Sunday, February 19, 2012

Italian Cuisine No. 2-Italian Culture

Ah, the lovely idea of a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning.  While we usually have no pressing matters to get to most weekend mornings, unless we're traveling somewhere, we have our own idea of soaking up the extra weekend moments.  Sometimes we sleep in, sometimes we wake up reasonably early and cook up a traditional breakfast, eggs and rosti (the "here" version of hash browns but so much more delicious), coffee or tea.  We read or TV show marathon, catch up on emails.  If we go out and about around 10 or so though, there is a bit of life around town, even on Sundays.  Here, if you're not a church-going person or if you've gone early, chances are, you wind up at one of the randomly early open cafes or even gas stations, one particular chain brand of whom has the regular snack aisle of foods and a coffee/wine bar.  You wind up there for a bit of breakfast, which is wildly different from an American or even an English breakfast.  Sure, the grocery stores sell a variable selection of breakfast cereals, but the most that people usually eat on a weekday is a cappuccino or an espresso and a cornetto (like a croissant) or two with butter or jam, maybe a yogurt.  

On the weekends it's the same thing, with a twist.  When you wind up at a cafe,  time all but comes to a stop.  Whatever pressing errand you have for the day usually end up waiting for a while.  You meet up with a friend or two, or have a conversation with the other regulars, the employees, and you just sit back and relax.  Cafes have whatever Italian selection of coffee you desire, sometimes even "American" style drip, which only means it packs the same punch in a larger serving, assorted fruit juices, but the Italian style on the weekends is to have your coffee and bread, and then it's on to popping bottles.  The morning choice is Prosecco or Charme (white or rose sparkling wine,) or glass of flavored liquor with a cube or two of ice, like Bailey's.  Mid morning the snacks come out, on the house, cheese and meat plates, little finger-sandwiches, bowls of flavored peanuts or assorted potato chips.  Aside from that you can order something, a toast (ham and cheese melted and toasted in between two slices of bread), or another style of sandwich, but whatever it is, its usually not huge.  Huge meals on the weekends are usually reserved for midday, late lunch after church, pasta and salad and the like, and dinner is usually small, maybe the afore-mentioned toast, salami and cheese platter, bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in, nothing significant, just like breakfast.  Having guests over means something more celebratory, like fondue, but mostly, if you're eating at home and it's a quiet night, you're more eating a snack than an actual meal, to tide you over til the morning.  Most bars and restaurants have menus that support either choice in meal, big or small.  And then there's the kebab stands, the pizza places that deliver, and yes, even Burger King and McDonalds, which the locals, born and raised, seem  to have an unnatural attraction to.  Since it's huge in the states, they seem to understand that it's good, and that it's worth paying for.  Paying a lot for.  Due to the exchange rate, paying for a Happy Meal here means laying down almost $15-20 per person, even super-sized, where back home it's $10 tops.  It's incredible!  It's not that it tastes better.  It tastes pretty much about the same.  And they charge through the nose for it.  We've had it once or twice, we get fries on occasion but a whole meal here, after having lived with the simplicity of Italian breakfasts and meals, even three months after being on a new continent, just kind of made us feel sick to our stomachs.  The locals treat it like a delicacy, the Asian tourists flock to it, the American tourists don't quite understand how much they're paying for it until after they've paid.  It's a bit ridiculous.  Makes the Italian culture of weekend food and breakfast bites seem so much more inviting and welcome, don't you think?

Happy Weekend Laze!

Allie H.    

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