Monday, January 23, 2017

Sitting In My Local Bar, Thinking Food


That’s what we say in Italy for let’s eat!  
The food is so good in Italy you never run out of new things to try.  Every region has its specialties.  One bite and you are hearing Luciano Pavarotti.

One region uses more butter, another only olive oil, one region has smoked cheese another has wonderful parmigiano cheese.  It’s eating at every level. You never tire of sitting down to something new.  It’s always a challenge to read a menu for me.  After all, it’s not all pizza!

The good thing about living here in the north of Italy is that we are near other countries, and so that makes life twice as good!  Croatia, Slovenia and Austria are within a few hours drive and so they make for a fun weekend.  Even though only a border separates these countries from Italy, the food there is quite different.   
I am putting together a small cookbook of things I like to cook at home, things that I have discovered and the tricks to make them work.  Meanwhile I want to try and encourage readers to think about trying to make something different than their usual fare.  If something below causes an interest, you can find numerous videos on Youtube on how to…..So be brave.  This is not a fearless cultural exploration of foods, you have nothing to lose.
Casey Stengel (do you remember him?) said, “Without losers where would the winners be?”  Every time I try something new, I learn, and the next time I do better.  

Different Cheese Displayed
There are so many of us out there, you know the ones taking photos of the food.  We do that when we go out.  I enjoy looking at the presentation and then using that at home.  I think food tastes better when it looks better.  Here are a few examples from Italy and nearby countries. 
A simple cheese plate is made more separates with decorative cherry tomato, a red pepper, green olives and some sliced pickles.  This is a typical appetizer plate in Italy featuring some different cheeses.  There is nothing difficult in making this at home.  

How about a change in the weekend breakfast!  Take a look at the typical hotel offering in Turkey for breakfast.  Colorful and good for you.  You can’t miss copying this one! 

Sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and some cheese of different types.  Throw in a pepper and some parsley to dress the plate up.  

Let your imagination go!

Something simple things you can make could be bruschetta.  (pronounced broosketah, not shh in the middle).  Soak some sliced tomatoes in a little bit of lemon to help them be more tasty before you add oil with garlic flavor.  Toast some Italian bread on a grill, or even in your toaster.  Brush with oil and add the tomatoes.  You can’t beat that for taste and simplicity.

served on handmade pasta
Have you tried making goulash?  You can find this in the Alps of Italy, and in the countries north of Italy.  Each one has a different style but all are hearty, and are great on a cold winter’s night.   We have seen goulash served with pasta, polenta, potatoes or as a soup. 
Goulash is not difficult to make, kind of a set it and forget it recipe.  You won't have any plate smashing temper tantrums over this one.   Here is a Viennese recipe easy to follow and they even provide a video on their website.  You can’t miss!  

Go to:

The clock on the wall tells me I must go home and put together dinner.  If you think we always eat Italian here, you think wrong.  We actually don't eat much pasta.  Tonight is chicken enchiladas night!   Those of you who have access to corn tortillas--APPRECIATE THAT!    We cannot get them here.  So tonight is a special night.     Ciao!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What is progress?

I cannot resist a small step away from blogging “Italian”

A few days ago we marked the passing of the last man who walked on the moon.  Gene Cernan was the commander of Apollo XVII was the last man to leave footprints on the moon’s surface.  That was back in 1972.  I was just past the legal drinking age, with a grandmother who knew real cowboys in Dodge City and another one who was in Cherokee Land Rush in Oklahoma.  It was an amazing time.  Progress reaching across time.  It was a great moment for mankind, something America can be proud of.   
Now I am old, what happened?  

Is it a question of money?  We certainly have enough to bomb 7 countries at the same time.  So many bombs that we run out of them!  Jets that release mini drones, illegal cluster bombs, and more.  We have an economy captured and ruled by the military industrial complex, and has great influence in the direction of NASA. 

In these past years I have thought about NASA and the direction the United States have taken in space exploration.  45 years have gone by and I would have thought we would have seen more exploration of the moon and also Mars.  I believe that the direction taken has led to many spy satellites in order to keep control of other countries.  Billions of tax dollars spent and wasted into contraptions that in a few years are out of date due to techno updating into how to overcome attempts to spy, etc. 

 When I talk to Italians they are perplexed about the choices made by Americans.   I do not have good answers.

In a slightly different direction, but enlightening.   Considering the hold the insurance industry has on politics and the economy of the United States.    Here is a quote from a website which clearly highlights the current problem in America from a completely different angle.

“You would expect that when NASA asks you to be the first man to walk on the Moon that they would consider the possibility of things going wrong. Well for Neil Armstrong he couldn’t afford the life insurance policy for an astronaut. However, along with Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin he wasn’t alone. All three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission decided to create a plan of their own to support their families if something bad was to happen. Before the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 when all three astronauts were in pre-launch quarantine, they signed hundred of autographs and sent them to a friend. If anything was to happen to the astronauts during their mission, the entrusted friend was to send the autographed memorabilia to each of the astronaut’s families. This way they could make some money by selling the signatures of the Apollo 11 crew.”  taken from this interesting website:

Armstrong couldn’t afford his own life insurance!   OMG!
Did you know that when they landed back on earth they were asked to fill out a customs form on what they were declaring?  Only in America!
Go take a look at that website for more facts on the moon landing.  

That is enough for now.  I wish you a happy day.  The next post will return to life in Italy.  


Monday, January 9, 2017

After The Holidays

Window In Shop in Venice
I have been distracted by the holiday season and my mind has been far from What Fills My Plate.  It has been an interesting few weeks, with a steam train ride, a visit to the Christmas Markets in Nuremberg, Bamburg and Ljubljana, three trips to Venice, and the birth of a grandchild.  Time does not sit still and neither did we!

What is the season to Italians?  I can only add a few insights in comparison to American perspective.  Using my mother as an example, she would have us diligently search at least three Christmas tree lots, with a final trip back to one of them to pick up the tree she thought was the best choice.  Italians do not have tree lots.  I have never seen one.  We have an imitation tree from IKEA of all places.  It actually looks pretty good, and I have been trained by the best, good ol' mom.

Seasonal music in Italy is marginal in comparison.  Shoppers are blasted by Bing Crosby and the song White Christmas, Frosty the Snow Man, and other commercial songs to promote the secular side of the holiday.  I have never heard Silent Night, The First Noel, Joy to the World, or even Good King Wenceslas.  There is a group in my village the do carolling but they expect a few euros after their meager attempt.  No family in my condo answers the buzz to invite them in.   Last year we were invited up to Aviano Air Base where a chorus was backed up by a brass quartet featuring a multitude of carols.  This year the concert was cancelled.  I did see a concert in Padova advertised to feature music of Christmas.  Italians do not know about The Messiah, unfortunately.  That about wraps it up for music.

Look So Good You Don't Want To Eat Them

What is Christmas without a specially wrapped panettone?  We have gone through two of them this year.  Some of these are very expensive, 20 euros or more.   The local bakery makes some incredibly decorated sugar cookies.  Pictured above are some found in Venice.

Hard to Pass Up
The dinner table on the big day will not have a turkey or ham.  We went out to an agritourismo and had pasta dishes, and grilled meats, with a fancy.  This feast took 3 1/2 hours and we literally rolled out of there.

Italians leave their decorations up until way after the first of January as they celebrate Epifania on January 6.   This is the day of the Three Kings visitation.   The great majority of my neighbors have now removed any Christmas lights they had outside and now we are the only ones to light them at night.  I am finding it hard to give up my holiday.

German Santa in Nuremberg

I want to wish for you a Wonderful 2017, and Peace for our world.  I am hoping for a safe and calm existence for my Turkish friends in their country.  I am very worried about our future and we must all speak up for justice for all people, not just the top 1% who have all the wealth.