by Leslie Woodford
I spent a year and a half in Italy. I loved it. I loved learning Italian and enjoying all of the culinary delights that Italy offers. I frequently ate in the homes of people I met there. Man! The food was amazing. It's hard to imagine a place where so many people are such great cooks.
I drooled over the display windows of shoe shops. There were always beautiful shoes to choose from. I wished I could have an unlimited shoe wardrobe, unfortunately I didn't have an unlimited pocketbook. Ha!
I delighted over the blunt and outrageous things people said on the bus. I chuckled as one woman got worked up about the increasing number of "strangers" (foreigners) in Rome and another man replied to her by asking if she believed there should be only seven Romans in Rome, one for each of the seven hills. Such passion; such uninhibited expression.
Another time, while riding the bus on a early spring morning, the weather was just starting to warm. A woman got on the bus and loudly declared: "Whew! You can tell it is Spring by the stench!" Some Italians wear deodorant, but not antiperspirant. Also, some Italians bathe only every other day. In the Summer, the buses, especially when they are crowded could be quite ripe smelling. Her comment gave me a chuckle because of her passionate, uninhibited declaration of what she noticed as she boarded the bus.
Overall, I loved Italian food. No one prepares it better than an Italian. I'm crazy for pasta, and Italians know how to fix it al dente. Pasta sauce was always made from fresh ingredients and tasted marvelous. From time to time an Italian house wife would treat us to "pasta al forno." We might call it "Lasagna" in the US, but it was nothing like our dish. It was light and wonderful.
However, there were a few dishes that I could not stand. I hated when eggplant was in season--it didn't matter how it was cooked, fried, boiled or included in red sauce, it always had a mushy consistency that I could never quite handle. At Christmas time, I agonized over eating "just one more" slice of fruitcake. Christmas tradition. Blech. I don't like fruitcake; but I ate it anyway because refusing it would have been impolite.
Most of all, I enjoyed the people of Italy. Their love of food, friends, and expression. They welcomed me warmly.