All posts filed under: Life in Italy

Bye Bye, Bra

Both the Dean and the Spiritual President (definitely his official title) were out of town, so the guy on the right here (Michele Fino, a UNISG Food Law professor) made a joke about having to bring out the B team for the graduation. The guy on the left (Slow Food International Secretary General Paolo DiCroce) was not amused. I did it! I have a Master’s degree (in Food Culture and Communication with a focus in Representation, Meaning and Media) with a title almost as long as my undergraduate degree (International and Global Studies with focuses in Political Science, Latin America, and Spanish)! After wrapping up my internship commitments here in New York at Saveur and Food Tank, launching a personal website, starting a new stream of stories for Contemporary Food Lab, turning in my thesis (a blend of personal experience and theory), I embarked upon a much needed week (or two, let’s see) of resting priority-resetting (as well as immune system-resetting). This meant good, nourishing food (chestnut and pumpkin soup!), not waking up at 5:30 AM, spending leisurely afternoons and evening drinking …

The Last Supper: UNISG Lunch Edition

Some of my classmates surveying a spread of tomatoes, pasta salads, lemon cake and lentils.  Class is over. No more 3 hour lectures stuck in uncomfortable chairs, no more attendance checks, no more bus rides to Pollenzo. By comparison to my last day at Middlebury, yesterday afternoon felt quite unremarkable. We each brought a dish that we could tell a story about, we sat down together around a large table, there was some wine, we cleaned up, and that was it. No fireworks. No nothing. I think it was partly because the visiting professor offered up some of his very apt observations about our class, namely that we were a fragmented bunch each looking ahead to going our own way. I can certainly say that I feel and have felt that way for a while–being in and around a group of 24 students was overwhelming for me at times, so I snuck in some alone time wherever I could. And now we’re headed off for a few months of internship. Some to work in kitchens, …

One Linden Leaf Roll, Please

Our contribution to the class foraging dinner: quinoa, almonds, cranberries and red pepper wrapped in leaves from a linden tree. I’m in the home stretch with classes here at UNISG. With internship and housing plans locked up in NYC, I’m looking forward to being back on my home turf. Still, a tornado of a professor blew through Aula Dominici yesterday and knocked me out of my lack-of-coffee-induced daydream. His name is Andrea Pieroni. This guy is just a breath of fresh air. Yes, he had some PowerPoint slides, but he stood in front of the elevated desk reserved for professors (in other words, not tinkering with his computer) and gesticulated around wildly for 3 hours. He talked about how sustainable gastronomy isn’t just about sitting around, drinking espresso every 1.5 hours and theorizing (which we do a lot of). It’s about going OUT–in his case, to do field research, but in our case, to meet people, to taste things and to communicate about it. I have to admit, I didn’t think I would be so intrigued by a …

Thoughts on Eating Out

My unconventional, super foodie 22nd birthday cake from Flour + Water: zucchini flower cake with burrata ice cream. Today marked the end of a somewhat lackluster few days of considering food identity with a Belgian historian. There was a little nugget in the last class: an “exam” where we could write anything we wanted about eating out. It could be a fake restaurant review. It could be a firsthand account of that time a waiter kicked you out (no, that’s never happened to me). It could be a haiku about Open Table. For whatever reason, the image of this cake popped into my mind, so I decided to write about celebrating birthdays in restaurants. I think my argument could be extended to any number of special occasions, including graduation parties or anniversaries, but I wanted to KISS (keep it simple, stupid) given that my non-blue blue book only had 4 pages in it. I love eating out. I do. I grew to love it during a semester abroad in Buenos Aires where I lived with a vegan …

Please Bring a Dish Representing Your Country

A very typical Californian meal consisting of avocado, a grain salad, some Acme bread and some cheese…gotcha! This meal was from Les Halles de Lyon! If I hear a version of this request one more time, I might…I don’t know…combust… This week we have a class called “Social History of Food” which unfortunately is quite boring. The professor has good intentions and is probably well-respected in his field, but I don’t really care about many female dishwashers from the Netherlands there were working in restaurants in Brussels in 1840. I’m sorry. A glimmer of hope in the 6 hours of lecture we have endured so far was the theme of food identity and if it’s possible to have dishes that are representative of a country (in his case, Belgium) or even a region (Europe). Now, this being an international university and all (even though I would say the breakdown is mostly Italians, Americans and “other”), this question comes up quite often. At the ever-popular “Street Food Sessions” held at the Gastronomic Society, students from India, China, Argentina and Mexico have had …

A One Year Check-In

A wonderful selection of enlightening texts on meat and German food history at a deli in Berlin that unfortunately I do not remember the name of! There’s hope for me yet, guys. If Taylor of Good Food Jobs says there is, then there is. Please read this article. It will explain a lot about where I am and what I’ve been doing in this town with a lot of 80 year old people and veal sausage. You (really, I mean I) could look at what I’ve done or not done in the last year since graduating with a degree in International and Global Studies and raise an eyebrow (or two). After deciding that a life in the State Department just wasn’t for me (this revelation came a few years ago, but still I found transitions to democracies in countries like Argentina and Chile strangely fascinating), I landed an Outreach & Communications internship at Good Food Awards–appropriately enough through Good Food Jobs. Side note: I am all over that website. It is such a wonderful resource for getting a …

A Brutally Honest Review of EXPO Milano 2015

The biggest winners at the EXPO? The designers, architects and illustrators who were commissioned to design the pavilions and the content inside. Yesterday, I made the journey over to the World’s Fair, which started on May 1 with a mild case of anti-capitalist protests and angry op-eds about the fact that the lead sponsors include McDonald’s and CocaCola–companies that don’t exactly jive with the tagline of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” A few things to note: the site IS in fact there. Like the lead up to any Olympics, haters gonna hate and say that there will be no doors on the bathroom stalls or something like that. There is actually a railway stop right outside the fairgrounds, which is quite convenient. It is where I met up with my friend Joe (who I had many an adventure with in Buenos Aires) and his girlfriend Paola, studying abroad in Florence and up to Milan to rendezvous for the day. Without really knowing what was going on, we took our first steps inside the UN …

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I am not a coffee snob, so I accepted the chocolate shavings on top of my cappuccino with glee. Others might shudder.  I’m almost two weeks (12 days exactly) into my sans coffee life. No espresso. No iced coffee. No cappuccino. No nothing.  It’s wonderful. I feel invincible. Well, I’m still scared of large dogs. But definitely thumbs up. Here in Italy, the consumption of coffee is a highly social behavior almost exclusively engaged in while standing up for under 5 minutes at a time. With that in mind, here is a look into my university environment. Let’s have a cappuccino before class and talk about the day ahead. Va bene. And then at our 10:30 AM break, let’s have an espresso and talk about how tired we still are. Then after lunch, to help digestion, obviously, we will have an espresso. (I’m curious about those digestion claims, by the way.) At the 2:30 slump, we will have another one while we look longingly outside at the sun-drenched courtyard. What’s the count? I’ve lost track …

Chef’s Table, From the Couch

Netflix has a new, original series out that you should be adding to “My List” (no, not my list, your my list) right this second. It’s called Chef’s Table. Now, I hear you saying, basta with the chef porn. Mind of a Chef? Been there done that. A Chef’s Life? That too. But this one is a little different. More thoughtful, more artistic, less science-y, less drama. The structure is an almost-hour segment devoted to six chefs talking about their philosophy, current-day environment, humble beginnings, catastrophic failures, ingredients, families, etc. There are also some glorious, affirming statements made by a rotating crew of “expert food writers” from top newspapers and magazines in each segment. You can either choose the binge-watching strategy and cruise through all six at the same time (not recommended) or take your time. The director and producer is David Gelb–the same guy that was responsible for putting out Jiro Dreams of Sushi, so get ready for some sweeping orchestral music and some long shots of sashimi being fondled. Here’s my quick and dirty review of what went …

What’s in a Frame?

Can you spot my frame? What is obscured? What peeks through? Do you recognize any of the scraps of paper expertly taped together by some B-grade, Italian non-Scotch tape? I realize it’s been awhile since the “Grad School” section of this blog has seen any action. Yes, I’ve been traveling a lot (maybe too much… as I sit here battling a sinus infection) lately. But I do actually go to school too. I swear. This week wrapped up a course on Meaning and Representation, two chunks of my long-a** program title: Master in Food Communication and Culture: Representation, Meaning and Media. The media part is easy enough to explain to people. I usually use helpful synonyms like “journalism” or “documentary.” But the M+R part, not so much. So what is it? Well, here’s a glimpse into one assignment. After a week of discussing the more theoretical aspects of food (it’s material…not always! it’s something an anthropologist can study… it’s something that has to be your own lived experience!), we got down to actually DOING stuff. We were …