REAL FOOD, REALLY!
When we had dinner with Milena and Marco a few weeks ago, both Larry and Shelly had promised us a fabulous meal. “She’s a great cook!” they both told us, and although we weren’t exactly surprised by this statement, we knew the dinner would be something to remember. As we sat at the dinner table waiting for Milena to bring the next course, Shelly leaned over and said “She cooks like this all the time, even though it’s just the two of them…real food!”. At first I thought the comment was a little strange…I mean, I cook real food for the two of us all the time too. But the more I thought about it, the more the cultural differences became apparent.
Yes, I do love to cook, always have, but I haven’t always been able to cook as much as I’d like. For as long as Art and I have been married, our crazy schedules (well, really Art’s crazy schedules) have made it difficult, if not impossible for us to have a ‘normal’ evening meal together. If Art worked at Churchill Downs and didn’t get home until later, he’d usually grab a sandwich at the track, and I’d pop in a Lean Cuisine, eat leftovers, or maybe just have a light snack. On the evenings when Art was home for dinner, we’d often go out to eat…just like my dad, Art really enjoys eating out, even though he loves my cooking. I think to him it’s a way of giving me the night off, and even though I don’t mind cooking, it was a nice break.
So….even though I love to cook, the number of meals we enjoyed at home, together, sitting at the kitchen table, was rather limited. Here in Italy probably 98% of our meals are home-cooked and eaten together at the kitchen table. Is the fact that we’re retired and no longer have conflicting schedules the reason?
No…the reason is that here in Italy, we just don’t have the options that are available in the states. Sure, you can pop into the pizzeria and pick up a pizza to go, but that’s about it. There’s aren’t any drive-thrus for grabbing a quick meal on the go, no Lean Cuisines, and the culture in general is geared towards home…and we all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home. So, being in the kitchen, preparing meals, eating together, all this is still very much a part of day-to-day Italian life. As for the idea of “fast food”…..since any Italian housewife knows that in less than 20 minutes you can whip up a mean plate of spaghetti, prepared in a variety of ways.…with tomatoes, with pancetta, with cheese….all depending on what you want and what’s in the pantry. Why would you need to go out?
I’m hoping that this idea of cooking quickly, simply and deliciously will stay with us once we return to the states. I hope we don’t get caught up a lifestyle that means lunch is a drive-thru burger and dinner is something zapped in the microwave. If we do, it will certainly be our loss. Cooking real food isn’t real hard…you just have to be committed to the idea.