Thursday, May 9, 2019

Serious About Italian Food

Celebration of Italian Cuisine
Arriving in Italy with a mind to taste the sauce, the pasta and those meatballs, you are shocked that spaghetti and meatballs is not offered in almost any menus except a few tourist catered restaurants.  From then on you will either choose to eat a lot of pizza or venture into a new tasting adventure that will make good memories when you are back home.  What to try? Here are a few suggestions.
Marinated Sardines
The menus feature what Italians call "antipasti".  These will be choices of appetizers.  There will be cold cuts of choice meats, some cheeses,  specially prepared vegetables or fish delicacies.  I promise you that these sardines won't taste like the sardines that come from a can or jar.


You might find bruschetta on the menu, be assured that they will use those tasty ripe tomatoes we hardly find anymore in big grocery stores.  They will have added extra virgin olive oil and some spices on toasted bread.  You cannot beat the flavor!

Ultimate Taste!

Another specialty to try would be these shellfish that are called St. Johns.  They are cooked in an oven with butter and just a touch of spices.  This dish is more expensive but really worth it.

A primi that is offered more in the south is cannelloni.  Pasta filled with mozzarella swimming in a rich tomato sauce, this is one of my favorite looked for items when we are south of Firenze.

My Spaghetti With More Sauce
Bigoli With White Sauce
In the north, particularly in the
Veneto area (Venice), you will see featured on a menu a pasta called bigoli.  This is a larger type of spaghetti.  If you like pasta I recommend you try this as restaurants that have bigoli usually make their own.   Nothing beats fresh pasta and the Italians present it with less sauce than foreigners are used to.   Don't worry it is not  impolite to ask the waiter to add more sauce before bringing it to the table.

Musso With Gnocchi
In some restaurants in the Veneto you will find musso, donkey, with a red sauce.  Cooked long for a better flavor, it is known as a comfort food.  On a cold and rainy evening, it works for me.   In the volcanic hills outside  Padova you can find this dish with gnocchi, potato dumplings made by hand.  Paired with a red wine from this area famous for the volcanic soil wine production... PERFETTO!

Lastly, you may not find any vegetables on the menu, and if you wish, you can ask for contorni (side dishes).  The restaurant may have cooked seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, spinach, zucchini or roasted potatoes.  The locals know to ask, don't be ashamed to inquire when ordering.

I hope that you can visit Italy and enjoy some of these tastes.  Wishing you a sunny day.  Buona Giornata!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Super Market Challenge

I go grocery shopping once a week.  I try to go early and on a weekday.  Saturday shopping in a large grocery store can be frustrating.  It will be crowded and people are in a hurry.  Most of the time,  even on weekdays I feel a bit stressed by the time I reach my car to unload my cart.

It all starts when I lock my car and take my two large plastic bags over to where I stick in a euro into the cart lock.  The market makes sure that they don't lose any carts to homeless people.  I don't know why they do this as there are no homeless people in my area.  Italy does not have the kind of homeless situation such as found in America.  I will get my euro back when I return the cart, it is just kind of a free rental situation.

I head into the market and my first stop is the vegetable area.  Italy has fairly good produce and where it came from is stated above the item.  Cabbage from Germany, apples from Spain, you will know what country it came from.   Even in the fish market we find listings of where the fish originated.

I will find 4 types of tomatoes, and right now the little round ones are the best tasting, while the big ones have no taste at all.  You pay more for the little ones, of course.  There will be 6 choices of apples, 3 lemons, 3 strawberries, 2 bananas, and your basic selection of vegetables such as broccoli, green and white cauliflower, and 3 choices of potatoes from different areas. 

What I find missing that I would like to see are small potatoes, berries, limes, and small carrots.  I will almost never find chili peppers that are hot.  Sometimes in August I can find them if I am lucky.  This is why I grow my own.

Leaving the veggie area is when it gets a bit maddening.  Italian shoppers drive their carts like southern Italians drive.  They have no concern for others, it is a "me first" world for them.  They cut in front, make turns immediately which cause a person to stop and not bang into their cart. They block the aisle, stopping to make a choice, or most maddening, they block the aisle while talking to another Italian.  I will wait and wait and hope they will notice that I cannot go forward, but mostly they don't have a clue.  It is just their way of shopping.  Sometimes there will be a line of folks wanting to go forward, but grandma has found an old friend and be damned with everyone else.   Beware of Grandma and Grandpa shopping together!

One also has to deal with the speed shoppers.  These are the people who are shopping alone and are pulling a overloaded small plastic cart behind them.  Someone shot off a starter gun and they are hustling through the store, making everyone else wait while they cut across the aisles without any concern for the direction most people are going.  These people never look you in the eye, its head down, full speed ahead.   I think they learned how to drive in Naples, a city famous for horrendous drivers.

Fish Anyone?
Between the vegetable area and the specialty meats in my store one will find a person cooking fried fish items.  I hurry quickly on to the milk area holding my breath.  The smell is not one I could get attached to.  Even my Italian wife hates that stinky fish stand. 

Not To Be Found
Italy is beginning to catch up with world flavors.  When I first moved to the Veneto I had to hunt to find anything with hot spicy flavor.  I could not find anything Mexican, and not much from Asia.   I began to fill my suitcase like a smuggler when I came back from visiting the states.  Avocados were hard to find, limes I could find in one big market called Iperlando.  But now these things are beginning to show up.  In my market, Ali, there is an area of shelves 4 feet wide which has world food items.  This is still small in comparison to the one area I found last weekend in Scotland shown here.
This Is Only Half Found In Scotland

                                    GB American Supermarkets

If you want to know a little about Italians, I can tell you, as I have written before,  that most of them do not appreciate hot spicy food.  When I have guests and we have Mexican food, I put several bottles of different types of hot sauce on the table.  My Italian friends have to be bugged to try them.  Hardly none like the taste.  In fact, in Chinese restaurants here, the usual Chinese hot spicy items are not to be found.  The Chinese folks know not to serve spicy.  We have to ask for it when we go.  You will not find hot chili oil on the table, you have to ask.  In a sushi restaurant they usually give a small dab of wasabi, we have to ask for more.  This is how it is in Italy.  It is sad to me that Italians never really get to taste the real thing.  (BTW Italians eat a lot of pizza when visiting foreign countries.  Seriously!)

We buy our drinking water in the market.  The cost is around 30 cents for a liter and a half bottle.  We buy it by the 6 pack.  You can have plain or fizzy.  Our tap water at home is clean and okay to drink but I like the taste of fizzy.  When we were in California last summer I noticed that water there was hugely expensive.  That is strange to me after 10 years in Italy. 

After battling the other shoppers aisle after aisle it is time to check out.  This is the most frustrating part for me.  Here is what happens.
The moving belt area where you place your items is way too small.  My plan is to get my stuff onto that belt and move quickly past the checker and begin loading my bags.  This does not always work out well as I have a week's worth of food.  Finally when I get to the bagging area (checkers do not help bag, you are on your own) I begin throwing things into my plastic shopping bag. I try to put the heavy stuff on the bottom, but as I am bagging the lady is pushing my items down and they are piling up.  I try NOT to look at the shoppers behind me waiting as they will always have the look as if to say, "MG why can't this guy go faster we are in a hurry!"
I am throwing things into my bags as fast as I can, but I never beat the checker who seems pleased to announce how much the total is.  Then she sits and stares at me while I finish.  It is always a frustrated stare.  I have discussed this with my Italian friends and they tell me that this is normal, this horse race to the finish.  I will never get used to it, actually remembering when stores used to have a bagger and a checker.  Now they even have a do it yourself checking stand.  I refuse to use those because they have eliminated a person's job.  One of the "modern" things I really hate!

Apple Cider Not Found Here
Finally my bags are full and back in my cart, I pull out my wallet and fish out my euros.  I look at  the checker but she is too busy to look at me, her customer.   She pulls out the change and the receipt, placing both on a small plastic area.  Italians don't like to put the change in your hand.  Usually she won't look at me, and instead turns to greet the next customer.  I sure miss the "How are  you today" and the "Have a nice day". 

Now I am on my way to my car, pushing my wandering cart.  I say wandering because shopping carts in Italy do not  go straight.  Any dip in the road, any non level place will send my cart in another direction.  By this time I am spotted by an African and he is headed my way.  These fellows hang out in market parking areas and try to "help" people with their groceries.  Even when I tell them I don't need help, then still follow me to my car.  I intentionally park in the furtherest spot for exercise, they will go all the way with me.  It is their hope that I will relinquish my cart to them and they can collect the euro rental fee when returning the cart.  Sometimes they get lucky, but usually not as I support a guy from Nigeria that lives in my village.

This is my typical shopping day in Italy.  I wish you a happy day and a world of peace.  Ciao!

Friday, April 5, 2019

I have spent several unsuccessful hours attempting to upload a  video from the Jimmy Dore Youtube site.   This video showed what happened when Guiado decided to visit a barrio in Caracas.  Those Venezuelans don't seem too happy to see him.   He was lucky to have some bodyguards, and he was never able to get out of his car.

                                 part of the whole video

You can see the entire video and more at:
It was taken from a show by Jimmy Dore.

Why won't  CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other main steam media not show us this video?

Do you  know that:
There are more people in poverty in the United States than there are people in Venezuela.
Will regime change benefit the Venezuelan people?  Or?
The Koch Brothers need heavy Venezuelan oil for their refineries on the east coast of the U.S.  Apparently they cannot use Texas oil.  The media will not tell you that.
Did you know that Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia.
Up until a few weeks ago the huge majority of Venezuelans did not know who Guiado was.  Imagine this regime change happening in America.

Elliot Abrams is leading the United States involvement with Guiado.  Older people remember Abrams  for his involvement in the Iran/Contra scandal during Reagan’s second term.  Senior administration officials secretly sold arms (without the knowledge of Reagan) to Iran.  The proceeds was to be used to fund the Contras in Nicaragua despite a law, the Boland Amendment, which blocked such a transaction.
14 individuals were indicted, Abrams and 10 others were convicted.   Abrams is also well known as a key architect in the Iraq War.  We all know how that turned out!

I don’t think we are being told the truth.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

How I See It

America the Beautiful
Pike's  Peak, Colorado

Today I am writing the blog as an answer to a FaceBook posting.  The posting showed a professor and his presentation to his class on socialism.  He presented as facts many things that are untrue.   

This professor stated that schools in “socialistic countries” turned out students who were ungraded and passed to the next grade with no challenge.   Since I have  lived in Italy for ten years, and I know families who have children.  I would like to discuss what I have seen in Italy so that you know the truth.  
I was a teacher for 37 years in America and I take an interest in schooling here in Italy.  I know that the students here are given a great amount of homework and are graded on what they turn in.  They take tests and are graded on work in class.  They are even given homework over the summer vacation.  I have friends whose children flunked their grade and had to repeat a year, or make up the grade in summer classes. 

The education system is different from what is found in the United States in another big way.  During the 8th grade term the student’s parents meet with the teachers to discuss what type of high school the student will attend the following year.  Students can choose business studies, or technical school, including architecture, engineering, or a trade such as plumbing, electrical or carpentry.  In my area of Padova  there are many high schools.  Each one having classes to educate the students in their choice of training.  There are schools which offer training in culinary and restaurant work, and also hotel management.  Don’t think that this school would be easy, my neighbor around the corner had a son enrolled and his grades were poor enough that he had to repeat the classes.  

The trade school is a real strength of the system in comparison to America because the American education system is designed for students who are going on to a college.  There are many students who would benefit from a technical education, as they are not able to compete in a University setting.  

After graduating high school students can attend a University and compete for placement much the same as in America.  I have an artist friend whose daughter wanted to study medicine at the University in Padova.  However, she did not have the grades to enter medicine school  and chose to apply for the pharmacy school instead.  If students were ungraded and rubber stamped through school, as this professor stated,  there would be no competitive system to enter a university.  This is not a case here in Italy.  I think the system they have in place is a good one, making more sense to give a good education for people.  If this is socialism I like it.  

University studies in Italy are almost cost free.  Students have some minor fees and they have to buy their books.  They will graduate without a huge debt and be able to start their life without years of a  monthly bill payment.  The people of Italy have decided to make that kind of investment in the country’s future.  Everyone, regardless of family finances, can attend a university.  

If one uses google to look up the meaning of socialism it is defined as a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Wikipedia lists Italy as a county under socialism, however,  I cannot find much of this “ownership” by the community.  My wife works in a factory doing very well in the production of dental implants and this factory is owned by one family.  She was previously employed by another factory which  produced small parts for automobiles and airplanes and this factory is also owned by one family.  Both families, as a mention, live pretty well off, in comparison to the middle class.   

I have read that in Germany one person is chosen from the workers will sit on the board of factories and have a vote in finances and direction of the business.  I do not see that here in Italy, but there are unions who have a voice.   Imagine Wells Fargo Bank having a worker on the board and being able to ask questions about  the huge bonuses and corruption of signing up accounts which were fake. 

My wife would tell you that the workers don’t have a large say in factory business.  In comparison to unions in America I would say they are much weaker here.  I have seen demonstrations against poor safety rules which have resulted in deaths of workers.  In this matter the unions speak out.  None of this looks like socialism in the definition found above.  

The countries listed on the internet as socialistic are Armenia ,Bolivia, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy.   People throw out the term socialism know that the  definition includes public ownership of factories, etc.  I do not see public ownership of factories in Europe.  I would love to own stock in the factory where my wife works, but it is owned by a family, no stock options available. I drive by hundreds of small and large factories in the Padova area and they are owned by families, and some are available for stock ownership.  I have been to Germany, France, Denmark (listed above) and I see the same, many factories and businesses owned not by the public.

The definition of  socialism included businesses regulated by the community as a whole.  I do see this here.  Regulations have kept the price of my cell phone much much lower than what it would be in the US.  I pay 10 euros monthly.  How much is your cell bill?

America has socialism. America has public ownership of fire departments, police departments, airports, and even public electricity, sewer and water.  Selling these services off to private ownership only turns to a disaster, Greece for example has been forced to sell airport services off to Germany.  This sort of thing always seems to raise the cost of everything in the airport and the services.  

Lastly I want to mention the medical situation here in comparison to the US.
I have a plastic card which allows me to have access to Italian medical services.  All Italians have a right to receive the same treatment whether they are rich or poor.  Walk into a  hospital, no charge.  My medicines that are prescribed by my doctor here cost me 5 euros a month.   I can chose to go, and did,  to a privately run clinic for two MRI tests, which cost me less than a hundred euros.  How much would that be in the US?  The hospital nearest my village is brand new, built two years ago.    The process is modern, for example, I email my doctor that it is time for my prescription to be renewed and he puts it on an ap which I show the  pharmacy.  I can walk into my doctor’s office any time and within a half hour I am sitting at his desk.  He is efficient and concerned about my health.  He takes the time to discuss things.  There will be no bill when I leave.   My Italian doctor has made house visits, three of them to my home.  I cannot imagine my American doctor doing that, although when I had the mumps back in 1953, the doctor arrived with his black bag.  

I think of the millions of people in America afraid to be ill because they know they cannot afford it.  People are taking less insulin to make it last longer because it is expensive.  It is the same for expensive pills, etc.  Thousands of people are going or already gone bankrupt because they cannot afford to pay the hospital bill.  Even senior citizens have to pay for part A and part B of
medicare.  Meanwhile the insurance companies are  paying bonuses to the executives and raking in huge profits.     

 I have been here for 10 years.  I find more similar things economically between America and Italy.  I will admit there are differences, let me give you one example.  Buying a car.  My last car purchased in California I drove off the lot after about two hours of haggling, signing papers, etc.  The price included a commission to the salesman.  My  last car in Italy, I bought it but had to wait for papers to  be processed.  There was no commission to the salesman included.  A week later I took possession of my car.  To obtain a driver’s license I studied a manual in Italian that had 347 pages, then had to pay 500 euros and enroll in a driving school.  The test was ridiculously difficult and many Italians fail the test to repeat it over until the pass.  I did not do well on my first attempt.   have had my American license since 1965,   This is a big difference I find maddening.  But these are small matters I have learned to live with.   BTW Italians in the north are good drivers, and when i am on the Autostrada I am glad that the other drivers have taken and passed that test.

Going by the house of Marco Polo

I get around, I have been to 41 countries in my lifetime.  71/41.   When I go to another country I try to talk to people and find out how they are managing life.  This weekend I was in Scotland and I chose to ride a bus out of the city and see how things are going for Scots.   I had lunch in a friendly pub built in the 1600’s.  One can learn a lot being a fly on the wall surrounded by local citizens rather than tourists. 

I believe that this FB  post was written for political reasons to scare people.  One must ask yourself why.  Why would someone want to keep people from having good health?  Why lie about schooling in Europe?  For certain this professor has never been to Europe.  I am writing the truth and relating what I have seen.  You can decide for yourself.  I trust all of us will read more, and think about what we read and the reason it was written. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

More insights to Italian Life in the North, 2019

America Invades Monselice
A few weeks ago we were driving through Monselice, a small town near Venice.  To our surprise, just below the old castle a new restaurant was being built.  It caught our eyes because it look so out of place.  It looked so American against the Italian buildings.  It jumps right out at you.

We have been waiting for it to open, and found online the menu of what they will offer.  A lot of it looks like Bubba Gump’s menu and some of it looks tailored to what they must think is Italian taste.  I found only a few items I would try, but to be honest it seems a bit over priced.  

This week at my local meat market I ordered ground beef.  I have to tell them to grind it twice and I noticed that they grabbed a fairly lean piece of beef to grind.  After making burgers with it we had a discussion of how it tasted.  I have aways been a bit disappointed with Italian beef as it seems a bit loaded with water.  If you cook a burger in a skillet it almost seems to boil rather than fry. Boiling is not good!  However, when making a  pasta  sauce or taco meat this is not a problem.  

32 Euros!!!
This weekend we made a stop at a burger joint which usually has good burgers.   My burger was so lean it had little taste, the fries arrived cold and the bun was very dry. Let's face it, Italians cannot make a good bun, they are flaky and fall apart in your hands under the weight of a good burger.  The trick to eating one is to wrap it with a napkin to hold it together.  
It was not a good day in burger land.   Please notice the prices on this menu.  I bet you have never seen a burger that costs 32 euros before.  I wonder what this world is coming to!   We had smaller burgers, no worry.

I did realize that I must tell my butcher to add in some fat with my ground beef when comparing this meat patty to the ones I get in my village.  They were the same.    

not a full glass, no ice

My first trip to Europe (1973) was a real eye opener for me.  Such things as dogs in restaurants, people eating an apple with a knife and fork, french  fries only with mayonnaise, (no ketchup available) and shelf milk that tastes horrible were strange to me.   Hot dogs served without a bun, white hot dogs in Munich (awesome) where men had this for breakfast with a liter of beer (also only with mustard).   Food was served without free water, you have to buy it by the bottle.   One good thing is that beer was cheaper  than soda, and sometimes nearly the same price as bottled  water.

Back then ice was not available much (small refrigerators) and when my coke arrived it never had ice in it.  You get more value without ice, but it feels like something is missing.  Over the years Europeans have come to know to give Americans ice in their sodas, (but not always).  Here in Italy ice is not served.  Sometimes they will ask if I want ice, and sometimes I have to ask for it.  My wife, who is Italian, really hates ice in a drink.  She says that Italians believe that cold drinks are not good for your stomach and digestion.  So there you go.   

Here's  Looking at You, Kid!

Tonight we are having a good friend and his family over for dinner.  I will be making pork tamales, chicken tacos, guacamole and sopapillas.  I don’t think he has ever had a margarita, most Italians drink mojitos instead.  We will also have some mescal, the liquor from Mexico that has the worm in the bottle.  On the table will be two bowls of salsa, one mild for his wife and one with a kick of spicy flavor.  I will show them how to make corn tortillas with a press, something few Italians have seen before. Mexican food is fairlly new here and not well made in restaurants.

Weather here in northern Italy remains cold and overcast.  45 degrees is about the highest temperature it gets here.  So far no snow.  Only two months until I will be looking for the change as the lizards will come out to sun bathe.  This day is the Italian Ground Hog Day for me.

Happy New Year,

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bruschetta was on my plate
Thank you for reading What Fills My Plate.  I have tried to write true experiences I have experienced in northern Italy.  There have been stories about food, shopping, scenic places, and how the normal person experiences a normal day.

One Voice
However, today I want to continue from my last blog and highlight this video which I would like you to see.  I want to speak out against the continuous and wasteful war.  16 years is enough.  Have we learned anything from the Iraq war?  There are other Americans that feel the same, and this video will show you the resistance.  One brave woman speaks out.  Her point was made.  We must not  continue war.   Please take a look.
You will have to copy and paste this in order to see it.

Some facts to consider:  3.3 billion dollars to Israel in military aid, plus an additional billion in weapons to Israel, which equals 23,000 dollars to every family living in Israel.

New Study Says. Nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003

According to the UN and other sources, from March 2015 to December 2017, 8,670–13,600 people have been killed in Yemen, including more than 5,200 civilians, as well as estimates of more than 50,000 dead as a result of a ongoing famine due to the war.

We are losing our democracy.  Our representatives in Washington vote for what their donors want, not considering the people.  The military Industrial Complex is pushing for war with Iran.  Find and  watch Anthony Bourdain's visit to Iran and see a different picture of what is presented to America.

Thanks to Jimmy Dore for his Youtube video.

Thank you for reading

Monday, October 1, 2018

It’s not all gondolas, towers, and food!  If you open your eyes you can find the things and people  that make Venice work smoothly.  It requires the same type of workers and people that your city requires.  Here are some shots of things that might help you appreciate the extra effort that must be made in Venice.
transport boat brings everything
food, supplies, mail, water

What about police support?  No cars with flashing lights and sirens, as it has to be boats with the same.  Near the train station is the area where police boats are stored.
Running out of room, police boats are parked aside canal

How about the people who transport goods from the canal boats to the shops and homes.  Here  you can see the type of cart that is used for this, and two fellows who have to fight the tourist crowd.

Coming over the top of the controversial bridge.
Many Venetians are not please with the design
The Cart workers hate the steps 
It takes more than one person to move goods

How about the gardener who keeps this so perfect

When you arrive in Venice, I hope you will see more than the historical sites, but see the people who make it all so special.

Ciao!  Dave