Monday, February 28, 2011

Cultural Clashes: The Good and the Bad.

Warning. Long musing at the end. But it applies to YOU.

Hey lovers.

HOW did I forget?? Especially since it's about food?? (I have a problemo.)

Went to da Garibaldi's. DELISH. Not too expensive.

Got Tortellino di Zucca gailla caccio e burro. Or, pumpkin tortellini with butter and Parmesan cheese.

Okay, I paid €5,00 for 2 tortellino. BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT. And it was more filling than you'd think. Or maybe that's because I had dinner beforehand so I wouldn't spend so much. It was GREAT though. I cannot wait to go home and try to make it.

We had our cooking lesson after the Uffizi tour. The Uffizi is the first museum (making it the oldest museum) in the world. It used to be an office building (weird, I know, to think of offices in those times) but it was turned into a museum for the public to be able to view the arts. We learned a LOT of really sweet stories about a lot of the pieces in there. It might be because we had a great tour guide who gave us a LOT of fun information about each art piece but I can honestly say this is my most favorite museum in the world. I think I wanna go back there to check things out in full depth.

Spinach ravioli!!

This is what mediocre tiramisu looks like.

Our guy, Silvio ("SILLLLLL-VIAAAA") who I swear hated us at first, then opened up at the end to tell us about this girl he ran away to Ohio to marry. Who he is now divorced from.

My chef man. Kept calling me Catherine (but pronounced it in the Italian way, which was Catherin-a kinda like my mom does). And poked fun at me for being terrible at Italian.


Anyways, cooking lesson. Fun! The recipes will be thrown up here soon, as will the ravioli verde. I fuqued up the first dough because I didn't have someone to help me feed it in at first since it was oddly shaped but Kat took over and fixed it. I def want a pasta machineeeee. I LOVE using that thing, it's so satisfying in a hands-on-studio kind of way.

We made spinach ravioli (I think we all ended up getting 18 pieces if I remember correctly... getting 3 servings hahah), an eggplant antipasta (DELISH because the cheese was so great) and tiramisu (doesn't match up to the one I made haha and def wasn't as pretty). It was missing the Bailey's because the coffee had no sweetness to it.

I LOVE making desserts. I'm alright with cooking- I love cooking for myself but that's really just because I know I'll love anything I eat since I LOVE food. But desserts, I think that's my specialty considering my past inner-grandma who has provided and endless number of desserts for the greater Towson and Baltimore areas hahaha.

Cannot wait to go back and apply for bakery positions.

So back to the last chef. He was the owner. The Indian-ish "bus-boy" kept staring me down which really annoyed me, then he asked me where I was from. I hesitated in telling him Vietnamese. I should have just said American like I did at the clubs before. I know people don't mean anything by it but I guess sometimes it irks me if I think they assumed beforehand I'm some poor-English speaking girl who is dumb and fobby.

In any event, when Chef Due (2) asked me, I told him. I think they had some fascination with me being Asian because well, honestly, I have not seen a single Asian in all of FUA. The only Asians I see are the tourists, and I've probably only spotted a tiny tiny handful that may actually live here.

This is a very interesting concept to me. Back in the States, yes it's true I'm not surrounded by Asians- I only have 3 Asian friends, and two of them have no cliché Asian qualities. But I do see them around and 75% of them are "Americanized." But here, you don't have any of that. They're either tourists, or- nonexistent. So it always makes me wonder how I'm perceived, considering how I perceive the other Asians here. I assume I'm correct in my assumptions because why would they have any belief otherwise?

Sometimes I like surprising people with my well-spoken English, lacking any accent or poor grammar. In fact, I love it. I know most people hear me speak (expecting poor English), and for a moment they think "oh she's not fobby," and brush it off and forget it. I like this because they don't question why I don't have poor English. But I also like it when it makes them think further and think "so not every Asian has to have shitty English." Sometimes I can tell them thinking, "Why doesn't she have shitty English? I guess she was raised in the States."

I get "where are you from?" a lot and of course I won't be snotty with "America," but I'll answer "Vietnam." But once they ask me "were you born in the States?" or "are you the first generation in the States?" I know that before I answered them, they were wondering why my English was correct.

Again, I'm not offended. I like answering this most of the time because this is my chance to show them that clichés are just that- just clichés. Chef Due asked me if I was the first or the second generation in my family to live in the States. I answered, I was the first, considering I was the first generation born there. (My parents escaped their country at the young age of 18-20ish.)

It's not to say that I think everyone around me is judging me or making premature assumptions about my English, my upbringing, and my "fobbiness." Not at all. I know that there aren't nearly as many people thinking it as I think. It just feels like it because I'm always either the token or one of the few Asians in any setting. But I do know they exist because I've experienced it. They, being people who do assume I wasn't raised here and so on. It's usually not at school but at work and just being around, especially older generations because of their experience. Which is why I'm not really offended.

It never really occurred to me that being in the Italian culture where Asians are seemingly irrelevant (because of the primarily Caucasian cultures here) would make me wonder all of this.

As any other female has been here, I've been cat called every day, and I'll ignore it as I do at home. It's times like those that I play the non-English-speaking-Asian card. But once in awhile, I'll get a remark like "Arigato" or "Konichiwa" in which I'll wish to god that I knew Italian to blow them away. All I have in my arsenal is English and a bare amount of French (unfortunately). THAT'S what annoys me, is when every Asian is lumped together. At the same time, I can't be too offended because yes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between Asians if you haven't been immersed in the culture enough, as it can be difficult to tell the difference between different Caucasian ethnicities.

One day as I was passing through a small group of Italian boys at the young ages of maybe between 9 to 13, I was shocked when they all started calling to me "arigato" in a taunting manner, following me a few meters down the street.

I don't really know what to say about that. They're just kids, so I can't be mad or anything. But that's the kind of thing that annoys me.

Honestly, many of the Italians I've passed are not kind. Friendly eye contact and smiles are completely nonexistent. I'll walk down the streets of Baltimore County or Towson, get smiles all the time, and I'll return them. Some of them are very unfriendly to those who cannot speak Italian.

Yes, I know we could be more open to learning other languages but what if you haven't been exposed at all? I'm trying my goddamned hardest after being so resistant for a couple of weeks, but it doesn't make a difference.

Returning to the subject, I feel like it isn't just me who thinks that Americans are welcoming. Most of us are- its just the racist ones deep in the city or in the old societies that are isolated who are not welcoming. I honestly do not know a single racist person but I do know they exist so I won't generalize it. That being said, nearly everyone in my areas are kind, open to, and even excited about meeting anyone from another country. Especially if they can't speak English. And we don't take advantage of them economically (in terms of buying and selling). I know for a fact that Americans are ripped off here pretty often.

But to redeem them, there are a number of Italians who HAVE been welcoming, and in fact love us. Most of that seems to come from my professors but we also get restaurants who love us. It's a relief to find these Italians who don't generalize all Americans based on their political views of us.

WOW. Bedtime. I've been writing this for a half hour.


Sunday, February 27, 2011


Hey lovers.
Landscape view of Orvieto. Another medieval town.

St. Patrick's well. Not because he went there or anything but because they took the name from the Irish cave where St. Patrick used to pray.

It's pretty clever. The well is constructed to have a double helix design so that one is for going up and the other for going down so that the never intersect. Kind of sparks ideas for project designs.

Rosemary bushes. Being a poor college student, I made sure to grab some before leaving. Now if only there was sage...

Underground city, nbd.

There were at least three kittens running around. Literally kittens- they were all babies! I jumped in front of this one and snapped a shot.

The wind was unforgiving.

After-lunch treat.

VERY slightly edited (highlights in the sky outlining her face, dramatization of the light). But that's a part of the art, yes?

New goods. A Plastichic watch and Murano glass bracelet. I'm also def looking into glass-working?

Fried rice.

I realized, since I had rice I hadn't cooked since the first week of being here, and I had veggies and seasonings, I could cook fried rice. Best. Ever. It felt just like home and I ate the whole plateful. I only needed scallions to make it perfect. And meat that wasn't baloney. But beggars can't be choosers.

And believe me, I'm a beggar.

This weekend is the Parma/Modena cheese tour. YES. So into that. Wherever food is involved, count me in.

I'm terrible.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cintolesi Ravioli!

Hey lovers.

Ravioli verdi di verdure con salsa di pomodoro.
Or basically, green ravioli (spinach) with sauteed vegetables and tomato sauce.

Makin that dough

There's my man Tomasso Cintolesi. Is it awkward how much I love him?

SO beautiful.

We had a ridiculous amount of dough left over, so me being the poor Firenze student I am, I wrapped it up and took it home to do something with it. I tried making ravioli but I didn't have flour to dip it in and I didn't have a pasta machine to roll it out. So I rolled it up into balls and cut it in half, and made my own sauce. Poor man's gnocchi.

I finally decided to be a big spender and graduated to €4,95 wine as opposed to €2,00 wine. hahahah that €2,45 makes a huge difference. This was delicious.

The recipe for the ravioli will be up shortly once I write it down. Tonight, I'm taking a nap before we go bar hopping/clubbing and tomorrow is the Uffizi museum tour and a full 3-course cooking day with the ladies (and 2 gents) of ISA.

Also... met our landlord today, uhhh hahah all I can say is, he can come check our gas levels anytime he wants. First overwhelmingly attractive Italian male since I've been here. wooooooo


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Siena & San Gimignano

Hey lovers.

In Siena:
RICCIARELLI COOKIES! Aughh I love these cookies, they weren't soft like I usually like them but they melted in my mouth. It was a piece of heaven.

I'm addicted to fun pasta.

Carnivale-dressed kids :)

The pastry shop I got my cookies from

Siena, as Elise described it, had a lot of character. There's a lot of history, with the wards and such. I'm gonna come back and explain more, but basically, the whole city was divided into several small neighborhoods- neighborhoods that were as wide as a few blocks- maybe 3 or so.

In San Gimignano:
Entrance to the city. I swear I saw the Skins twins from Series 2 as we were walking in.

That's not snow; that's confetti.


Rainy evenings.

San Gimignano is famous for their gelato. It didn't fail me. I had Tiramisu, Terre di Siena, and Mascarpone. Basically a mascarpone orgy because that's what tiramisu is made of, and Terre di Siena had mascarpone in it. No problem there.

The best part about going out that weekend was that there were so many carnivale events going on. There were a ridiculous number of kids dressed up for the festivities, and the streets of San Gimignano were packed. I loved San Gimignano. It was so cute and quiet. I was getting tired of the crazy life in Florence- I just needed to step out.

Siena is a less busy version of Florence. I liked it. It's divided into different wards, or contradas. Each contrada is represented by an animal/mascot, and they are all very competitive. The areas are marked by the mascots/flags. There's the she-wolf, unicorn, dragon, caterpillar (gross), fish, turtle, etc... Several parts of the city have deep economic roots- the banks were practically like emperors and controlled the cities and had a grip on the people with the likes of loan sharks.

Siena is where I got my ricciarelli cookies.

"Today, the biscuits are made using an almond base with sugar, honey and egg white. When prepared in the traditional method, the almonds are ground with a milling machine, and the finished mix is formed into numerous oval- or lozenge-shaped cookies that are set aside for two days before baking. The rough and crackled surface is usually lightly sprinkled with confectioner's sugar." *thank you wiki

I did some research to figure out which ones I wanna try when I go home.

First Recipe
Second Recipe
Third Recipe