Friday, October 25, 2013


"A healthy mind in a healthy body."

A goal we should all aspire to achieve!

Italy does its share in promoting this.  Besides the holy places and magnificent churches, one of the things I will always miss about Italy is the food.  NOT the pricey food found in fancy restaurants, but the simple, home-style cooking found in the humblest Italian kitchen.

First off, the Italians love their fruits and vegetables, and they put a high value on freshness.  Nothing out of a can or a bag.  From the garden to the table within the day.  They grill it, boil it or eat it raw but they don't fry it, as a rule, and, unlike the Spaniards, they normally don't add bits of meat to their vegetables to enhance the flavor.

When I have to eat out, I usually look for a tavola calda (literally "hot table," or buffet) which sometimes goes by the name "self service" (yes, English even in Italy) because the prices are low and you choose your dishes from a wide variety of healthy options.

So this was my lunch one day in Assisi.  Verdure miste (mixed vegetables) : carrots, artichokes, zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes.  Then, pasta (in this case farfalle) with zucchini and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Bread (no butter; in Italy, butter goes with bread only for breakfast).  For dessert, macedonia or simply a variety of fresh fruits cut into bite-size pieces.  Mineral water.  All for 7 euros or $11.  It's only the horrible exchange rate that makes this slightly more expensive for American wallets.

In Rome, I always go to this one restaurant where the genius of Italian cooking comes through for me in all its simplicity and respect for nature.  This is melanzane marinate (marinated eggplants).  The fresh eggplant is sliced, slightly grilled and marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper, parsley and a dash of vinegar.  So simple and yet the flavors that fill the palate bathe my soul in joy!  Thank you Lord for giving us these blessings!

Followed by hand-made ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in a tomato sauce.  On the side, even more spinach - boiled in salted water then sautéed in olive oil and garlic with as much lemon juice as you want.  I had a hard time convincing the waiter to serve me the spinach because, he said, the ravioli already had spinach in it.  In Italy, where everyone is an expert in cooking, the waiters tell you what to eat.

How could I not patronize this Roman restaurant when the owners are buoni cattolici (good Catholics) who proudly decorate their entrance with many holy cards (these were only a few on one side of the entrance) and who always serve il cappuccino (the Capuchin) extra portions???

Deo gratias!  Thanks be to God!

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