My happy moments from 2014, New Year’s resolutions and snow

The Snow Queen Milla.

The Snow Queen Milla.

It’s snowing from yesterday. Italy, the land of the sun around here looks pretty much like Winterfell, but I’m not Arya Stark even though I got her short hair and her surly attitude.

town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy

Town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy.

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Quite a lot of snow I would say.

Milla, my 9 year old cocker spaniel is snoring at my feet enjoying her cozy blanket. I guess in a perfect wintery scenario the only things that are missing in the picture are the sound of crackling fire and a hot chocolate with marshmallow. Too bad I don’t have either of them, but I can fake it with the virtual fireplace sound on a 5 hour long youtube video and a Nutella jar.

Usually the end of December leads to make new resolutions for the next year, but they almost never work, at least for me, like the classic losing weight, or spending less money on unnecessary stuff. Because let’s face it, these two are the hardest promises to keep for a woman, am I right?

The last couple of months have been really tough on both G and I, so there’s not as much enthusiasm to start a new year as the previous New Year’s Eves. However, I feel it’s necessary not to give up to negativity, so the one and only resolution I am making for 2015 and my future as well, is to work really hard on myself in order to start finding happiness in every little thing.

2015 will be a year of change and I know it for sure. It’s not just the holidays’ atmosphere to do the talking, but the recent circumstances that are pushing me to do something, more like a make it or break it kind of situation.

I like to keep this blog as a drama free place, so I want to start my important resolution from here.

As you might have previously read on The Weird Frittata, every month I like to write a chart/bucket list of products/places I loved and recommend. This time it’s different, because I’m going to write what made me happy during 2014 even what it looks like to be negative, because I want to believe there is a bright side in everything.

So, here it is:

  • The early months of 2014 spent at home in Italy with my family. Even the unemployment has its own bright side, because I could treasure every moment with my parents and relatives (you know, Italian families are quite big). I had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with my family and enjoy my Nonna’s cooking, which I tried to recreate and practice as much as I could. Needless to say that her special recipes will always be in my heart for ever.
  • Moving back to the UK. This time I discovered London from a new perspective experimenting with ethnic restaurants, discovering new recipes and hipster places, just what I needed after a long Italian winter. This rediscovery made me realise how much I love food and the industry that gravitates around it, to the point that I would like to blend in and be part of it. Even though I’m thankful to London for each life experience I had, my love-hate relationship with this city keeps going on, and I’m afraid it’s not going to last that long. It’s like when you get back with your ex and you know that after the initial happiness the old problems will rise again. In fact, here I am again in a “It’s not you, it’s me”, kind of phase and I am grateful for that, because I know that I need to look for something else in my life. Rather than something, it’s somewhere.
  • House sharing again, Thank you London rental prices! Seriously how could this be positive? You might ask, but I’m now more convinced than before of what I want for 2015. Respect is the first answer and I could go on, but anyone who has shared a property knows, for example, how hard it is to keep it clean without ending up in an argument with the other flatmates.
  • All the job interviews gone wrong. You can learn from your mistakes, they say and I’m sure to have learned something about myself and how to deal with these kind of situations. Luckily, it’s not all about me. There are lot of jerks who think they are entitled to treat applicants like trash, because they are in a position of power. I am thankful I don’t have to deal with them on daily basis.
  • Now something not about me. G. finally entered the career field he chased for a long time and I’m happy for him to have found his own path. It’s just the beginning and will be difficult but seeing the person I love being happy makes me want to work hard as well and pay him back with the same positivity he gives me every day.

I saw on Pinterest something called resolution jar and I believe it’s a nice idea to keep the positive mood throughout the year. What you have to do is just fill an empty jar with notes about all the good moments you have during the year and then, around the end of December, you can empty the jar and go through all of your notes to remember those positive moments that we tend to forget in favour of the negative ones.

Now for all of you lazy people out there (including me), this is a lovely idea but also a commitment as well, so find whatever works best for you: a notebook, a board, a calendar or just an app on your smartphone, but never stop staying positive!

I’ll try my best, you should too.


Happy New Year, guys!

Does colour influence the taste and flavour perception of food?

Last Saturday I found myself staring at my partner’s cheeseburger questioning his choice of cheese: Red Leicester.

Red Leicester cheese @Neal’s Yard Dairy. The one in the burger was unnaturally brighter.

Last Saturday I found myself staring at my partner’s cheeseburger questioning his choice of cheese: Red Leicester. I had never tried it before last week, because that bright orange colour sincerely put me off every time I considered buying that cheese. The fact that it’s coloured with annatto, a natural extract of the Archiote tree’s fruit, still doesn’t convince me entirely. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s just an irrational instinct, but that colour in a cheese still feels unnatural to me. Never judge a book by its cover, right? So even though I had preconceived ideas, this was the right time to finally have a bite of that intensely bright orange cheese and prove myself I was just having unreasonable biases. A little bite full of expectations, I would say, but then a sense of confusion mixed with disappointment hit me hard: Red Leicester tasted just as regular Cheddar. (Forgive me, cheese purists!) Why was I experiencing that negative feeling? I kept wondering, until I suddenly got the answer: my brain and eyes just fooled me. Even though being surprised and, at the same time, fascinated by this phenomenon, I rationally tried to give myself an acceptable explanation: my brain did an association with a familiar cheese based on that bright colour. Red Leicester should have tasted nutty and sharp, just like my beloved Molisan Provolone Cheese when is aged for a couple of year and gets a warm golden shade. It’s not news that food companies add colourings to their products in order to alter their appearance, making them look fresher and more appealing for customers. It’s an effective technique that bears its fruits because we always “eat with our eyes” first. We start making choices about favourite colours since childhood and try to apply them to various aspects of our daily life. Neuroscientists claim that this is due to an early association of a positive feedback to a certain colour, so during our life we tend to recreate that comforting feeling by choosing the same colour, which often becomes our favourite one. Kids love coloured food because they can associate an exact colour with their favourite toy, or cartoon character. For example, It’s not rare, during the Italian summer, to witness children happily devouring a “Smurf  gelato”, which is nothing other than a blued dyed vanilla ice cream. Less happily their mothers will struggle to remove those stubborn blue stains from clothes, but this is another story. Anyway, sorry mum!

Gelato Puffo or Smurf Ice cream. @foodspotting

We are the same children, who grow up and change their eating habits for healthier and “more natural” options. We learn the importance of colour in foods as an essential characteristic to judge the freshness of a product, for example we experience the consequences of eating a steak that turned green, and painfully regret we didn’t toss it. Literally. In the meantime, the society we live in has shaped a stable idea about the food we eat, its wide range of colours and the flavour we associate with each one of those shades. In other words we develop a precise idea of what a certain food should taste like based on its appearance in our own cultural context. This is why we are confused, and at times disappointed, when this matching does not happen. Now, try to picture a young woman being tricked by her friends into drinking what looked like a blood orange smoothie. Then imagine her wide-eyed expression when, in a fraction of a second, her tastebuds rapidly experienced the strong sour and salty flavour of Gazpacho.  Yes, that woman shouting at her friends was me.

Yellow watermelon on hungryforchange.tv

Sometimes it can also be fun to see our cultural certainties crumble, like the first time I tried the yellow watermelon. I was visiting a nice Japanese lady in Tokyo, when she brought a beautiful blue ceramic plate with some precisely cut slices of yellow watermelon. Yellow? Thank God, she “couldn’t read my poker face”, but I was seriously puzzled inside. “That melon would have been sour, like every unripe fruit.” My stream of consciousness kept flowing in the few seconds necessary to thank my host and take a slice. A first bite and within a moment I felt so stupid! Because it was even sweeter than the common watermelon I crave every summer. I am sure that without this experience I would have never bought that fruit because of a preconceived idea. The mental association between the colour of a food and the assumption we have about its taste is a field that neuroscientists are still exploring, but recent experiments have revealed some remarkably interesting results. For example, an experiment conducted by the Ohio State University showed how using a red colouring in white wine led the unaware participants to describe the aroma and the flavour of the drink with adjectives belonging to the semantic field of red wine. Colours influence our daily life and even the choice of the food we eat. I am fascinated by the way our brain works, leading us to pick a specific coloured food over another simply because it gives us pleasure. However sometimes the same brain tricks itself and that’s when a new memorable colour related experience is created, whether it is positive or negative. What do you guys think about the influence of colours in the choice of our food? Please let me know in a comment below.

August favourites: 5 food smells and their reassuring memories

 sugo

I know, I know, it’s September already and I haven’t wrote a post in ages but in my defence I was so busy moving back to London that I barely had time to sleep.

So I finally found a place, but I’m not sure if I’m going to stay for a long period or looking for something else, because these two months have proved me that finding a decent place you can call home in London is just like the film Mission: Impossible.

London has changed so much during these three years I left, but its smell of curry and hot soups enhanced by a “little” pinch of glutamate, remains the same that strongly penetrates the streets during the long winters. As much as these two food smells do not really classify as my favourite ones, I have to admit I was relieved it did not change. For an emotional creature of habit like myself, it’s always overwhelming to deal with life changes, therefore in those moments I always look for something familiar to cling on to.

As Marcel Proust wrote in The Search Of The Lost Time,

When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

Here are my favourite food smells and the memories they are connected with:

  • Freshly baked bread – Seriously,who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread? you can find bread throughout the world, and even with its differences, it remains a constant of nutrition. This is enough to make me feel at home, even when I am far away. When I was little, I always went grocery shopping with my Mum for Nonna and as I gave her the loaf of freshly bake bread we bought, she used to reward me with the first crusty slice. Crunchy and still warm. Reassuring, this is what the smell of Freshly baked bread is for me.
  • Barbecue – I have never been a carnivorous, so when I happen to smell the burning charcoal that fills the air up with smoke I don’t really think about tender juicy steaks straightaway. To me barbecue smells like the end of summer. Every Year, between August and September my big Italian family used to gather in a distant uncle’s country house for a couple of days to produce the homemade tomato passata for the whole year while us kids played outside with my uncle’s two Maremma dogs. The barbecue rewarded the all the hard work of those two days. I can still picture it in my mind: Nonna and my mother checking the last bottles while my dad prepared the fire and I was either climbing on a tree or playing with the ball. Yes, very feminine of me. 
  • Lemon cake – My mother has never been a skilled baker and even her Lemon Cake is far from being amazing (Thanks God she doesn’t read this) but just the thought of her baking this cake fills me up with joy, because the whole building where my parents’ apartment is, becomes permeated by that sweet scent. More than once I overheard neighbours saying things like “This is Lemon cake, I’m sure. Oh, I would really like a slice right now!”
  • Nonna’s Sunday pasta sauce – I know it sounds kind of cliché but this really is one of the most comforting food smells of my childhood. That meaty tomato sauce was carefully prepared from the early hours of Sunday Morning and being left simmering until lunch time, when it was thick and fragrant. That was the scent of uncountable lunches together year after year.
  • Strawberries: I remember my dad picking me up at elementary school on Saturdays, asking me to smell his hands and guess. It was his way to tell him he was coming directly from home where cut strawberries and then seasoned them with sugar and lemon juice. It was his way to treat her daughter on a Spring Saturday. I have never eaten strawberries differently, but now  and even though Dad still prepares strawberries for me once in a while, his hair have been turning grey and I I’m no longer a child with the same carefreeness.

I am really curious to know about your favourite ones, so feel free to leave a comment. In the meantime I will try as much as I can to keep you updated about my foodie adventures in London, or everywhere else.

 

And now in Italian.

Lo so, lo so, è già settembre e non scrivo un post da tempo immemore, ma a mia discolpa devo ammettere che sono stata così occupata con questo trasloco a Londra che sono stata fortunata a trovare del tempo per dormire.

Così ho finalmente trovato un posto dove stare, ma non sono sicura se rimanere per un lungo periodo o cercare di qualcos’altro, perché questi due mesi mi hanno dimostrato che trovare un posto decente, da poter chiamare casa a Londra, è come il film Missione: Impossibile.

Londra è cambiata tanto in questi tre anni in cui l’ho lasciata, ma il suo odore di curry e zuppe calde aiutate da un “piccolo” pizzico di glutammato, rimane lo stessa che riempie le strade durante i lunghi inverni inglesi. Per quanto questi due odori in realtà non compaiano nella classifica dei miei preferiti, devo ammettere che mi sono sentita sollevata del fatto che fossero sempre gli stessi. Per una persona emotiva e fortemente abitudinaria come me, è sempre travolgente a che fare con cambiamenti di vita, quindi in quei momenti cerco sempre di qualcosa di familiare per aggrapparsi a.

Come Marcel Proust scrisse in La ricerca del tempo perduto,

Ma, quando niente sussiste d’un passato antico, dopo la morte degli esseri, dopo la distruzione delle cose, soli, più tenui ma più vividi, più immateriali, più persistenti, più fedeli, l’odore e il sapore, lungo tempo ancora perdurano, come anime, a ricordare, ad attendere, a sperare, sopra la rovina di tutto il resto, portando sulla loro stilla quasi impalpabile, senza vacillare, l’immenso edificio del ricordo.”

Qui ci sono i profumi odori di cibo che adoro ed i ricordi che sono collegati ad essi:

  • Pane appena sfornato – Scherzi a parte, chi non ama l’odore del pane appena sfornato? Il pane si trova in tutto il mondo, e pure con le sue differenze, rimane una costante dell’alimentazione. Tutto questo mi fa già sentire a casa, anche quando sono lontana. Da piccola,  accompagnavo sempre mia madre a fare la spesa per Nonna, e quando le portavo il pane fresco, aveva l’abitudine di darmi con la prima fetta, la più croccante. Croccante e ancora caldo. Rassicurante, questo è ciò che rappresenta per me il profumo del pane appena sfornato.
  • Barbecue o grigliata – Non sono mai stato una carnivora, così quando mi capita di sentire l’odore del legno che brucia e che riempie l’aria di fumo, in realtà non penso subito ad una bistecca. Per me la grigliata rappresenta la fine dell’estate. Ogni anno, tra agosto e settembre la mia grande famiglia si riuniva nella casa di campagna di un lontano zio per un paio di giorni. Si doveva produrre la passata di pomodoro fatta in casa che sarebbe poi servita per cucinare durante tutto l’anno. Tutto mentre noi bambini giocavano fuori con i due maremmani dello zio. La grigliata non era altro che il premio finale per il duro lavoro dei grandi durante questi due giorni. Riesco ancora a vedere con la mia mente Nonna e mamma che controllano le ultime bottiglie mentre mio padre prepara il fuoco ed io arrampicata su un albero o a giocare con la palla. Proprio una signorina! 
  • Torta al limone – Mia madre non è mai stata una pasticciera dotata e anche la sua torta al limone è tutt’altro che sorprendente (Grazie a Dio lei non legge il mio blog), ma solo il pensiero di lei che prepara questa torta mi riempie di gioia, perché l’intero palazzo dove vivono miei genitori si riempie di quel profumo dolcissimo ogni volta. Spesso ho i vicini dire cose come “Questo è profumo di torta al limone, ne sono sicuro. Quanto vorrei una fetta proprio ora!”
  • Sugo della Domenica di Nonna – So che sembra sorta di cliché, ma questo è davvero uno dei profumi più confortanti della mia infanzia. Il sugo veniva pomodoro preparato con cura dalle prime ore di Domenica mattina e veniva lasciato sobbollire fino all’ora di pranzo, quando diventava denso e profumatissimo. Quello era il profumo di innumerevoli pranzi insieme anno dopo anno.
  • Fragole – Mi ricordo che mio padre veniva a prendermi a scuola tutti i sabati e mi chiedeva di annusare le sue mani e indovinare di cosa profumassero. Era il suo modo per dirgli che stava venendo direttamente da casa, dove mi aveva preparato le fragole con lo zucchero e succo di limone. Era il suo modo di viziare la figlia in un sabato di primavera. Non ho mai mangiato le fragole in modo diverso, e anche se papà prepara ancora le fragole per me di tanto in tanto, i suoi capelli sono diventati grigi e io non sono più la stessa bambina con la medesima spensieratezza.

Sono davvero curiosa di conoscere i vostri odori preferiti, quindi sentitevi liberi di lasciare un commento.

Nel frattempo cercherò per quanto possibile per tenervi aggiornati sulle mie avventure foodie a Londra, o in qualsiasi altra parte del mondo.

“Agnello Cacio e Ova” (Lamb, Cheese and Eggs) a typical Molisan recipe for Easter

I started The Weird Frittata with the intention to talk about food and the industry that gravitates around it.This means I have deliberately chosen not to write recipes, first because there are millions of blogs that outstandingly do this already. Secondly, because I am a perfectionist and I think that I still have a lot to learn before giving directions and advices. However, I promised myself to share with my readers stories and traditions about Molise, the Italian region I come from, and this time it’s a recipe. This could be seen as a contradiction, but I actually chose to share a particular recipe not only because it’s an important part of Easter traditions in Molise, but also because the dish I’m going to talk about, is unlikely to be translated into English or even in Italian cookbooks.

The recipe takes its name from three fundamental ingredients, in fact Agnello Cacio e Ova can be translated from dialect as Lamb, Cheese and Eggs. Lamb and eggs are strong symbols of the Easter traditions, in fact Lamb represents the young generation of the flock and it is therefore associated with Jesus Christ. As for eggs, they were considered as the symbol of life since the beginning of human history, assuming the metaphorical meaning of eternal life in the Christian tradition later on. As a lucky coincidence, lamb and eggs are typical products of Molise, whose mountainous landscapes have allowed, throughout the centuries, the development of an economy largely based on agriculture and farming.

And what about cheese, you may ask. Sheep breeding in Molise was, and still is aimed at dairy production, therefore pecorino cheese is mainly used in this recipe as a traditional ingredient. However, as it often happens, each family has their own variation, so the cheese may differ according to the recipe. For example, in my Nonna’s recipe pecorino is substituted with grated Parmigiano but I assure you the final result won’t lose to the original one.

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“Agnello Cacio e Ova” 

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 1 whole deboned and diced lamb leg
  • 10 eggs
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 300 gr of grated Parmigiano
  • 300 gr of breadcrumbs
  • white wine
  • rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

Take a medium cake tin and sizzle the diced lamb, garlic and rosemary in olive oil. When the meat looks nice and brown, add a splash of white wine and wait for it to be evaporated. Then set aside and wait until it cools down. Take out both the rosemary and the garlic but leave the meat in the tin.

While waiting, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs little by little, so that the final mixture would result neither runny nor dry.

Pour the egg mixture over the lamb into the cake tin until the meat is covered and give it a stir.

Bake in preheated oven at 200° until the cake becomes amber coloured. At this point low the temperature to 140° and cook for another 10 minutes.

The final result has to look like a sponge cake. Or a giant, meaty frittata.

Happy Easter!

And now in Italian.

Ho iniziato a scrivere su The Weird Frittata con l’intenzione di parlare di cibo e le varie sfaccettature del mondo che gira intorno ad esso. Tutto ciò significa che ho volutamente scelto di non scrivere un blog di ricette, per due motivi: primo, perché ci sono già milioni di blog su cui trovare tutte le dritte per realizzare piatti straordinari. Poi perché, fondamentalmente, sono una perfezionista e penso di avere ancora molto da imparare prima di dare indicazioni e consigli su come preparare un determinato piatto. Tuttavia, mi sono ripromessa di condividere con i miei lettori storie e tradizioni riguardanti il Molise, la regione da cui provengo, e questa volta si tratta di una ricetta. E’ una contraddizione direte, ma in realtà ho scelto di condividere una ricetta particolare, non solo perché si tratta di un piatto fondamentale nella tradizione pasquale molisana, ma anche perché è impossibile trovare questa ricetta nei libri di cucina. E anche quelle che ci sono in rete, indicano un piatto simile, ma della tradizione abbruzzese.

La ricetta prende il nome dai suoi tre ingredienti fondamentali: agnello, formaggio e uova. L’agnello e l’uovo sono importanti simboli delle tradizioni pasquali, infatti l’agnello rappresenta la giovane generazione del gregge ed è, quindi, associato con Gesù Cristo come figlio di Dio. Per quanto riguarda le uova, esse sono considerate il simbolo della vita fin dall’inizio della storia dell’umanità, assumendo, con il passare dei secoli, il significato metaforico di vita eterna nella tradizione cristiana. Per una fortunata coincidenza, agnello e uova sono i prodotti tipici del Molise, i cui paesaggi montani hanno permesso, nel tempo, lo sviluppo di un’economia quasi interamente basata su agricoltura e allevamento.

E il formaggio? vi chiederete. L’allevamento di ovini in Molise era, ed è ancora mirato non solo alla macellazione, ma soprattutto alla produzione lattiero-casearia. Per questo motivo il formaggio pecorino viene utilizzato nella ricetta come ingrediente tradizionale del territorio.

Come spesso accade, ogni famiglia ha la sua ricetta che spesso presenta delle varianti. Per esempio, mia Nonna preferisce usare il Parmigiano al posto del pecorino, ma vi assicuro che il risultato finale non perde affatto di sapidità. Questo è ciòche accade quando si può contare su materie prime di qualità.

Agnello Cacio e Ova

Ingredienti per circa 6 persone:

  • 1 cosciotto di agnello disossato e tagliato a cubetti
  • 10 uova
  • il succo di 1 limone
  • 2 spicchi di aglio
  • 300 gr di Parmigiano grattugiato
  • 300 gr di mollica di pane finemente tritata
  • vino bianco
  • rosmarino
  • sale e pepe
  • olio d’oliva

Procedimento:

Prendete uno stampo rotondo per torte e fate soffriggere l’agnello tagliato a dadini insieme all’aglio e il rosmarino in olio d’oliva. Quando la carne si colora, aggiungete una spruzzata di vino bianco e attendete che evapori. Poi mettete da parte e aspettate che si raffreddi. Lasciate la carne nello stampo, ma non dimenticate di togliere l’aglio e il rosmarino.

Nel mentre sbattete le uova con il succo di limone, il Parmigiano, sale e pepe. Versate la mollica poco alla volta e regolate la quantità, poiché Il composto non deve risultare troppo liquido ma nemmeno troppo asciutto.

Versate il composto di uova sopra l’agnello nella tortiera fino a coprire la carne. Date una mescolata e fate cuocere in forno preriscaldato a 200 ° fino a quando la “torta” diventerà ambrata. A questo punto abbassate la temperatura a 140 ° e cuocete per altri 10 minuti.

Deve assumere l’aspetto un Pan di Spagna. O una frittata gigante.

Buona Pasqua!

Monthly list: 5 kitchen utensils I can’t live without

It’s been almost 10 years since I left my parents’ house to study and live in Rome and in this long period I lost the count of all the places I relocated to. Stressful, I know. Every time there’s infinite list of items to pack and ship because, let’s face it, I have some weird emotional attachment to some objects and I’m not the type who likes to buy the same stuff over and over, and then throw them away. I actually prefer to splurge in order to foster my pathological addiction for travels and dinners out. I need help, I’m aware of it.

However, in the jungle of lists of items that must be in my new house, here is the top five kitchen utensils I could never live without them.

  • Wooden spoon – This is my saving grace. I can’t even think of cooking without it. There’s always the normal spoon, or a fork, you would argue, but seriously, the sound of stainless steel cutlery scratching the bottom of the pan, sends shivers down to my spine. Not to mention it’s likely to ruin the pan if this is non-stick.
  • Kitchen knife – We are talking about basics, right?
  • Cutting board – Same here. Plus, you don’t want to ruin your kitchen countertop. Especially if you paid a security deposit to the owner of the house.
  • Colander – First of all, I need it for pasta, but practically I do everything with it: wash vegetables and fruit; leave my food to slowly defrost in there; drain water in veggies (boiled spinach or cucumber, courgettes, aubergine covered in salt); use it as a bowl to momentarily set aside non-liquid food.
  • Ginger/garlic grater – ok ok, I know, this is not a common item at all, but after I bought this in Japan, I seriously wondered how I grated my garlic before. I have to admit that since I had this handy tool, I definitely use more garlic in my dishes. Maybe that’s why people keep avoiding me?

In the next few months I’ll be moving again, and this is the only list of essential objects I wrote so far. You can call me lazy, but at least I know my priorities and, for sure, I’m not going to starve because I can cook as soon as I move to the new place, thanks to my essential kitchen utensils! I’m a person who’s happy with simple things afterall.

Disclaimer: All images are copyrighted by their respective owners unless otherwise stated. Links/Credits are provided via click-through link or caption.  Clicking the link of the image will lead you to its source.

And now in Italian.

Sono passati quasi 10 anni da quando ho lasciato la casa dei miei genitori per andare a studiare e vivere a Roma e in questo lungo periodo ho perso il conto di tutti i traslochi e le città in cui mi sono trasferita. Ogni volta è sempre più stressante. Ogni volta che ci sono liste infinite di cose da imballare e spedire perché, diciamocelo, ho qualche strano attaccamento emotivo ad alcuni oggetti e poi, non sono il tipo che ama comprare le stesse cose più e più volte e poi abbandonarle ogni volta che mi sposto. In realtà preferisco scialacquare i miei pochi, miseri euro nella mia patologica passione per viaggi e cene fuori. Ho bisogno di aiuto, ne sono consapevole.

Comunque, nella giungla di liste di oggetti che devono per forza essere nella mia nuova casa, ecco i cinque utensili da cucina di cui non potrei mai fare a meno.

  • Cucchiaio di legno – la mia salvezza. Non posso nemmeno pensare di cucinare senza. C’è sempre il cucchiaio normale, o una forchetta, si potrebbe obiettare, ma seriamente, il suono delle posate che graffiano il fondo della padella mi fa venire i brividi alla schiena anche solo a pensarci. Per non parlare del fatto che è quasi sicuro che la padella si rovini se è antiaderente.
  • Coltello da cucina – stiamo parlando di strumenti essenziali, giusto ?
  • Tagliere – stessa cosa, non vorrete mica rovinare il piano della cucina? Soprattutto se avete pagato un deposito cauzionale al proprietario di casa.
  • Scolapasta – prima di tutto è necessario per scolare la pasta, ma praticamente lo uso per tutto: lavare verdura e frutta; lasciare il cibo a scongelare lentamente; drenare l’acqua nelle verdure (  tipo spinaci bolliti o cetrioli, zucchine, melanzane da spurgare); o semplicemente usarlo come una ciotola in mancanza d’altro.
  • Grattugia aglio/ zenzero – ok ok, lo so, questo non è un oggetto comune, ma dopo averlo comprato in Giappone, mi sono seriamente chiesta come avessi grattugiato l’aglio in tutti questi anni. Devo ammettere che da quando ho il mio grattugia aglio giapponese uso molto più l’aglio nei miei piatti. Forse è per questo che la gente mi evita?

Nei prossimi mesi mi trasferirò di nuovo, e questa è l’unica lista di oggetti che porterò sicuramente con me. Potete anche dire che sono pigra, ma almeno so che non morirò di fame perché posso cucinare subito, lo stesso giorno del trasloco, grazie ai miei indispensabili utensili da cucina! Dopotutto, sono una persona che diventa felice con poco.

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Monthly ranking: my favourite Comfort Food

I didn’t know what Comfort Food meant until I was forced to broaden my scholastic vocabulary when I moved to London. However, it was just the definition that was missing because all the times I felt homesick I always found myself cooking something that could make me smile. That was what it’s called Comfort Food. I believe this label includes more than just those recipes whose flavours can, in a way, strengthen a connection with home, family or particular memories. For this reason, thinking about the dishes I cook or eat out the most, I wrote my ranking for February, including the 5 foods that simply make me happy.

5) Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, because cheese is one of the few things I could never give up. And adding ham takes the sandwich to the next level.

4) Chocolate cake, a pretty obvious source of serotonin, a.k.a. the happiness hormone, which is extremely necessary for us girls, especially at that time of the month.

3) Stuffed calamari, which happens to be what my mum cooks every single time I come back home. So, for me cooking and eating stuffed calamari is a way to feel close to my mum, but of course results are still far away from the original.

2) Sushi. When I want to treat or reward myself, it has to be sushi because the combination of raw fish, rice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and wasabi is just a boost for my mood.

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Photo: Mike

1) My Nonna’s recipe for baked pasta: this is the most effective medicine when I feel sad because it’s my personal solution for immediate happiness. Slow cooked meaty tomato sauce, melted mozzarella and tiny meatballs combined with penne or fusilli pasta. What more could I ask for?

So guys, what is your comfort food?

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And now in Italian.

Non sapevo cosa volesse dire Comfort Food, fino a quando mi sono trasferita a Londra e sono stata forzata ad ampliare il mio inglese scolastico. Era solo il significato che mancava, perché già cucinavo Comfort Food ogni volta che sentivo la mancanza di casa. Era ed è tutt’ora quello che mi mette di buon umore, che mi fa sorridere. Questa è l’essenza del Comfort Food. Credo, però, che questa categoria non debba per forza includere quei piatti che hanno un legame con la nostra famiglia o alcuni bei ricordi. Ecco perché pensando a ciò che cucino o che mangio fuori più spesso, ho scritto la classifica dei 5 piatti che mi rendono felice.

5) Toast al prosciutto e formaggio, perché non potrei vivere senza formaggio. E il prosciutto aggiunge un sapore molto più godurioso.

4) Torta al cioccolato, perché è una fonte di serotonina, o ormone della felicità. E noi ragazze ne abbiamo tanto bisogno, specialmente in quei giorni…

3) Calamari ripieni, cioè il piatto che mia mamma cucina ogni volta che torno a casa. Per questo motivo, cucinare e mangiare questo piatto è un modo per sentirmi più vicina a mia madre, anche se i risultati sono ancora distanti dall’originale.

2) Sushi. Quando voglio coccolarmi mi concedo il sushi, perché trovo che la combinazione di pesce crudo, riso, aceto di riso, salsa di soia e wasabi dia una spinta al mio umore.

1) Pasta al forno con la ricetta di mia nonna: questa è la medicina più efficace nei momenti di tristezza, per essere felici al primo boccone. Sugo di carne a cottura lenta, mozzarella filante e polpettine insieme a  pasta corta. Che cosa potrei chiedere di meglio?

E per voi? qual è il vostro Comfort Food?

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Memories and thoughts about snacks for children

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I often tell my friends about my childhood and some particular food connected with good memories. For me it was “Pane e Pomodoro”, a slice of bread rubbed with ripe tomatoes and finished with salt and olive oil. During summer, I used to go to my grandparents’ house near the sea, and I remember my mum giving me my pane e pomodoro after swimming in the afternoon. I also remember other kids asking  their parents for some ice cream as their afternoon snack, while I was so happy devouring my pane e pomodoro. Simple but amazing at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved ice cream too, but my parents tried to feed me the healthiest options they could, so I was not really allowed to eat ice cream everyday as my young peers did.

Then we grow up, unfortunately, and we just go on, distracted by daily life. We don’t really think about these memories until one day, when something occurs and we start to remember about our past and think about our current habits. One winter afternoon of 2010, I was on the bus heading to Trafalgar Square when my attention was caught by a grandfather with his 6-7 year old grandson. The kid was hungry, so his grandfather gave him a Mars bar, which was devoured in literally three seconds, and after that the kid was fed a Milky Way bar. At that point the bus arrived at my stop and I got off, but I kept wondering if that kid had a third chocolate bar. It’s not just that episode that made me think, as I often see toddlers eating MacDonald’s in their strollers. Now, it goes without saying that allowing young children to frequently eat junk food is equivalent to give them wrong eating habits, which are likely to cause significant health repercussions.

I can only base my opinions on my personal experience and on what I see when travelling around the world, so it would be interesting to find out about how snacking habits change in each country. For example, I noticed that English native speakers tend to snack on chocolate or cake while Asians children are less likely to consume the same amount of sweet goods.

Let’s be clear, I don’t have a healthy food obsession, as sometimes I indulge myself in snacks I should not eat, but I am proud to say I have good eating habits thanks to my parents and the way they raised me. I am not really sure about what happens in other countries, but the increase in childhood obesity makes me think that parents should put more efforts in raising their children in order to become responsible adults.

I think I’m definitely going to have pane e pomodoro for dinner tonight.

Image Credits here.
And now in Italian

Spesso racconto ai miei amici di com’è stata la mia infanzia e di alcuni ricordi legati ad un cibo in particolare. Per me è la merenda con Pane e Pomodoro. Durante le vacanze estive, andavo spesso a casa dei miei nonni al mare, e ricordo che ogni pomeriggio, mia mamma mi preparava pane e pomodoro al ritorno dalla spiaggia. Un sapore semplicissimo, ma era così buono! Mi ricordo anche che, mentre io divoravo felicemente il mio pane e pomodoro, gli altri bambini chiedevano ai loro genitori di poter fare merenda con il gelato. Anche io avrei voluto mangiarlo, ma i miei genitori hanno sempre preferito scelte più sane per la mia alimentazione, ecco perché non mi era permesso mangiare quotidianamente il gelato come facevano i miei coetanei.

Poi cresciamo, sfortunatamente, e ci facciamo distrarre dalla vita di tutti giorni. Non facciamo più caso a questi ricordi, fino a che un giorno qualcosa ci fa improvvisamente pensare al nostro passato e alle nostre abitudini attuali. Un pomeriggio d’inverno del 2010 ero sull’autobus che andava a Trafalgar Square, quando la mia attenzione è stata attirata da un nonno e suo nipote di 6 o 7 anni. Il bambino aveva fame e il nonno aveva prontamente scartato una barretta di Mars, che era stata divorata in pochissimo tempo. Qualche secondo dopo al bambino era stata data un’altra barretta, stavolta una Milky Way. A quel punto ero arrivata alla mia fermata, ma ricordo di essermi chiesta se quel nonno avesse fatto dato a suo nipote una terza barretta di cioccolato. Non è stato solo quell’episodio a farmi riflettere, perché vedo spesso bambini piccoli che mangiano MacDonald’s nei loro passeggini. Ora, è chiaro che permettere ai bambini di consumare frequentemente del cibo spazzatura equivale a dare loro delle cattive abitudini alimentari, che potrebbero avere delle notevoli ripercussioni sulla salute.

Le mie opinioni si basano solo sulla mia esperienza personale o su quello che mi circonda quando viaggio, perciò mi piacerebbe sapere come si fa merenda negli altri paesi. Per esempio, ho notato che i bambini di origine anglofona mangiano moltissima cioccolata o torte, mentre gli asiatici consumano molti meno dolci.

Giusto per essere chiari, non sono una persona ossessionata da cibi sani, anche perché molte volte mi concedo degli snack che non dovrei mangiare, ma sono orgogliosa delle abitudini alimentari che i miei genitori mi hanno trasmesso. Non so cosa accada di preciso negli altri paesi, ma a giudicare dall’alto tasso di obesità infantile, penso che i genitori debbano impegnarsi notevolmente per far sì che i loro bambini diventino degli adulti responsabili.

Penso proprio che mangerò pane e pomodoro per cena.

Image Credits here.