I was out today for lunch, with this invaluable book propped up against my water glass, when the waitress came up to me.
"Are you planning a move to Italy?"
"Yes, my husband is supposed to be starting culinary school there this fall."
"Really? Where in Italy?
She paused and looked at me, balancing a pitcher of iced tea, a pitcher of water, and two empty plates, and said, "I guess Florence is nice, if you like that sort of thing. It completely lacks modern amenities, though."
And I could not for the life of me figure out what she was talking about. I mean, they have hot AND cold running water, our prospective apartment contains a full refrigerator, a dishwasher, a washing machine, and an air conditioner (which I plan to NEVER turn on, lest we get socked with 300 euro energy bills), Italians are famous for their cell-phone consumption... I was drawing a complete blank.
I guess my confusion showed on my face, since she said, "Well, they don't have supermarkets."
Ohh-kay. I've always thought it would take some getting used to, going to like six different stores to put together a meal - you know, the pasta stand, the root vegetable guy, the lady who sells the best peppers, the awesome bakery down the street, the wine shop, and the butcher's - but I don't view this as being backwards. I think it's a much better way to look at food, and though I might get testy popping into one place for my butter and another for my bread, I believe I'm going to come out of it with a better appreciation of the people behind the food. (Speaking of appreciating the people behind the food, we finally opened the fig preserves we bought from the lady I described in this post - and they are delicious. Not too sweet, just nice and figgy. Back to you, girlie.)
When I go to our local HEB, I see so many people with their carts full of boxed foods, or meats wrapped in styrofoam and plastic. We're so out of touch with our food here, and I'm so excited to learn from the Italians about what makes a good ball of mozzarella, or how to grow the best basil, or what you feed a cow to make the steak taste that good.