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Just arrived in La Bella Città — Heading out for my first Roman meal. Just sitting here in my room, I can smell crusty bread from the forno (bakery) below my window. Caffè from the bar across the way. Some kind of sauce bubbling on someone’s stove I this apartment building. When you fly overseas, they try to occupy you with food. I did have my dinner of some kind of chicken with rice. But, after my attempt at sleeping on the plane was only marginally successfully, I resisted that which they called a breakfast to save myself for the city itself. Fear not, I shall fill you in on everything as the days go by.

Having nothing to do with eating (unless a nursing baby fits into that category) — on the flight over here, I had a funny experience. When I got to my seat, there was this fretting Italian man who, as it turned out, was attached to wife, said nursing baby and another bambina about 5 years old. It seems the man was unable to secure the entire middle bank of seats for his family. So, he wanted me to give up my aisle seat to compensate. I did not want to do that. I did make it clear that I could speak Italian and, in fact, though I’m always anxious to start using the language as soon as I embark, I resisted. As a result, hubby and Frau did not know that I could understand most everything they said as they trashed me for not moving. Throughout the entire flight, the husband crawled over me to get out. And they kept handing the baby back and forth, back and forth over me.

The child was quite sweet and I thought a sport about it all. She watched me eat my apple (instead of the airline food) and kept whimpering. I am pretty sure she didn’t actually eat real food, except from Mom. But, hey, I wanted to whimper myself after 7 hours with her parents. And, no sleep on the flight over.

Now, off to the streets.

So, before heading to Oregon — and just a few days after my return from Italy, I was sitting in my NYC apartment – okay still sulking a little bit about American versus Italian food.  A sulk I should reconsider.  First, I’m in the States, so get over it, dammit!  But also – I realize, no have to admit – I also ate what I damn well pleased while there.  Giving lie to my statements that

I never gain weight when I go to Italy!

Except, when I got on the scale upon my return and found out that a week of Janet Eats – Italian style – netted an extra five pounds in avoirdupois.  Oh boy.  Not bummed, mind you.  It is temporary.  And, oh so fun.

I found a quick option to my quest to eat like a Roman – but also keep fit, like most Italians.  I have always said – and this truism is, well, true.

You will not gain weight in Italy, if you eat their food in the WAY they eat their food.  You don’t, for the most part, see them walking around eating food, eating lots of desserts, eating in between meals.  Their fornos are a selected treat.  Not, as I did when I lived there for three months, a place to visit every day.  I have been happy to be vacationing a lot lately.  But, it does make it more challenging to eat healthfully.

  1. Challenge:  Away from home.
  2. Challenge: The food that is available is different, sometimes COMPLETELY different from your everyday choices.  And
  3. Challenge: Who WANTS to eat with limits and care.  It’s vacation!

So, now I face the wonderful opportunity to renew my commitment to healthful eating.  Good choices.  Veggies when I want them.  Steamed with a little olive oil.  Not at all something you even want to eat while on vacation.

You know, you gotta live.  In a way that allows for some indulgences.  If you are challenged, as I am, to eat healthfully on a regular basis (and, even at that, my friends tell me I’m pretty damn good at that) – you need to not judge yourself.  Pick on yourself.  Feel badly about yourself.  Enjoy the food that you eat when you eat it.  If that means a temporary weight gain, then just “man up” and eat the way you know is both best – AND enjoyable – for you.

And, I think I’ll try that recipe I read about from another Word Press Blogger, Iowa Girl Eats:

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

This morning before leaving, I spent some time speaking with the young banker who rents me a room in Rome with un bagno privato. We don’t always converse that much. She speaks virtually no English. I do all right speaking Italian with her.

Really, think about how few words we use in a conversation with someone we barely know: weather (il tempo), food (il cibo), politics (Obama. Hahaha – these conversazioni can get a little more compicato. People I know in Rome really wanted to talk about Obama and, interestingly, the Nobel Prize! which they, like most of us, did not understand. “Couldn’t he just say no to it?”)

After we completed our short chat and I packed, I proclaimed I was going to walk for awhile, then get my ultimo caffé and cornetto. Ha! My ultimo cornetto! Of course, I have the photographic evidence of my cappucino — with a heart, as in I left my heart in San Pietro — and oh that ultimo cornetto. Nothing tastes quite as sweet as that first and last taste on a foreign shore.

It was both restful and invigorating: this Roman Holiday. I am fortunata to have friends in la cittá who know all those little osteria & trattoria that cook simple Italian cuisine. I had meals in at least three restaurants — without menus. Just more places to put on that list of consiglio – advice – I insist anyone going to Roma consult!

Allora! As the receipts say: ARRIVEDERCI E GRAZIE. Goodbye and thank you.

Full moon = la luna piena

On a Thursday night in Rome, I had the delight of dining at the home of a former New Yorker – a woman who has lived in Rome for some 23 years. Patricia has this fabulous house (yes house!! — it was probably a stable centuries ago) with a garden.   Beautiful,  che bella!

We sat outside in the garden listening to Miles Davis and some kind of Hungarian tango music under an avocado tree — all illuminated by the full moon.   La Luna Piena.

The evening was organized by Patricia and my closest friend in Rome:  Nina, a lovely Finnish woman with a wicked sense of humor.  Patricia fixed us aperitivi of olives,  a Parmigiano-like cheese from the Castello,  grapes and Italian bread sticks to dip a soft cheese she mixed with a culinary concoction invented by her daughter’s boyfriend.  Sidebar note:  HE was described as a young man who could both build a house and invent a mix of eggplant and garlic that would replace aphrodisia for the gods.

You know how you can fill up on “starters” only to have the cook announce “dinner is ready”?  Oh, dear.  The wine flowed as we made our way from the garden to the dinner table inside.  The meal of braised chicken thighs with shallots and peppers over a bed of couscous with sultanas garnered a culinary standing ovation.  Limoncello and biscotti for dessert.  Are you kidding?   Burp.

The entire meal experience in a private Roman home was a highlight!

I followed the meal with a long passeggiata.  While on this stroll, I took a picture under the sienna moonlight, and wondered at the romantic street names.  In NYC its 13th Street.  Or, Fifth Avenue.  Here: Via del Neofiti and Via del Madonna dei Monti — hanging vines and all!

On a crystal-clear,  sunny morning,  I headed once again to one of my favorite spots in Rome:  the Campo dei Fiori.  Though it has all the characteristics of a piazza, it doesn’t have that name because it was once the spot where they executed infidels and the like.  I recall reading once it couldn’t be called a piazza because executions weren’t allowed in a piazza.  Sounds a little bit like a myth.  I’ll have to research that one and get back to you.

Anyway.  Campo means “field” as in field of flowers — oh and right in the middle of the square is the statue of some guy who was executed in that “field” not piazza “of flowers.”

The Campo is now home to all manner of vegetation besides flowers.  It is the site 6 days a week (taking a rest on Sunday) to a wonderful farmers market.  Filled with familiar and not so familiar veggies.  All sorts of curious greens.  And industrious vendors.  I saw a man today patiently cutting the ends off green beans — about 4 at a time — and tossing them into a bowl of water.  Dinner for some busy Roman mama who doesn’t have the time to string her own.

I picked up my breakfast at the Forno Campo dei Fiori: pizza bianca, and walked one square over to the Piazza Farnese.  You mght recall my story of the sudden rainfall (down a little bit from this post).  It was in Farnese.  On this day,  I sat with my pizza on the benches of the Palazzo Farnese,  watching the Italian mamas and their little ones nibbling on THEIR Bianca with a flock of birds flying in a wild formation, and nuns scuttling through the square.  In the background I heard someone yelling “Guido. Guido”.

Yes,  it’s true — open up your eyes, ears and heart a little in Roma, and you too will find yourself in a Fellini-film moment.  True magic!

It was what one could only call a romantic moment in Rome.  And I guess it raises the question whether you have to know the person(s) you share that moment with.  I didn’t.  Know them.  But,  it was a shared moment that turned strangers into intimates.

I had just arrived that morning.  An overnight flight with very little sleep.  I exercised my “get-rid-of-jetlag technique”: stay outside, never stop moving and stay awake until “their” bedtime.

I mixed that with my favorite foods: lots of caffé, un gelato (tre gusti — 3 flavors: panna cotta [obvious taste],  Baci [like the Italian chocolate candy] and a wonderful flavor called Nonna’s choice [unique combo of rich vanilla, orange & pine nuts]).  A small rectangle of pizza with zucchini flowers and cherry tomatoes (circles are left for personal pies — otherwise pizza here comes in slabs and you gesture when the pizza man gets the right measure of pezzo di pizza).

On about the 7th hour of constant walking,  I decided to head to the Piazza Farnese — a charming piazza — and order a glass of vino bianco.   In Italy,  cocktail hour comes with at least 2 plates of snacks: chips, nuts, olives, bruschetta — house choice.

Suddenly, the sound of the water from the fountains in the Piazza Farnese was amplified,  four-fold.

It was pouring down rain!  A storm as sudden as the velocamente patter of the children in the square.

And here I sat — in the perfect place under the cafe umbrella.  Just a misty hint of the storm on my face when the wind shifted.   It was magical. And, yes, just a little romantic.

Benvenuta a Roma.  Welcome to Rome!