First Perspective: Living in Gaeta

DSC05480By Sarah Bolen

Tangled curls twist downward towards tanned feet, hiding a face freckled by the Italian sun. This is the image reflected in the dirty window of the crowded commuter train I take every morning. I slowly become less aware of how hot it is, as the train rocks past scenery only God could have designed. The sea hurls itself against the mountainside in a foamy fury and the mountain, steadfast, responds with ancient poise.

Every station gives me fifteen seconds to see the architecture and culture of each town. We move from fresh fish at the pescheria to aged prosciutto at the salumeria. I smile at a few things that don’t change at all, old ladies stopping to gossip about the same things they’ve gossiped about for forty years, surrounded by children playing soccer in the streets. And I wonder to myself how I’ll have the courage to leave this place.

My name, Sarah, is pronounced differently here in Italy; the locals roll it over in their mouths, then sing an exotic “Sah-rah.” I’m 28 years old. I’ve lived in Gaeta, a small coastal town 50 miles north of Naples, for 9 years, my entire adult life. In my backyard, I have a vineyard, an olive orchard, a vegetable garden, ten rabbits, five chickens, and three goats. La dolce vita.

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Aunty Judy’s Zucchini Bread

zbread2 (2)By Nicky D Cooks

When I first met Judy, I could tell that she was a great person. She welcomed me into her house, offered me something to eat and a cup of coffee. I felt like I was walking into a home of one of my relatives, I was so comfortable yet it was the first time I was meeting her.

Judy is my husband’s aunt. I was at her house for a big 4th of July Party with all of her family. Judy married into a big Italian family. Like a typical Italian gathering, there were so many people and an abundance of food. It was just so impressive to see that many generations of a family gathered in one place.

Judy is a talented cook and baker. I am always impressed with the massive amount of food that comes from her kitchen. If there is a family event at her house, there is always a plethora of hot dishes that comes from her oven. I ask her in jest where does she hide the multiple stoves in order to produce this much food.

She smiles and laughed because Judy is also of Italian descent. Like many Italian woman who have already raised their family, Judy knows how to cook for a large crowd. She is a pro, and has been cooking and baking for many years. 

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Aaaahh – The Italian Store – Home Sweet Home

(Reprinted with permission from Fran Tunno)

When I walk into my favorite Italian store, I can’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s like coming home. There’s a smell Italian stores have; a combination of peppers and oregano with a little hint of salami and tomato sauce in there for good measure. I love it.

I just bought a little jar of Italian seasoning from a website called Ciao Pittsburgh just to try it out. I sprinkled it on some zucchini with onions I was sauteing and, not only did it taste great, but my whole kitchen smelled like the Italian store! I’m thinking about just sprinkling it on my kitchen counters so my apartment smells more authentic. Actually, I’m putting some in my bra right now, it could be the ultimate aphrodisiac.

I got my love of Italian stores from my mom, of course. When we’d walk into Italian stores back home in western Pennsylvania, her face lit up with possibility while my dad’s face registered terror because he knew what it would cost and saying no to my mother was pointless.

Walking up and down the aisles with our small cart on weathered wood floors I’d hear, “Robert, lettsa getta somma dis,” as she filled her cart. Twenty somma dis and somma dat’s later, we’d leave with sharp cheeses and salami, proscuitto — if we were lucky, lupini beans, jars of antipasto, those oil-cured dry black olives that my mom loved, pasta, mortadella for my dad and a bag of pastel colored candied almonds or chocolates for me. It was heaven for a food lover like me, so I  enjoy revisiting that feeling as often as possible.

Read more at Fran’s blog!

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Italian Lessons

Dedication and Sense of Humor are Key in Learning Second Language

By Marjorie Eisenach

After reading a witty, self-deprecating, and insightful New York Times essay by William Alexander, where he details the benefits of learning a second language as an adult, “The Benefits of Failing at French,” I decided to come clean on my relationship with learning Italian. 

It all started when I was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Wisconsin, having enrolled in intensive Italian, I spent 10 hours Monday through Friday memorizing Italian dialogues. I was hoping one day to join the Foreign Service and become a younger version of Claire Booth Luce. I knew even then that I wanted to attend the University of Bologna during my junior year. But I could barely spit out, “vorrei un panino,” when I went to Bologna two years later.  

I vividly remember one of my early embarrassing “Italian” moments, when I received the results of my very first oral quiz. I was marked down three points for incorrectly answering the most basic of all oral questions, “Come si chiama?,” which translates to, “What is your name?.” My response was, “Mi chiamo Fulvia Bruni.” Since we had been instructed to memorize the dialogues in our text verbatim, I answered somewhat confidently and totally incorrectly this most basic of questions.

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8 Real Italian Dishes to Order instead of the American Knockoffs

fettuccine al burroWhen Americans think of Italian food, they tend to think of pepperoni pizza, garlic bread, and chicken Parmesan. But all of those dishes are actually Italian-American hybrid foods created by Italian immigrants who were cooking with U.S. ingredients.

In other words, what we think of as “classic Italian” is not actually from Italy at all.

We rounded up some ways to go more authentic, whether it’s in your own kitchen or on your next trip to Italy.

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