An Artichokian Metaphor

I am currently in a love-hate relationship.

Right now it is mostly based in hate since artichokes and I are not in good favor with one another.

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Recreating Memories in the Kitchen

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but recently I learned an Italian phrase that I had never heard before: “fare la scarpetta.” Roughly translated “to do the little shoe,” the terms refer to the act of taking a piece of bread and soaking up the remnants of gravy or soup or whatever meal leftovers remain.

Upon investigating, I learned that the “shoe” reference is a metaphorical description of the bread. Like a shoe being dragged in the mud, the bread soaks up the sauce and becomes saturated with flavor. Continue reading

A Vacation Long Overdue

Of late, it seems that any break on the academic calendar could not come soon enough. Last winter, I had five papers and one sit-down exam standing between me and winter break, and this past week I had a to-do with countless things tasks and lots of added stresses making me extremely anxious for a vacation.

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La Carne Non Più: Meat No More

This is one of my favorite stories to share, so please forgive me if you are someone who is hearing it for the bagillionth time.

As many of you know, last spring semester I studied away from the Georgetown Hilltop and relocated to the hillside of Fiesole in Florence, Italy. During those four months abroad, I commuted from my homestay to attend classes at Georgetown’s Tuscan villa, Villa Le Balze. As a homestay, I lived with another female student from the program in the home of a local family. My host mother was the sweetest, tiniest woman, and, as could be expected, she was an incredible cook. Every meal at Flavia’s table reminded me of those Sunday mornings as a child spent with my Italian great grandmothers. Continue reading

La Festa Delle Donne

Ask someone in the United States the significance of the date March 8th and it is likely that the response will be a blank stare and shake of the head. Unbeknownst to the majority of Americans, March 8th is celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day. Although not recognized as an official holiday by many countries, citizens around the world acknowledge the date as a celebration for women.

The day’s roots were inspired by two events that challenged women’s stereotypical subversive roles in society. The first took place in a New York in 1857 when female garment workers formed a strike to protest the inequity and hardships of their working conditions. Their strike ultimately led to the creation of the first women’s union in America. In a similar fashion, Russian women organized a strike in 1917 to encourage peace and compromise in a time when World War I was raging and the Russian Revolution was on horizon. While there have been a number of other events before, between, and after these two, the strikes in New York and Russia are often credited as the catalysts for the establishment of a global celebration honoring women. Continue reading

Le Donne Italiane e Berlusconi

Although Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi may have a lot of women sharing his bed, le donne italiane are not his biggest fans.

In recent weeks, Berlusconi has garnered significant worldwide attention for his involvement with a eighteen year old dancer named Ruby. Caught in the act once again, the prime minister’s relationship with the woman is yet another misstep in his growing list of controversy.  Although his political leadership and character certainly garners attention, his arrogant and derogatory opinions about women have amassed equal, if not more, worldwide scrutiny.

In 2009, for example, Berlusconi suggested that the increasing incidents of rape in Italy were occurring ” because our women are so beautiful.” Then, in an interview earlier last year, he said that women need not worry about work so long as they choose the right partner. According to him, women should seek out men like himself because “I’m loaded.”  In his opinion, marrying rich is the key to a woman’s key to happiness. In light of such comments, it is no wonder then why more and more Italian women are turning their backs towards a prime minister that once garnered a high percentage of female support.

Fed up his slanderous behavior and demeaning attitude, this past weekend Italian women took to the streets to protest against the national prime minister. All throughout Italy, including Rome and Florence, women united in protests against Berlusconi’s inappropriate behavior and leadership. As a symbol of their disapproval about Italy’s demeaning culture against women, many of the weekend’s protestors wore white scarves.

Although I signed a contract with Georgetown saying that I would not participate in any strikes while abroad, this was definitely a cause I supported. While I did not actually participate, I demonstrated my support by wearing a white scarf throughout the weekend. My five weeks in Italy have taught me many things so far, but perhaps one of the most significant is how valuable and strong Italian women truly are in the culture. While the stereotype may portray the typical Italian woman as a housewife, many of the country’s women carry on the responsibilities of the home while also working full-time. What makes this even more striking is the fact that a recent study estimated that approximately 90% of adult males, often called mamma’s boys or mammonis, live with their parents, and many of this men are without jobs or a diploma. So while the women are off at work or cooking or cleaning, the men are off doing nothing.

Evidenced by this and Berlusconi’s own comments, the glass ceiling for Italian women certainly has a long way to go before it is shattered. Yet, perhaps this weekend’s protests will bring some much needed attention to the female voice and provoke some type of change.

Please enjoy the links to the articles included in this post. Also, click here to see some pictures from this weekend’s demonstration in Florence.

My Foray into (Genuine) Italian Cooking

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the kitchen is an Italian woman’s domain, thereby it requires a lot of courage to invade such space. Taking into account how much I love to cook, I anticipated dividing my time between studying academics at the Villa and learning the secrets of how to cook in the kitchen like a true Italian woman. In the time that I have been here, however, I have not prepared anything in the kitchen other than my breakfast bowl of cereal. So after a few weeks in Florence, Emily and I decided that it was time we took to the kitchen.

On a typical weekend all students studying in the Villa program are on their own for Saturday meals and for Sunday lunch. Wishing to avoid another restaurant bill and anxious to give Flavia a break from cooking, Emily and I concocted a plan to shop and prepare dinner for our host mother. We began our mission with a trip to Il Mercato Centrale in central Florence. With a large assortment of vendors selling nearly every Italian pantry item one might possibly need, the indoor marketplace is a gastronomic heaven. Meat vendors touting prosciutto and tripe, hand-made pastas with fresh sauces, seasonal fruits and vegetables, a wide selection of dried fruits and nuts: you name it and the market has it. I could have spent hours browsing through the stalls because nearly everything I saw (excluding the tripe and other indistinguishable meats) was something that I wanted to buy in order to prepare a grand Italian feast. Fortunately for my wallet, Emily and I had a list of ingredients in mind, which restrained me from going wild. Continue reading