November Pork Festival: Diaries of a Jew in Italy

Are you there God (of bagels and lox), it’s me Michelle, please forgive me for today I have sinned.  I went to the most delicious festival in Zibello, the town best known for its production of Culatello, the prime and outrageously expensive variety of prosciutto. As sacreligious as this might be for one of the Jewish variety, I nonetheless had a religious experience with each bite of delicious cured meat that passed through my lips.

November Porc (yes spelled with a C) was just one of many celebrations Italian regions put on for their various famous products.

At the festival, aside from endless varieties of cured meat,  there was amazing cheese, artisanal beer, hand crafted china, wine, and everything else that puts spice into the life of the average Italian. I was a face in the crowd of hungry folks, all gathering for a general appreciation of pork products and the like….

This festival was the perfect remedy after a not so emotionally uplifting evening. Again, devouring my emotions. Delicious and absolutely recommended.  I find solace in cured meat. This isn’t abnormal right?

 

Eating my Emotions: The ‘Heart’-Ships of a Gastronome

You know the days where the only thing you want to do is drink a bottle of wine with an incredibly long straw and hide under the bed?? Well, thank god I am in Italy because eating my emotions takes on an entirely new meaning, a superior echelon per se…

Eating an inordinate amount of various pastas, marinated vegetables, grilled shrimps, chocolates, and other various necessities at the ALMA culinary academy (the most presitigious in Italia) allows me to forget my troubles, frustration over my Italian ex boyfriend, and general disregard for life on gray days.

Today being Saturday, I tried to forget my aching heart (ah, Italian romance) and went the open street market here in Parma. I bought soo many vegetables and for so cheap that I almost feel guilty.

10 EURO!

Not to mention the most insanely amazing ricotta that has ever passed through lips. Let me tell you something, if tasting cheese and buying cheap vegetables is enough to make me cry…. perhaps there is an indication there of some underlying emotional upset, but you know what? I am eating my emotions, and loving every god damn bite.

Il Mio Palazzo: The Italian Mansion

Waking up at 7am in a haze of both jet lag and being licked in the face by my friend’s wolf (yes, wolf) I was very much mentally prepared to move into my own place, one that I have been anticipating for the past month and a half..

After paying a 300E fee as a deposit for my place, my new roommates and I anxiously arrived at our apartment, which, from the outside is quite impressive. Made in the traditional Italian architectural style, the house towers above the street in 3 floors, large and yellow, covered in vines and surrounded by large trees.

My being the pessimist, I assumed the beauty of the outside was a nice façade to mask a horror that lurked inside..I could not have been more wrong.

The door creaked open as we looked inside with anticipatory excitement… this is our new home.

(granted things look a little stark now but we’re working on it)

Entrance Room
Our Living room... One of those windows opens to a Balcony
La Mia Cucina (my Kitchen)

And most importantly… My dear bedroom and my beloved bed.

My Room!
Delicious
Complementary Ikea Light

Albeit the fact that I spent an additional 210E on various essentials at Ikea yesterday (Ikea in Italy?!?!), I am beginning to settle in quite nicely. Learning how to live on your own is much easier said than done.. I’ve eaten nothing but Mueslix and yogurt for the past 2 days (breakfast/lunch/dinner). Let’s hope my cooking skills improve as the year goes on……

 

Eating Your Pets: The Carbon Pawprint

Thanks to Al Gore and other various scaremongers for global warming (not that it isn’t an imminent issue) we as a society have become well acquainted with the term “Carbon Footprint” as we are constantly told of how our actions have a direct effect on the carbon emissions into the environment..

The obvious culprits of high carbon emissions are :

  • SUVs
  • Cattle (methane)
  • Oil Refineries
  • International Trade
  • Large Corporate Factories
  • Etc

But one serious contributor to high carbon emissions may be laying in bed next to you at this very moment….!!

No I’m not talking about your gassy spouse, but rather your family pet!

It’s true, your family dog places a serious carbon pawprint on the environment, in fact, studies show that over their life span, having domestic animal is worse (emission wise) than owning an SUV!

Here are some interesting quotes that came from the article I read on the BBC news site:

“The authors [of the book “Time to Eat Your Dog”] claim that keeping a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving a 4.6 litre Land Cruiser 10,000km a year.

They use a rather unusual method of calculating environmental impact.

Instead of measuring emissions of CO2, or CO2 equivalent, they calculate the literal footprint or “global hectare” (gha) – the amount of land it takes to support a given activity.

So they work out that constructing and driving the Land Cruiser for a year takes 0.41 gha.

Growing and manufacturing the 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a border collie or cocker spaniel eats every year takes about 0.84 gha.

A bigger dog such as a German shepherd consumes even more – its pawprint is more like 1.1 gha.” –BBC Article

The most environmentally friendly animals include: Hamsters, Cats, and Birds. But the most carbon efficient animal is the goldfish!

The best way to solve the problem with your domestic dog’s carbon emissions?! Eat it!! (so the article suggests) This is real sustainability folks!

And HERE is a recipe for Dog stew… for any of you die-hard environmentalists that want to jump on the train to reduce carbon emissions (though I do not endorse eating your family dog by any means)

The Italian Breakfast: A Love for Biscotti

When the average American wakes up in the morning, no meal sounds more enticing than a nice scrambled egg and bacon breakfast, carbs are unnecessary contributors to the protein stars of the show.

In Italia however, a morning meal of this sort invokes fear and cold sweats into the natives.

Italian #1: But, eggs, for first meal!? You Americans eat Frittata for breakfast!? Siete Pazzi! (you’re all nuts!)

American #1: We also eat salads as dinner entrees!!! (cue horror music soundtrack)

The point I’m getting to, is that breakfast for basically every Italian consists of strong espresso and a various assortment of sweet carbohydrates. Not exactly a sustainable meal for the working man, though we all know how Italians feel about hard work 🙂

An example of the typical Italian breakfast (specifically mine this morning):

Colazione italiano

  • Coffee (not pictured)
  • Sliced bread
  • Nutella (an essential staple)
  • Cookies
  • Milk
  • Jam

Though there is very little nutritional content in a breakfast of this variety.. It does help to create the ravenous hunger needed for the extremely large lunch portions to be had here. And who doesn’t like cookies and milk for breakfast?

I’ll leave you with a photo of the Alps I took from the plane, a sight that informs me I am close to the motherland

Winter Alps
Winter Alps near Milano

Buona Giornata!!

Imminent Overindulgence..

As my head spins in a whirlwind of unpacked clothes and pharmaceuticals I came across this entry on the University of Gastronomic Science’s student blog (one that I will most likely be contributing to in the coming months)

The entry can be read here : Warning: Overindulgence Required

Written by a current UNISG student, she warns us of the imminent “doom” of waking up at ungodly hours and eating until our stomachs are full beyond capacity…Now, I don’t know about you folks, but Hedonism is kind of my penchant, at least now I’ll learn how to do this professionally 😉 (kidding kidding)

Regardless, my priority to join a gym has just been elevated a few notches. 😉

Next time we speak I’ll be in Parma.

Viva la Visa: Overcoming Italian Bureaucracy!

Well after enduring a nailbiting month of waiting and negotiating with the bitter Italians that work at the consulate general of Los Angeles, I have persevered and FINALLY received by beautiful little passport in the mail, stapled in it my study visa that lasts 1 years time.

If studying abroad for a year was this complicated, imagine what moving to Italy altogether would entail. Oy it pains me to fathom.

I’ve been really taking in my American surroundings in these final days here at home. The wide city streets, excessively large parking lots for our excessively large cars (for excessively large people?). The conveniences we have here are unparalleled. Only in America can you buy cereal and a lawn chair under the same roof… or antacids at 3am…or a donut from the local fry-ery at 4am.

Regardless of convenience, living abroad puts the value of these things into perspective. What is more important, an extra large pizza for the price of thrift store underwear or a normal personal pie baked with love and attention?

I leave the day after tomorrow. Goodbye America, Buongiorno Parma.