Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday with Verdi

I did NOT want to go to class this morning. Well, that's not true. I'm always excited for my Food & Culture class. What I was not excited for was the 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM straight. I think Rome left me more exhausted than I thought.

I did, however, have another pretty strong motivation to get out of bed, in the form of OVERNITE OATS!
Soak one part oats in one part liquid of choice (water, milk, or a little of both) overnight in the fridge.

Top as desired (in this case, strawberry yogurt & kiwi).

Mix & devour!
 Folgers Oats = the BEST part of waking up!

Our Food & Culture class was on race & ethnic stereotypes supported by different types of food. For example, fried chicken is often associated with African Americans, as are potatoes with the Irish.We also talked about how socioeconomic status affects food choices and health issues, and how food has been used throughout history as a marker of power. It's really fascinating; in times where food is scarce and famine is not, it is more en vogue to be heavier/overweight, because it shows that you are privileged to eat as much as you please. Nowadays, with food in more or less abundance, it is stylish to be thin because it shows self-control and reason. Variety is another big deal; in the Renaissance, the use of different spices showed high status because the spices had to be imported from the East. White truffles are currently a huge deal in China right now and convey major high status - they are called "white gold." For being something frequently given so little thought towards, food is certainly a potent symbol. I could talk about this all day long! But I'll give your ears a break and your eyes a feast:

 I have been looking for this sandwich place called Casa del Vino for a while, as my study abroad program recommended it as some of the best sandwiches in town. Now, in Italy, that's a pretty major statement  - and I decided I was the foodie to verify this outlandish claim. It's only a street over from my music class, and I wanted to get some lunch before my second class, so I made it my mission to scope this Casa out today. Clearly, I did. It's not obviously a sandwich shop, because they make it to order (always a good sign), and the menu only has about 5 choices (another good sign - trust me). I couldn't really read the menu (the handwriting, not the Italian), but I saw one that was something in aglio con pecorino fresco - in garlic with fresh pecorino - and, well, my choice was made.
Holy Panino, Batman - this was the BEST sandwich I think I've ever had. I'm really thinking hard back to all the sandwiches I've consumed over my 2 decades of living, and I'm struggling to find something that beats this out. The first word that I couldn't read was acciuga - anchovies!

It was SUPER salty but also a little sweet and very familiar-tasting, so anchovies was my guess. My culinary skills must be improving, because I was RIGHT! The salty fish + crunchy bread + fresh cheese + garlic and herbs was just wonderful. And gone in about 8 minutes.

I was a bit disappointed in myself, though - when I went to order the sandwich, because I couldn't read that first word I had communication issues with the cute little old lady behind the counter who didn't speak English (yet another good sign about this store!). Normally I would have gotten really excited that I could practice, but I could not for the life of me remember how to say 'last' (ultimo, if you're wondering) and another woman in the shop helped me out. Actually, she could read the acciuga, which is how I figured out how to spell it and look it up, so it was a good thing...but I still felt like the stupid American student. Blah.

I was, however, redeemed during my music class. We visited the Teatro della Pergola, one of many theatres here in Firenze built in 1652. The librarian was our tour guide, but didn't speak English well enough to give the tour so she talked and then our teacher translated. After listening to her for a little while, I started to understand her well, and by the end got almost every word and at least the gist of what she said before the translation. I was SO excited. I still need to work on my speaking, but it's quite heartening to know that my comprehension is getting better!
The teatro was really cool, for many reasons - this being a BIG one:

You think I'm crazy, right? She's flipping out over a stupid old stool. But that is NOT just any [very] old stool. Oh no. That is the stool upon which, during the premiere of his opera MacBeth, sat...


As in, Aida Verdi. I actually stepped on the exact ground that Giuseppe Verdi stepped on.

This was pretty cool too:

This was a device used to raise the stage to create a large ballroom used for masquerades. The women's dresses were so large (all that crinolin!), they needed more room to dance and socialize and whatnot. It is not used anymore - the 1966 Arno flood took a major toll on the theatre and they had to install iron support beams (you can see it in that picture - that orange arch to the right).

Stimlating conversation, amazing sandwiches, and getting one degree closer to some of the greatest composers of all time - Monday is starting to look up!

I made a semi-impulse purchase at the grocery store and got some polenta, because I'm dying to try new things and new recipes.
I ended up added a tad too much water and it was more like cornmeal soup, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

I cooked it with an egg and then salt, garlic, parsley, and tomatoes and put it over some arugula. It was screaming for cheese, but I used all mine up before leaving for Rome. To be improved upon. I'm welcome to suggestions!

I'm trying something a little crazy for b-fast tomorrow morning - get ready!


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