“What are you going to miss the most about your time abroad?”
That question should be at least slightly difficult, considering all of the places, people and experiences I have had the pleasure of knowing over the last four months. But it’s not a hard question. In fact it’s not just easy, it’s a no brainer.
It’s the food.
As I sit in the same cafe where I wrote my first FoxTales post, I can’t help but think about how far I’ve come this semester (literally), and yet, I’m literally right back where I started.
My first post was dedicated to Italian culture, and my last will be just the same. There’s a reason Italians are known for having the best food in the entire world. It’s because it’s true. There’s a reason they advertise “slow food” to the American tourists. There’s a reason there’s no such thing as “fast food” in Italy. It’s because it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense. Why should food be fast? We absolutely NEED food to nourish our bodies, so we might as well put all of the tender love and care we can into it, right?
American’s have not yet seemed to grasp the concept that meals should not be an inconvenience. It shouldn’t be a salad on the go to save calories and a few bucks. It should be planned, prepared, and enjoyed. That’s why food is what I will miss the most about Italy, because the concept of “food” is totally different in America.
Italians look at a steaming pan of four cheese truffle gnocchi with delight and indulgence, not as a gooey plate of hot calories they’ll have to run off at the gym later. It’ll come off naturally from walking to the market, or up the endless stairs in their two hundred year old flats. Italians don’t limit themselves, because they don’t have to. They don’t binge on junk food late at night because they don’t feel the need, their afternoon gelato satisfies that craving.
From the cheeses and the homemade pasta to the way the butcher knows my name and makes every one of my sandwiches as if it was the first, last, and best sandwich he will ever make, these are things I will crave back in the states. “Made with love,” he says every time as he hands it over the counter to me. It’s because it is.
To Italians, food is love. There’s a reason Italian mothers cook enough food to feed the Philadelphia Eagles every Sunday. It’s because nothing gives them more joy than full hearts and full bellies, and good conversation. At Italian dinners there is nothing but food, wine, and conversation, which is the way it should be and always has been.
As a self proclaimed “foodie”, amazing meals are something I have appreciated my entire life. From a young age, my parents, who are also adventurous eaters, have encouraged me to try everything that is put in front of me—because statistics show, it’s usually delicious. But, out of everything I’ve tried, I have never experienced food like Italian cuisine. Everything from the coffee, appetizers, primi piatti, secondi, and dolci is simple, thought out, and precisely made to please even the pickiest of eaters. As I prepare for my return to the states, I think about how I will never balk at a long line for an amazing sandwich at a deli ever again, or a wait at a restaurant with fresh ingredients and amazing, personalized dishes. All food should be slow food, and all food should be enjoyed. Enough of “fast food”, who needs efficiency over quality? Because if there’s any thing my meals out abroad have taught me, it’s that if you don’t enjoy the experience, you are just eating, and what fun is that?
So if you study abroad or are planning on studying abroad, eat the food. Eat and savor all that you can. The McCann Gym will still be open next semester.
While college students prepare and cram for finals over the next few weeks, I will be making homemade gnocchi, consuming all the pecorino cheese I can, and finishing my four month quest for the world’s best panini…and maybe doing some studying in between.
I’ll see you soon Marist, with Rossi’s Deli in hand.