de meaux, asiago pressato, pecorino marzolino and pecorino sardo. then on the second day we had pecorino toscano, bra duro, castelmagno bresidio alpeggio and formaggi di malga.

they were made with raw milk instead of pasteurized which creates a superficial, "perfect" look under a controlled environment, but because all of them were of the highest quality, the natural results from the raw milk were still perfectly uniform in color and had perfect distribution of eyes/holes with present undercrusts.

i like cheese.

Cured Meat: the first day was 23 different products. here are some facts on cured meat:
  • there were more pigs than humans in italy during the 1970's and 1980's
  • 3 breeds to make proscuitto di parma: large white from england, landrace from denmark, durac from the usa -> hybrid pigs account for 50% of pigs reared in italy b/c they gain weight faster
  • today there are only 5 traditional breeds: mora romagnola (1,000 pigs), cinta senese (only indigenous tuscan breed not extinct), casertana (500 pigs) calabrese (600) and nero dei nebrodi (1300).
  • prosciutto di parma was only started with the introduction of the english white during the british invastion of the 1900's.
  • nothing of the pig is thrown out: hind leg (proscuitto, culatello) loin (lomo) nape (coppa) shoulder (spalla crudo or spalla cotta) cheek/throat (mix into salamis) belly (pancetta) lard (lard smear) skin (mortadella) sunga/kidney fat (used to cover exposed ham meat while curing)
  • tuscan hams are generally saltier because they don't add salt to their bread, so compliments well
  • goose is typical in jewish communities
  • spiced, smokey meats are typical of northern italy because of the weather its harder to cure naturally so they smoke them
the meats we had included: prosciutto di parma 16 months, prosciutto di parma stagionatura naturale 24 months, prosciutto di cinta senese 30 months, prosciutto bazzone from n. tuscany, jamon iberico belotta (top quality - others are recepo or campo), culatell di zibello, capicollo azze anca grecanico, spall cotta/cooked shoulder, pindule della carnia/cured loin, speck alto adige, coppa, coppa al ginepro/juniper berries, carne salada, bresaola/beef rump, speck d'oca/smoked
goose chest, motzetta de cerf/salted deer meat, prosciutto di pecora/sheep ham, lardo di colonnata/strip of chewy fat, lardo di pata negra/melt in your mouth lard, ciccioli friolli/fried fat aka pork chip, pestat di fagagna/tube of lard with minced vegs and sassaka/bacon and lard from pig minced with goose lardons.

so greasy. i think everyone went for a run that afternoon.

the next day, after cheese tasting in the morning and lunch, we had round two of cured meats, this time different types of salami's.

here are some facts:
  • salami -> sal - > salt: the main agent in preserving meat
  • south of italy use fennel & chili powder, the north of italy uses fennel & black pepper
  • industrial salami doesn't grow mould - the white is just rice flour but moulds break down the proteins, develop the flavor, eat the lactic acid and prevent spoilage. white, grey or green moulds are ok - orange and black are not!
  • halein, hallstatt, salzburg, halle, halych, salt lake city -> all linked with salt
  • filling is stuffed into natural guts which allow meat to breathe - the type of gut depends on the size of the meat product: small intestine=small salamis, colon=milano,felino,varzi, retum-fabriano, felino >1kg, bovine bladder=mortadella, pig bladder=culatello, pig blind gut=crespone, finocchiono >3kg
  • the amount of minicing depends on the type of salami (whether you see big or small chunks of white fat) but is generally 70-80% lean meat and 30-20% fat porportions
  • salamis are fermented cured meats so their curing process is different than prosciutto and culatello - need to dry in a warm/wet/humid environment to develop moulds and then age in a cool area.
the salamis that we tried (yes, i admit some were chewed to experience the flavor and texture, and spit out into a napkin. good thing we were in the back row. gross.) included: salame puro d'oca/pure goose meat, salame milano/typical deli slice, salame di felino/town name not cat, salame firottino from reggio emilia, salame fabriano from marche, salame di maiale nero dei nebrodi from sicily, sopressa di fagagna from friuli, finocchiona di san miniata from tuscany/fennel seed, kaminwurst/smoked, mortandela val di non from trentino, pitina from friuli/sheep, testa in cassetta di gavi from piedmont/pig head & tongue, mustardela delle valli valdesi from piedmont/pig head & blood, biroldo della garfagnana from tuscany/pig head & blood, sopressata di calabria/fennel and chili, chorizo jabugo/spoked paprika, salsiccia rossa di castelpoto from campania/smoked chili, ventricina del vastese from abruzzo/fennel and chili, n'duja from calabria/strong chili spiced spread

the look of some of them was just too much - the huge chunks of pure white fat, the gelatin from the pigs head and some things that were just unexplainable to comprehend putting in your mouth. but you can't really experience the salami for the full effect of the flavor, texture if you try to pull out the little white bits. it ruins the point of it. some of them would have been better in a blind tasting, but some of them were chewey and chunky others really soft and creamy and then to think about what they were possibly cased in....i definitely like the fennel and chili combination though.

caffe corretto

a shot of espresso "corrected" with a shot of grappa.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

winging it, roughing it.

we have two weeks off for easter holidays. today is thursday. we plan on leaving sunday. these are our current, and only, plans:

leave sunday 28th, go to Rimini by bus/train/scooter? - find sleeping
Monday 29th boat to greece @6pm (tix booked) - overnight, sleep on deck?
Arrive Tuesday 830am igoumenista - find way to corfu, stay with popi's sister's boyfriend's cousin's friend
Wednesday - corfu
Thursday - leave to Popi's house/Thessalonika - spend easter wknd with her
Monday - leave Popi
Monday/Tuesday - find sleeping, explore greece
Wednesday - Boat back to italy @ 1030pm (tix booked) - overnight, sleep on deck?
Thursday - arrive ancona in the morn (arina: we will drink coronas in ancona)
find way back to colorno...

wish us luck.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cured Meat Stage: day 2

<--jules is ready for the pig farm mud.

another day on the bus, visiting pig farms and production companies. this one had a little bonus to look forward to at the end of the day: a visit to the Ceci wine producer - that must imply some tastings right? our first stop was to antica corte pallavicina in polesino parmense. in the middle of nowhere, it was a gorgeous old house with roaming peacocks, newly sprouted vegetable gardens, a dining room attached to the house with modern floor to ceiling windows, an old stove in the middle of the room garnished with jars of pickles, vases of flowers, and wines, a spectacular old fire place, and a door looking into a immaculate kitchen, and an open courtyard with pots of crocosus promising signs of spring. we picked up our tour guide and jumped back on the bus to visit their pig farm down the road. these pigs were once extinct, and "resurrected" through some cross breeding. this was a small scale culatello-making farm where in the summer the pigs rummage throughthe fields - like everyone wants to picture a happy pig. it wasn't the season for that yet, so they were in the barn, but had more space than the last farm we went to. the culatello is made from the same rear end leg like the prosciutto di parma, but it is a smaller piece of it and it is wrapped in the bladder of the pig to cure. it can only be made in 8 villages in a restricted area because no others have the right knowledge or the terroir. the meats hang in an old barn with the windows wide open when the weather is right - the fog and humidity in perfect balance. this air drying process also creates a mold on
(happy pig!)
the outer surface. we went back to the old house which we all fell in love with even more as we stepped in. the fire place was lit, there were
faded frescos on the walls in every room with ancient picture stories and latin sayings. downstairs in the cellar, the culatellis hung in rows in the cellar in its natural environment - no technologic temperature controls. it was dark and low and would definitely make for a fun game of hide and seek! we emerged into a room that had huge cylinders of parmesan also aging in the cellar-isque conditions. minutes later, we were tasting 3 different types of salami (solgino, cresponetto, mariola - the youngest one was so tender) coppa, pancetta (mmmm) and the famous culatello. the waiter was adorable and served us fortana wine, which, amongst the 8 bottles available to buy, i snagged one for 6 euro. a couple of us asked for information about the restaurant (opened since sept) and the rooms available so our parents - and us - could stay there when they visit (opened 1 year). i asked if i could have my wedding there and massimo said sure, but i have to rent the whole lot, pigs and all. i said sure, of course, i just have to find the boyfriend first.
then it was back on the bus to Bre del Gallo in fontanelle, just south of where we were. this was small, family run farm where they receive the ham legs and cure them. it was completely different from what we have seen. the meats were hanging from small racks in the little

bedrooms upstairs - it smelt like a grandparents house - but it was interesting because he showed us how to test if the hams were good or not. you first have to knock it with a hammer to listen tothe sound (listen for the presence of air which is not good) and then use a horse bone to test the smell (the horse bone absorbs the smell the best). the culatello is best between 15-18 months of curing, whereas 12 months is too young and after 2 years the quality will decline. one of the small culatelli costs around 200 euro!! it is amazing to think how generous they are to offer us sliced heapings of samples. and although i didn't understand a word, except for nord, the grandfather was adorable.
off again on the bus, this time to torrile where we were going to the wine producer Ceci. immediately through the doors we were in the production facility, seeing bottles being cleaned, filled, corked, labeled, boxed. they just have one line of production so they make one type at a time - this time they were making otello - an award winning red lambrusco (according to Duemilavini 2009 associazione italiana sommelier (5 grapes, never before)
gambero ross - slow food editore (2 glasses), luca maroni (91) and i vini d'italia 2009 l'espresso(3 bottles)) poor alberto had to translate from italian, this man with his purple new balance and matching purple v-neck cashmere sweater talking away forever and alberto having to sum it up. he might as well just said "nod your head so he thinks i remember what he just said." off we were to taste some and we were all happy. tasted a Otello Dry - a white sparkling wine made from a mixture of lambrusco and pinot noir which was similar to a champagne and despite the grapes was still a yellowy-white color because the skins were removed quickly after the pressing. it is from the Emilia-Romagna hills and is the only sparkling wine bottle with a square bottom. then we had the prized Nero di lambrusco - bright red/purple, fruity and bubbly.
back on the bus again, to colorno, giddy, happy, and tired.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cured Meat Stage: day 1

rainy day, perfect for rolling around the mud at a pig farm --->
as part of the master's program, we take study trips which fall under two categories: thematic or territorial. today was our first one and the theme was cured meat. specifically, proscuitto di parma. our first stop was an introduction at the Consorzio del Proscuitto di Parma with Paolo Tramelli. the consorzio, started in 1963 to create fixed rules to preserve an italian tradition, is a private association that represents all the producers of parma ham. the point of the consorzio is to join the producers resources together to promote the product. we learned that farmers in parma can produce ham, but they have to follow regulations and be part of authorized slaughter houses and farms to authentically be considered proscuitto di parma. we learned about the history, the requirements, the imitation products, marketing/advertising/launching new international markets, the seal of guarantee, traditions, financial problems, and future goals.

we then headed south of Parma to Corcagnano to visit the Cascina Costa pig farm. i think any first and lasting impression anyone is going to have is the smell - peeeuw! and a variety of smells too in different parts of the farm that wouldn't subtly arise, but sneak up on you and
stricke you right in the entire nasal passage and cling onto your clothes, stain your skin and absorb into your hair.
we saw all stages of the life of a pig: pregnant, to piglets, to dead piglets, to 40 days old, to fattened up, to being gutted. this was a typical, middle sized farm. i dont know if we think of prosciutto di parma as coming from local, small scale, family-owned farms which equates to happy pigs frolicking in flowery fields with the shine shining in clear blue skies and warming their fat pink backs, but a lot of the pigs looked uncomfortable in their pens...cages?...and way too overweight to be able to walk. i guess i don't know enough about it, but i don't see the difference between fattening these pigs until they unnaturally can't walk anymore (prosciutto di parma comes from the rear
legs so they want it to be big and the fat adds the popular texture and flavor so they want them to be lazy) and with foie gras (the geese are forced fed to fatten their livers, but according to jules, geese naturally fattening their livers so they'd be able to migrate in the winter). the pigs aren't fed hormones or antibiotics (unless sick) and they live off parmesan why and cereal (not necessarily organic either, which is another interesting consideration, but it could also have something to do with EU laws/standards that are already in place?) i dont know. it was interesting to see, and not horrible or inhumane or made me a vegetarian, in fact, despite all the pigs and the foreshadowing slaughter ahead of their lives, we were all starving!
we had lunch on the top Taverna del Castello in Torrecchiara. it was basically a castle on top of a hill. we had fantastic varieties of bread,
chunks of parmesan, red wine (those go so well together) sparkling wine, charcuterie plate - prosciutto, porchetta, coppa and salami - and tortelli - d'erbetta and pumpkin & amaretto cookie and then dessert. the last thing anyone could focus on was another tour and lesson.

off we were, full stomachs, to Langhirano to visit the Prosciuttificio Slega - the production factory where the pig's rear legs are sent to endure the curing process. arina hated the smell, but it smelt exactly like when you tear open a package of pre-sliced proscuitto - a mix of plastic, air, cured meat, waxiness. it was fun to see all the different stages the leg goes through and how the salt, the only preservative used, affects it. salting is one of the most important processes (although we didn't learn exactly
what type of salt they use, or what importance that has) and a
nother one is the air. when the air is right - as the environment in the region is - they open the windows to the let the aromatic breeze in, east to west from the sea, and that gives it its distinctive flavor. however, the factory was in the middle of town - not in the middle of some field like i imagined. they do have laws about what industries and factories can be in the area, but i guess it's not as romanticized.
it was fascinating to see all the legs of ham hanging in the factory - i took tons of pics - and surprisingly learned that proscuitto di parma (despite that stark white strip of fat which does add to the smooth deliciousness) attached to it contains proteins and vitamins, is low in cholesterol and contains oleic acids found in olive oil, the saturated fats turn to unsaturated fats during the curing process and nothing is added to it except for salt, so, eat up, it's quite healthy!

Saturday's are for Parma

Being in class from 10-5 during the week, living in a small town, and living in a country where most everything is closed on Sundays - you really have to take advantage of Saturday's. we were informed about a grand opening of a farmer's market outside of parma called the Azienda Agraria Sperimentale Stuard. the products would be from association of “Agricoltori Custodi di Parma” and would include artisanal made products using varieties of fruits and vegetables typical to the province of Parma as well as jams, marmalades, tomato “pasatta”, cereals, wines and other products.
(wee side note) the night before, jules and popi both made two different types of carbonara - popi's was more traditional with spaghetti, 3 eggs, parmesan cheese and chunks of porchetta, and jules' was penne in a creamy sauce, porchetta, and sliced courgette - both equally delicious. it was an early friday night, we were all exhausted, so the next morning we tiredly made our way to the bus to parma, then two kind italian girls showed us how to get to the bus transfer (which actually was the same stop we got off at first, but still, they were nice to help) then we rode off to the outskirts of parma we went. we made our way to the farm, in the middle of nowhere, and arrived with stares which probably matched our curiously questioning faces. the
market was very small - a small store selling products and a table of samples that included a range of HOTT pepper jellies, from habanero to hot lemon, eggplant and chocolate crema, apple and pear jams, sparkling apple cider, local white wines and delicious fresh breads. it wasn't what we expected, but it was a good experience because we were told that it was just the beginning of the season and soon there would be tomatoes, artichokes, porcinis and most importantly, why we went originally - the chili peppers! and, if anything, we got to sample some free food!
drizzly Parma day -->
we anxiously returned to parma to shop in their saturday morning markets before they closed at 1 - and of course the first stall we came to was selling a good amount of the products we
just went out to the farm to see! then...a panini lunch on the steps of a statue and a necessary stop at Grom - maybe the world's best high quality gelateria. heavenly. i had the vaniglia (you might think boring, but i love vanilla and this is definitely the best) and the caramello al sale (caramel ice cream with himalayan pink salt. MMM.) the flavor of the month was green tea with domori white chocolate bits. we will definitely be back at least once a month. finally, lunch hours were over, the stores were open again, so we had a stop at the vodaphone store (i now have a phone!) and i was beyond overwhelmed with exhaustion and ready to get back to colorno!

Italian Tip #3

If you ever see furniture on the side of the street, and it looks ok, you are free to take it. we currently have a new comfortable leather couch in our apartment. it may or may not have broken the front legs as we carried it up three flights of stairs...cough...but with the help of some super glue - and one half-hammered nail - it is now as good as new! i just won't be the first one to sit on it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who Knew?

Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. and don't even bother complaining - everyone you try to find some sympathy out of will think you're crazy. Class was a chocolate tasting. sounds great, right? The first hour and a half we learned about the historical background of chocolate, the process of making it and the reasons behind different outcomes, the
biggest consumers (switzerland, belgium...ireland was #6) the biggest producers of cocoa (ivory coast, ghana, then indonesia), and the different types of chocolates. then, out came the plate with the first round of samples. they ranged from crunchy and unrefined to smooth and buttery to commercialized to a rare and pure, to a raw roasted cocoa bean to a milky chocolate drink. my favorite was the Domori Chuao (one of the most mythical venezuelan cocoa, a nearly pure criollo, coastal region west of Caracas, - 70%). biting in that little sample immediately brought me back to memories of ireland. it was the strangest thing. but a very pleasant experience. then came round two. these were the mixed chocolates - candied rose (yum) marc de champagne cream (yyuck) a covered squash seed (tasted like halloween), candied ginger (bitter and sweet) and (luckily) four of them contained either hazelnut or praline so i wasn't able to eat them. STUFFED.
19 samples's taken me a while to even be able to look at my pictures, or talk about this tasting. i think it will be a while before i eat chocolate again. note: it would probably be a good idea to coat your stomach with something hearty and/or savory before consuming so much sweetness.
next week: two full days of field trips to pig farms and then two days of morning cheese tastings and afternoon cured meat tastings. ruh-roh.

Friday, March 19, 2010

ciao victor

meet victor. he lives in our stairwell. at first i thought he was dead and dried out but every day he moves a little bit: sometimes he hangs out by the window, sometimes he sunbathes on the window, sometimes he hangs off the railing...he likes to get his exercise.

Pollenzo: the other UNISG campus

we had our first trip today: a day trip to visit the other UNISG campus at Pollenzo which is where the three-year undergraduate, two-year graduate and the may section of our master program (will) study. it was an early start and a long three hour bus drive across a very flat landscape. Pollenzo, which is a part of Bra in Piedmont, is an adorable, picturesque village which is home to 600 inhabitants, 250 students, a hotel, a michelin-starred restaurant called guido (no, we did not eat
there), and la banca del vino (pic left) which stores cases of wine of italian-only producers as a type of historical memory. the buildings were so old and beautiful but the insides felt very modern.

we had a tour around the campus before lunch and i instantly fell in love with the library. imagine, over 12,000 books (incl. cookbooks, references, magazines,
encyclopedias) available in multiple languages regarding any subject concerning food - history, nutrition, culture, tourism, regional cookbooks, current international magazines - there wasn't enough time. i think all of us would have been happy to spend the rest of the day there. with a coffee and a large comfy couch. the rest of the afternoon was however spent listening to people who work at Slow Food Italy - the headquarters are down the street in Bra. it was interesting to hear about their jobs, especially if any of us want to have an internship with SF, but some of the information we had heard before.

i'm glad to be in colorno - pollenzo makes it feel almost like a city hA! but it would have been nice if the campuses were closer together so that we could have more interaction with the students in other programs, to have access to the library (rather than inter-library loans - i like to roam and peruse all the literary possibilities!) to go back and eat at guido and also to see what Bra is like. i thought Pollenzo was so cute, it makes me a little sad to think i might not ever go back.

italian difference #6

the toliet. i know i mentioned this before after our first trip to the pub, but to reiterate, here is a visual (that really doesn't do it justice at all). not all toliets are like this in italy. maybe it's just the pub. and fyi for future travelers: apparently this is more common in singapore than the western style.

(yes, yes i did take a picture of the toliet at the bar.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guinness, Oysters, and Irish Car Bombs.

<--bday boy with girls in green

Not only was it st paddy's day but santo's birthday as well - a combination that meant the parma people were staying in colorno to hang out and celebrate, at least until the last bus.
i guess an earlier allergy prohibited me from enjoying this tradition, but guinness and oysters always remind me of this cheesey postcard that unappealingly pictures the two and states "an irish breakfast." bohoho. but it really was a delightful pair! everyone was in the irish spirit, drinking guinness and harp
on tap, wearing green, and teaching the europeans how to chug irish car bombs. the ostrichi di bretagna francia (oysters from brittany france) were HUGE, floating in their ocean juices on the half shell before we slurped and had that fresh seaweed and drizzled lemon flavor drip down our chins. the bartender, and now friend, taught us how to shuck oysters - make sure the oyster knife is inserted where the muscle is. and another french guy showed me how to spot a bad oyster - don't eat it if it smells weird and is dry. and yes, march does have an "r" in it.
slurp naema, slurp arina, and slurp naama

italian difference #5

electricity. the outlets, plugs, chargers come in all different shapes and sizes. i have the right converters, but for some reason my camera and my computer never seem to charge 100% and run out of battery faster than they normal would, or should. the computer i don't mind so much because the internet doesn't work well in the classrooms, but i'm a little worried or even frustrated for my camera because it's going to be annoying when we're on trips - i leave with a full battery charge and find it blinking nearly empty when i turn it on later.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

life without alma

of course, the first day that we don't eat at ALMA, our assignment is to write a visual description of our lunch using the techniques of imagery we learned this morning. i had a bowl of cereal along with a mug of instant nescafe coffee and a thick slice of salame felino - a regional pork salami (arina and i were suckers for local food yesterday - the butcher even held up a loaf of white bread and said "parma" and we of course had to buy it. and yes, the salami, bread and the goat cheese we've bought have not only been extremely delicious but also the basis of our italian diet.)

an ALMA plate example ->

what we've been offered every day at ALMA: salad; an assortment of cured meats and cheese samples; sauteed vegetables, fried vegetables; usually at least two pastas - ravioli's, risotto, spaghetti carbonara, rigatoni or penne with veggies or seafood; roast beef, pork, quail, chicken, fish; rolls, pizzas or flat breads of various toppings and sizes; and fresh fruit or little cakes for dessert....and for some reason we opted out of ALMA.

how imaginative i got with my kellogg-wannabe-processed corn flakes and 1.5% milk: the army of flakes floated in the bowl at the mercy of the thick white milk. the sharp crunch would eventually succumb to the creamy liquid. only the dried, shriveled fruit would benefit by absorbing the milk to come alive. it was a battle of balance to find the perfect bite.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


<--- the view from our class room.

our schedule -->

pinching myself.

italian tip #2

the market. it comes to colorno on tuesdays and thursdays. there are tons of fresh fruits and vegetables which are cheaper than the A&O grocery store, selections of cheeses and cured meats, slippers, dishware, track suits, seafood, gooseberry plants, kitchen utensils, lady gaga imprinted zip is quite delightful! definitely get out before the morning class start because it is packed up and gone by the time we are let out for lunch.