Monday, 23 November 2009

Welcome home (Spicy persimmon salad)

Exactly one week ago I landed. Just like that I was back and the past year quickly condensed into a memory. Everything seems and feels the same, I am still the same, and yet something is different. Although I feel back in my element, I also feel separated from my school of fish. I am back in the real world and faced with a new food reality. I am probably not alone.

In addition, I am patiently waiting to move back to my apartment, so although at home I remain a nomad, and so not physically back home yet. It is sunny and ridiculously warm for this time of year, and the summer clothes I so carefully tucked at the bottom of the suitcase are getting an airing. I have a lot of catching up to do and so I find myself spending time in local cafes, topping up on my greens intake and rekindling my friendship with forgotten foods I have not seen much of this year like the sweet potato, aromatic dill, and crispy coriander.

On Friday I found myself standing in my mothers kitchen preparing my welcome home dinner to my extended family. This was no pretty site; pots were flying, pans were burning, stoves were in flames and my ankle was in a sprain. I am now sitting with my leg up high, forced to pause, rest, recharge and pace myself. Fair enough.

I am also aware at how my palette has changed and has been conditioned to demand nothing short of the best. Local industrial so-called Prosciutto and a scorching hot and watery espresso simply will not do.

Spicy persimmon salad

This is a sweet, sour, savory and spicy persimmon salad.

What with the mild summer fiasco outside comforting stews can wait.

This is great as a side dish or a light lunch for one.


2 thinly sliced persimmons (or another seasonal fruit like pears or apples)

A handful of chopped coriander (or parsley)

½ red onion, chopped

1½ Tbs minced ginger

½ red chili, seeded and chopped (optional)

½ lime, squeezed

1 Tbs sweet chili sauce

2 Tbs soy sauce

½ Tbs pomegranate molasses

Ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving, to allow all the flavors to build up.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Recap: putting a lid on Italy

This past year was a wonderful opportunity to indulge in my passions, meet new friends and travel like there is literally no tomorrow. Through a distant geographic perspective I now look back at all I have gone through. Here are some highlights and points I wish to remember:


I made the decision to live in a small and isolated village, the city gal that I am. This was a year for self reflection, observation and, in some part, solitude. No external distractions or unnecessary noise. This was also the year of travel, exposure and exploration. With the sometimes painful help of the Italian rail system I covered as much ground as possible on.

I think its called having the best of both worlds.

Eating the bread of others

I was exposed to Italy and Europe through bread; every place I visited became a part of me through the local starch. There was Parma bread (see above), the lovechild of plasterboard and a basketball. Unsalted Tuscan bread and the Sicilian pane di Lentini also come to mind. The latter was served hot out of a wood burning oven, soaked in olive oil, oregano, crushed chili flakes and salt, capturing elation with through mastication.

Focaccia, schiacciata, farinata, Swedish rye bread, French baguette, Surinaam Roti, Ethiopian Injera, Dutch sourdough and Cretan rusk bread are only a smidgen of the carbohydrates I had the pleasure of eating.

Communal eating

Many meals were shared standing around a kitchen table, chopping, cooking, attempting and snacking. Being a part of a food community was education and inspiration, opening up possibilities for future collaborations.

Food to the point of extreme.

I have a feeling an adjustment period to the real world might be in place.


I guess I am going to have to master the art of the Sicilian ricotta filled fried tubes if I am to experience a canolo in the near future. Who knows, this may end up being a new revolution. The world needs to know what its missing.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ending with beginning

So this was it. What seemed like a gigantic leap last year has reached its end. A year of learning how to eat and drink, how to enjoy Italianism, discovering places I never thought I’d be, and realizing that being in a place does not mean going to a museum, because everything one can learn about a place is found on the streets. A year of talking food constantly, mostly ending up with “this would be so good with cheese”.

Digesting the past 12 months have given me most of the answers I was looking for, sprinkled with doubts and a dash of anxieties. Once again, I am stepping out to begin a new adventure, but this time it’s the oven door opened in time for freshly baked buns. You see, I know that food will be on my side.

So this is my big jump. My once in a life time.

I truly believe that by doing what it is I am passionate about, the rest should fall into place. I’ll do anything I can so that it does.

Now I need to convince the rest of the world.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Florence wrapped

Two months, 8 weeks, 59 days. My time in Florence.

On the last day of October I got a one-way ticket to Parma, bringing to a close my time in Florence, concluding the internship period and this bubble of a year.

For two months I cycled the uneven, cobbled roads of Florence, mastered the Florentine accent (“una hoha hola”), sampled local pastries (Budino di riso, scacciata con l'uva), and made new friends, including the Barrista that always remembered how I like my coffee (in vetro).

It was a pleasant surprise to find that Florence was more then an over -exposed, crowded, expensive, tourist trap minefield.

This is a rundown of my favorite Florence

Budino di riso- its rice pudding in shortcut pastry. Once it is baked, a caramelized crust forms on top. Only found locally.

Gelato- with a large variety of gelato mounds sculpted, decorated and generally violated, it is also possible to have fine gelato. The Peanut flavour will be remembered as a highlight.

Oven detox- not having an oven is not the end of the world (temporarily speaking). I haven’t baked in two months and counting. Must. Bake. Soon.

Mercato San Ambrogio- the market ritual of getting up in the morning, jumping on the bike and heading to the market. On the way passing by the tripe man, always busy making the breakfast Lampredotto panini for hungry Florentine men. Nothing like boiled stomach lining to kick start the day…

Café- the reason that coffee is good here is because it is made with love and respect for the bean. Having your own particular preference is met with a respectful nod, as if to say “ I see where you’re going with this”… On the days that coffee alone was not enough, a sticky brioche wrapped in a napkin would be handed to me, from hand to hand. A shared intimacy over pastry. Dipped in the coffee, one brioche perfectly absorbs a cup of macchiato. No more, no less.

My pet- I shared my room with a mosquito. At first there were lots, but then it cooled down, leaving one stubborn insect. Unable to take its life directly, I took a more passive approach, trying to starve it to death. I was bitten. It refused to perish.

Holes in walls- for 3.50 euros I would often buy a focaccia from various panini makers that occupy urban nooks and crannies, filled with anything and everything. In general, Florentines like small, cozy, ‘good old days’ type places. And prices. And veggies. And I for one, agree.