I’ve said yes to gelato. After my first smug refusal, I have since had gelato three times. Would have been more if I had found some handy gelato place a couple of times. Gelato is a marvel of nature. I can go forever in the US without having ice cream and not think a thing about it. But I can’t do without gelato. I’ve tried to figure this out – is it because I’m usually on vacation here and you deserve all the treats life has to offer on vacation? Is it because it’s a superior product to ice cream? Is it because it’s everywhere here? Even the most remote, isolated village has a gelato shop. Whatever the reason, I love gelato. It’s just the right thing to have in the afternoon, especially these hot August days when you just want to crawl into a deep, dark cave. Today I had pistachio and lemon. Sounds like a strange combination, but it was really perfect. The rich, creamy pistachio offset the tart, icy lemon. And I was a happy girl eating it.
I’ve been in this country for six days and I’ve had pizza three times. To think that you would have pizza three times in less than a week is bordering on gluttonous (unless you’re in college, then it’s standard fare), but here it’s a perfectly acceptable food group. This I love and embrace it like a true Italian. An Italian friend once told me that he was on a “diet” where all he ate for lunch every day was a slice of pizza. Sign me up for this diet. Today I showed great restraint and only had a slice of pizza. Not the whole plate-sized portion you usually get. Just one slice. It’s a little unusual to find a place where you can only get a slice, but sometimes you run across them. There’s a place in Anghiari that only serves sliced pizza. They have many other things, but the pizza is all sliced. I had a salad and a slice. And I did feel like I was eating light. So much so that I had a gelato after.
Pasta – I feel for the gluten intolerate, although I do see gluten-free options on many of the menus now. Pasta is a mainstay of this country. Most meals consist of a pasta, or primi, and a meat dish, or secondo. And most people eat both. And an appetizer and a dessert – but that’s another story. We had lunch at a great restaurant in Sansepolcro Monday and we both had pasta. I also ordered a salad. I thought I was being so smart by telling the waitress to bring my salad primo (first) and my pasta dopo (after). What I forgot to tell her was that Steve and I wanted our pastas out at the same time. So I got my salad and Steve got his pasta at the same time. Steve finished his pasta while I ate my salad, then had to sit there and watch me eat my pasta. Awkward. This happens to us every time and we can’t ever remember to get it ordered in the sequence we want. They’re so used to everyone ordering from every part of the menu that it doesn’t occur to them to ask when you want things brought out. They just bring the food out as it’s ordered. Most places even leave the menu with you after you order because you never know when you might get a taste for some roasted potatoes.
Another thing about pasta here is there are so many different shapes and sizes. I am fascinated by this and love the folklore and tradition behind them all. If you’ve never seen the YouTube series “Pasta Grannies”, watch a couple. A British expat wanted to preserve the pasta making traditions in Italy so she’s undertaken a project of traveling around and filming pasta grannies in their homes making what they’ve been making all their lives. At our lunch on Monday, I had trofie, which is a small twisted pasta common in Liguria. How it made it’s way into a small restaurant in eastern Tuscany is beyond me, but I’m glad it did. This is the kind of pasta I love. It’s easy to eat and absorbs the sauce so well. This one was made with a sauce of pancetta and pistachios and was divine. Rich, creamy, and not on any weight loss plan on earth. Steve had the classic pappardelle with cinghiale sauce. This could be the official dish of Tuscany. It’s everywhere and there’s a reason for it. The ragu is perfect balance of meat and sauce (can be red or white sauce – his was white). It’s a very simple sauce with a very common ingredient here – wild boar. They are actually almost a nuisance they’re so prolific and during hunting season you will hear the call of the hunters, the barking of the dogs, and the firing of the rifles all over the countryside. The result is this wonderfully creamy sauce that we can enjoy all year round.
Last night I cooked our first meal. We bought some zucchini the other day and I knew it needed to be used. I made a simple sauce of zucchini ribbons, garlic, cheese, and oil and served it over – what else? – pasta. I also had a caprese salad of a perfectly ripe tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Simple, but wonderful. And we ate it out on our terrace with the breeze (venticello) blowing and the sun setting – well, it just doesn’t get any better.
For those of you who may be wondering about how much weight I’m going to gain on my gelato, pizza, and pasta diet, listen to this. I have a fitness tracker and back in Atlanta I would almost always get 10,000 steps a day. I worked at it, though. I would also almost always climb the equivalent of 10 flights of stairs each day. Yesterday, which was a perfectly normal day, I got almost 13,000 steps and climbed the equivalent of 29 flights of stairs. You don’t go anywhere here without climbing stairs or a hill. And our house is on three levels. We live in a hill town and we are at the top. To go to the piazza, which is only about 50 yards away, you have to climb the hill back to the house. I will say sometimes I think twice about going down knowing that I’ll have to come back up. But the longer I’m here the easier it gets. By the end of our year here, I’ll be like a mountain goat hopping back up the hill. Well, a girl can dream, right?