One of my favorite things to do in any foreign country is to go food shopping at a local supermarket. I thoroughly enjoy pouring over and deciphering the every day food options that I can take home and attempt to perform some sort of alchemy with. It is sometimes more successful than others. Yesterday my friend Marta took me to the Auchan to buy food for the week. Auchan is actually a French supermarket chain, which has expanded into Italy and probably far beyond.
It is as overwhelming as any American megastore chain and they sell everything from houseware products to foodstuffs from Croatia. It was also a late Saturday afternoon when we arrived and we were both quickly overwhelmed by the number of shoppers. Marta informs me that it is now considered trendy for Italian husbands to go and do the weekly shopping. They make ‘shopping dates’ with their friends and go for a coffee or apertivo after the groceries are loaded into the family car. So nice to know that progress in the world of domestic duties must come with a little back end bonus.
But back to food. My senses were on overload. And here is why: in each food aisle there seemed to be 13 choices for every option. Although it might not be clear to see, the frame of this picture includes a multitude of choices of salame – there was Milanese, Vicentino, Venetian, from Modena, Trentino, etc. You get the idea.
Dinner at home with Marta’s friends last night consisted of two different kinds of pasticcia, a rocket and mushroom and a meat one. Pasticcia is like lasagna but infinitely more delicate, with very thin layers of pasta separating each ingredient. I have tried to recreate a salmon pasticcia I had here last year, but have only been mildly successful at creating the same ephemeral experience. Following the first course of pasticcia, plates of very thinly sliced, very rare (but not raw) roast beef were passed around with lemon wedges, to accent the beef, and a bowl of plum tomatoes to slice your own, as you wished. Dessert was a hazelenut and cream torte or a dark chocolate flourless cake with gelato and champagne.
At one point in the evening, I heard the dogs barking wildly outside and asked Francesco, Marta's husband, what he thought was causing the commotion. He went out to investigate and came back with this little surprise: a hedgehog, curled up tight in its protective ball.
We are not in the countryside. The small yard outside is fenced and we are surrounded by buildings on all sides. Once again, I am amazed to discover that right under our noses, urban wildlife carries on in spite of us. The hedgehog provided at least a couple of hours of distraction for the kids, and those of us fascinated enough by the spiky little creature to keep examining him. It led to a bath in the laundry room sink (handled with rubber gloves and not by me!), an investigation on Wikipedia, and a name: ‘Bob’. Eventually Bob was relocated to the more peaceful and safe front garden, away from the curious canines who solely inhabit the back garden.
It was 1:30am by the time everyone left and 2am, by the time we made it back over to our apartment and swiftly and promptly passed out, my Italian comprehension skills thoroughly maxed for the day.
writer-director-actress, author, improviser, mother, traveler, digital nomad