In my Bologna apartment kitchen there is only one pot, a colander, a wooden spoon and a serrated steak knife. Despite the limited tools and tiny space in the kitchen, I find myself paradoxically more inspired to cook here for our family than I did in our gorgeous professionally appointed kitchen at home.
The cupboards hood only salt, sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whole-wheat biscuits, honey, nutella, tea, jar of organic puttanesca and bag of polenta. In the refrigerator, there is unsalted butter, pancetta, ricotta, strawberries, whole milk, eggs and valeriana (mache). I walk to the market each day (with my own grocery bags) to purchase meats, fruits and fresh pasta. Can you see the simplicity of this life?
For breakfast I like to make eggs, toast with jam and fresh ricotta and berries drizzled with honey, or this morning I served pan-fried polenta with fresh apple compote. We eat out for lunches as we are usually on the go or on a day trip, but sometime we make simple supper at home. How does fresh pasta with tomato sauce, valerinana with pecorino and green apple salad sound?
Shopping is fun with my crazy italianglish and sign language to indicate what cheese I want and how much. Emma is terribly embarrassed by my language skills. She cringes when I bust out my Spanish. I don’t mean to speak Spanish—just when I tell my brain to communicate in something outside of English that is what comes out! But she’s mortified.
We’ve eaten very well here in Bologna, possibly the best food in Italy! They are very particular about their pasta. Every shape, size and variety has a different name and particular sauce. There are also different kinds of pasta based on their ingredients. Is it eggless pasta? Then it must be en brodo (in broth) Pasta must never be served with the meat (carne) or the vegetables. At home we often have noodles on the side of our plate with chicken and vegetables – shocking! It’s forbidden to mix The Pasta with something so inferior. This is an insult to good pasta. Pasta stands alone in the Italian table. If you like vegetables or meat you may have them only after the pasta course. The Italian’s have serious rules about food, what combines, when you can eat what.
Over the weekend Josh’s work friend Max took us out for a fantastic Sunday lunch. We started with cresentina; a fried dough pocket served with a semi soft cheese, Parma ham and pickled onions. You must tear open the piping hot pocket, stuff inside the cheese and ham and enjoy! It was beyond delicious; a salty-bready-cheesey-warm explosion in your mouth. Then we had pastas for the table: tortellini con crema; tender little meat filled bites with mild sauce, lasagna; a monument with 8(!) layers of pasta béchamel sauce and light cheese; talgliatelli with ragu; pasta cooked to perfection with the meat sauce that Bologna is known for worldwide. Following this feast we finished with crema fritta or fried custard cream cubes—yes fried custard—sprinkled with powdered sugar. Josh asked for a capuchino to complete the meal and we learned that this is very bad! Never order capuchino in the afternoon, straight espresso is proper, but if you must have milk, a macchiato is acceptable (espresso with a shot of milk). Basta! (pictures of this incredible meal are all on Josh’s camera! so you foodpic-junkies will have wait until he posts!)
As a little consolation here is the best pastry shop we’ve found in Bologna. If you look carefully you may see on the cakes on the left (near the nut tart) they are made with the wild strawberries. They are the size of a thimble and although small full of a musky- not-quite- sweet taste unlike a strawberry, raspberry, or any other berry I’ve tasted.
And finally the book! We’re actually here in Italy because Josh’s promoting his latest book. We wandered into a bookshop (the kids are always hungry for reading– it’s an insatiable craving) and saw his book on the shelf!!! What a fun surprise!