I last wrote on this blog months ago, before winter set in and blasted Rome with a dark, damp chill that left her feeling more like a stone, cold basement than a sun baked mediterranean city. Fortunately, spring has returned and along with her floral finery, brought back the sun and the promise of another hot, lumbering Italian summer. I’ll loathe it come August, but for now these old, cold bones are grateful for the heat.
I’ve written all types of posts on this blog trying to figure out how I want to write about food, but I’ve never really captured what living in Italy is like for me. The word Italy itself blurs things from the start. Is there any country more romanticized than Italy?
What does my Italy actually taste like? Not the tour guide Italy, not the glistening food blog Italy with the perfect plates on the stone patio under the arbor, not the memoir of rebirth in a reconstructed villa on a Tuscan hillside, not the negroni swilling instragram filtered version of la dolce vita. No, the real one. The one that sets my alarm off too early on a Monday morning. The one in which I walk home in the dark under the highway, step past the colorful, rotting bags of garbage and shake my fist at the cars that race by too fast on the narrow pothole ridden road.
What if I actually journaled? My father gave me my first journal when I had barely learned to hold a pencil. It had a lock and a key and was covered in purple cotton with great pink roses.
I am writing in a room with walls the color of hazelnut gelato. From the glass door, an endless stream of small cars races by on the autostrada as airplanes alight on the runways of nearby Fiumicino airport. Smoke billows from a field across the way, a field I once watched erupt into racing flames on a thick summer day, hazy with heat. When the fire truck finally arrived, two men in short sleeves got out of the truck with one hose and a shovel . They proceeded to pat the earth and drip water on a flame that now climbed to the treetops. I’ve since learned to ignore the smoke. Lots of things burn in Rome. But I am glad I already brought my laundry in today from the clothesline on the terrace. A cloud of smoke can leave your underwear smelling like a ham sandwich.
This morning we slept in late and made bright lemony pancakes, fluffed with ricotta and whipped egg whites like airy pillows. Still hot from the griddle, we drizzled them with pure Vermont maple syrup as the steam rose and washed them down with coffee. In Italy it is hard to find vanilla extract so I scraped the fragrant black dirt from the inside of a still moist vanilla bean instead and used lemon and baking soda in place of baking powder. They were perfect.