Europe is often lauded for its great food, but nowhere other than Italy (except maybe France) is it revered. Americans in particular have had a love affair with Italy and its food for quite some time. So needless to say, I have greatly anticipated our month in Italy in order to partake of this gastronomic haven.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a foodie. Others may call me a food snob. Whatever name you attach to it, suffice it to say that I love great food! While we've enjoyed some delicacies throughout Europe (wonderful Dutch cheeses, pierogis and potato pancakes in Poland, fresh calamari in Croatia and delicious artisan breads in Slovenia) it has been Italy that I have waited for. Now that we are more than 75% through our stay in Italy, my question is "What exactly was I saving myself for?"
I confess that we have not been eating at fine dining establishments, but hey, this is Italy. We shouldn't have to eat in the best restaurants in order to have great food. We should be able to eat at the local trattoria with grandma cooking in the back and still get a great meal right? Don't get me wrong, we have had some delicious treats: amazing gelato in every flavor you can imagine, fresh pecorino cheese from Pienza, delicious pizzas with crisp crusts, panna cotta with caramel sauce, fresh pici pasta with truffle sauce, Proscuitto di Parma and great salamis. But overall, the food has been somewhat of a disappointment. Where are those incredible tomatoes that grow so well in the Tuscan sun? Hardy Tuscan stews that should make your mouth water and great artisan breads to go with your antipasta?
So while America often takes a back seat to the foods of Italy, I am hear to sing the praise of American food. No where in Italy have we tasted baked goods as good as what I can make or what I can find at the fine bakery in Cincinnati, the Bonbonerie. The breads at Shadeau Bakery at home surpass what we have had in Tuscany (especially with the absence of salt here). The produce even in our standard supermarkets at home is far superior to what is available in a supermarket here and is at least equal to what is available at the farmers' market. If you eat at moderate priced, non-chain restaurants in the States, you can often get food equal to what we have experienced here.
In 5 days we leave for Tanzania in Africa. Who knows, after a week in Tanzania, we might look back on our culinary experience in Italy with envy. In the meantime, we have 5 days left in Italy to see what all the hype is about.