We did it! After being inspired by Sara-in-Bergamo's American comfort food order
(she talks about the site she found over at her blog
--they have Doritos!), I went back through my list of cell phone messages to find that one from Lori, where she included a website that she found selling tex-mex food in Italy.
Once I found it, Antonello and I sat down at the computer, waiting for the screen to load and a good list of canned Mexican treats (and plenty of dried peppers) to appear on the screen. I tapped my fingers in anticipation. It was time to bring some jalapeños and taco shells home to Macerata.
Ordering was easy. The selection, while rather varied, isn't huge, so picking out the items that I had to have most for my mexican-food cravings was rather simple. Shipping and handling was 6 euros, but that was added as soon as I clicked on one my first can of tomatillo sauce. Once I realized that the price for shipping didn't increase as I clicked on more 'add to cart' items, I quickly doubled the tomatillo sauce and, rather trigger-happily, clicked away on whatever even halfway appealed to me.
Because of that, we have on our list everything from canned mangoes in syrup to refried black beans to tender cactus pieces! Have I ever cooked with cactus before? Of course not! But hey, it's worth a try. (anyone out there have a cactus recipe that they recommend?)
However, what I love best about Mexican food is the salsa and tortilla chips (okay, so it's actually a toss up between that and jalapeño peppers), and the site was rather lacking in a good tomato salsa. But I found one can that looks like it might be okay, and I'm perfectly willing to test it out. Who knows, it might become a staple in our mexican diet (and for 70 cents a can, that's not bad!).
I'm dreaming up mexican dinners just thinking about my recent order! Mmm...tacos and burritos and enchiladas and...cactus. (If only they had sold some good mexican cheese!) I'd better stop writing now. Blogging about food is making me hungry.
Lunch Near the Lake
November 1st (All Saints Day) usually brings along with it a long weekend, and this year was no exception. Because All Saints Day was on a Tuesday, the Italians did like they sometimes do and made a 'ponte' or a bridge out of the Monday--meaning no work on Monday for both Antonello and me. Since we were already heading up near Bergamo for the annual caving convention,when we had the chance to attend an expatriate get-together on Lake Como
in the tiny town of Colico, we were in.
The lunch was scheduled for Saturday at 1pm (with apertifs at noon), so we left Macerata that Saturday morning, early. Early meant 5 am. It was still dark outside, and the ride up meant driving through heavy fog in Emilia Romagna and watching the sun suddenly rise, waking up later than me. Between mix-tapes and napping, and many coffee breaks for Antonello, we made it up north, arriving in Colico exactly at 12 pm.
Our friends Cyndi and Danilo from Ravenna greeted us as we pulled in, and all of the sudden I relaxed, ready to play the American for a day and meet new people. For me, this role as an expatriate, or calling myself an expatriate, is new. There are so few Americans living in Macerata, and Le Marche in general isn't rich in tourism, so I've always thought, "If there are expatriates out there, they are all living in Florence or Rome or something." But, upon finding the site Expats in Italy,
I realized that small towns, even places in Le Marche, can hold an expat here and there. Being an American living in small town Italy isn't as rare as I had once thought. So that morning, a Saturday in Colico, one of the first to arrive for a lunch near the lake, I felt like I was taking a big step forward. I was meeting other people who lived lives like mine, who shared in the feeling of learning a new language, a new kind of life, in another country. I greeted Cyndi with a hug, ready to be a part of a group of Americans again.
After an apertif where we met Carole, the organizer of the get-together who lives nearby on the lake, Jennifer, an American living near Milan, and her husband Davide, we took off to pick up Lori (Carole was going to stop by the train station on the way) and to head up the hill to Posallo, a small town that seemed to begin where the mountains did. Here, in Lombardia, the northern part is mountainous, and I was pleasantly surprised to find signs of autumn--trees whose leaves really changed color, and the kind of soft warmth in the air that speaks of apple cider and cinnamon. When we arrived at the agriturismo for lunch, I felt like I was in a hillier version of Brown County--gravel roads and red and orange leaves. A true fall day.
We spent our lunch chatting away in English with the Americans we met--most of them already waiting for us when we arrived at the restaurant. There was Gia
from Torino. We talked about filipino food (there's a filipino food store in Torino!) and what it feels like being an Asian in Italy (Gia is Chinese-American). There was Natalie, who spoke to Antonello in Italian (which made him feel more at ease) and told us about her small town near Ivrea. There was Laurie (not just Lori), also from Torino, Deirdre from Lecco (on Lake Como as well) and Sara,
living in Bergamo, who brought us ghost figurines and halloween cards (thank you!) which Antonello played with the rest of the lunch. There were these women and their husbands and friends: all of us talking and laughing, having that same thing in common--living in Italy.
It's a big thing, I discovered--this expat feeling. Bonds between expats can be formed quickly and securely, friendships made with ease, because there is something very strong that holds us together. We are strangers here. It's important to find each other.
After lunch, Antonello and I gave Lori her birthday present
(and she brought us boxes of cranberry juice and cans of condensed milk!) and made our way to the local chocolate factory. After buying the place out, we gathered on the porch, chatting a bit, moving our way toward good-bye. Antonello and I were probably the first to leave, as a caving convention near Bergamo was awaiting us.
I looked back as we drove away. The gals and their husbands were still there, talking, no sign of wanting to say goodbye. I turned toward the road, watching the fall colors again. We were in Lombardia, and it was still just Saturday. We had three full days ahead of us, all ours--all vacation. Still, I felt like I was leaving something behind. There was a little bit of America there--a little bit of home, and it had nearly been tangible. We drove a little more along the lakeside, and I turned up the radio. It was almost evening, and the first signs of sunset tickled the lake with their reflections, oranges, golds, and reds in silver-grey water.
I watched, enthralled. I wasn't ready to leave.
Thanks Carole and Gia for your hard work on the GTG! We must do it again sometime soon!