Friday, July 07, 2006

31 Flavors: Mashed Potatoes

My friend Allison recently sent me a link to this article from STL Today (of the St. Louis Post Dispatch) about gelato in America. I guess the popularity of Italian-style gelato is catching on in American suburbia--from Texas to Missouri--and that means it's not as necessary to make a trip to Florence to taste your favorite pistacchio and panna cotta cone. Now, you can simply drive out to the 'burbs and pay "between $2.50 and $3" for a scoop.

While I have doubts that American-style gelato can really compete with the Italian staple, it's interesting to read about the popularity of our favorite Italian pasttime (gelato-eating), and it would be quite the thing if Italian 'gelato-culture' (everyone going to the gelateria in the evenings, as if it were the local pub) caught on in Suburbian America.

But problems are foreseeable. Perhaps the biggest problem is that many people have no idea what gelato is, have never heard of this icy treat, don't know how to pronounce it, and definitely don't have an Italian stamp on their passport or any prior experience eating gelato in Italy. This, of course, means people who stop by "Gianni's Gelateria" aren't sure if they're heading into a three-course-meal, Chinese takeout, or an ice cream parlor. As the article says:
Most customers don't know what [gelato] is, said Shearman and other merchants.

"Some think it's like Jell-O," said Charsley, whose case holds such flavors as Campari pear, tangerine with Bing cherries and even sugar-free double-Dutch chocolate.

"We have to explain it's Italian ice cream," he said. "I even had one person who thought it was mashed potatoes. That would be quite a thing to have eight different flavors of mashed potatoes."

Hmmm. Perhaps that's not a bad idea either: mashed potatoes on a cone. I think I might try that in strawberry and coconut, thanks. America, get ready: Italian ice cream parlors will soon have to compete with my new franchise: "Yeki's Flavored Mashed Potatoes (to go)" Anyone have any slogan ideas for me?


Visits and Visitors

In the convertible outside of Bagnocavallo

June went by just like that. July is already here, and I feel like I haven't even had a chance to taste the start of summer. Still, while June was a tough month, there were some nice moments--some visits and some visitors--that framed the month, beginning it and ending it with good things.

At the beginning of June, I finally made my way up to Cyndi and Danilo's house to meet their lovely little cats, see their house, and spend the day in and around their tiny town of Fusignano. Emilia Romagna is much different than Le Marche in general landscape, but there's something familiar about the area nonetheless. Every time we drive through that area, it's like taking a trip through Indiana countryside, except for the splendid orchards and hills and mountains in the distance that Indiana lacks. On the train ride up, we followed the curve of the coast, passing some of the most charming, colorful little seaside villages that I'd seen on this side of the Mediterranean.

Visiting Cyndi was fun--we drove to nearby towns in Danilo's opened convertible, testing the weather until drops of rain interrupted our little tour. Cyndi took me on a walking tour of Fusignano and, in the evening, we ate dinner at a charming restaurant there. Before turning in, we made frozen strawberry margaritas as we had promised from the beginning, taking pictures of ourselves with the self-timers of our cameras. We acted as silly as possible. As always, seeing Cyndi and Danilo offered much needed comic relief in an otherwise difficult month of June.

And, as the month went by, turns and curves and not a detour in sight, my friend Lori and I SMSed and emailed, making plans for her to visit at the end of the month. And it turned out that, when the end of June arrived, I really was ready for an escape. We decided we'd meet up in Bologna, and we invited Cyndi to meet up with us, too.

Bologna was a great day away--a little oasis of a trip. We went shopping, bought English-language books, ate at a delicious Greek Restaurant, and got happily lost in the University's web of streets. Afterwards, Lori and I headed back to Macerata, her meeting up with some friends in Civitanova, and me making my way (with three cartons of cranberry juice straight from Milano) back to Antonello.

Lori stayed in town for a few more days. We took little day trips--Loreto by bus, Norcia with Antonello--but mostly we relaxed, the time passing too quickly. Sunday, when we hugged Lori and said our goodbyes (as she wasn't just going back to Milano, but home to the states) and my month of visits and visitors ended, Antonello and I decided to start July off as if the summer had barely begun.

We flipped the pages of all of the calendars, ready for a new month--new pictures and new days. And we grabbed our bags, our towels, our flip flops, and our sunscreen. We went, windows wide open, to the beach. It was windy out, and the heat of June had ended, leaving cool air and bright skies. We passed fields of sunflowers along the way, all of them nodding in the wind, searching for the sun on this first day of July.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Quattro di Luglio

"How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy." ~Paul Sweeney

Happy Fourth of July to friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic! Whether corn on the cob or corn on pizza bianca, enjoy the holiday traditions, count many blessings, and know we're thinking of you.