Monday, October 09, 2006

Food Glorious Food

I find myself thinking ahead to my next meals with the introduction of buying groceries and cooking for myself in this study abroad experience. I try to think what could go well together, how much time I need to prepare, what is on sale at the supermarket. Cooking meals at home was never a responsibility of mine, except for a few occasions when I decided to do a few recipes and cook for the fam. Here, every single meal needs to be planned. They don’t HAVE to be, but it would be nice to eat healthily and eat well. There will always be pasta, the quick easy fix to the question what are we going to eat? Truly, thinking ahead about food isn’t that much of a burden, but we all have our moments when we don’t feel like cooking and go out to eat (like I did when I bought a kebab sandwich Saturday night arriving later than the closing time of Conad, the supermarket) and, god forbid, we might just give in to the Golden Arches in Piazza Cattedrale (like Claire did, confided to me in a hushed confession).

In Italy food is a big deal, besides fashion, design and art, food is probably one of the most renown features of Italian culture abroad. Saturday I had the pleasure to go out to the Eel Festival in neighbouring Comacchio (well, 50km away…). I had heard that the Eel Festival was extremely celebrated in the little town but knew not what to expect. I arrived, after waiting for about an hour for the bus with the high school crowd of smoking styled out teens. It was raining and my first impressions were of a very strange town. The festival itself consisted of plenty of vendors selling their wares, from herbs to sweets, from cheese to bread to meat, from kitchenware to jewelry.

But through the rain you could smell a fried fish, not an unpleasant smell, a curiously lingering odor. I soon discovered that Comacchio seemed to be a bastardized version of Venice with shallow canals and shallow bridges but wide sidewalks. The Queen of the Valleys of Comacchio, the eel has represented a source of sustenance for the people of this town for a long part of its history. Eel and polenta was the staple meal and the same odor I smelled wafted through the streets. I saw some vendors selling the black slimy sea creatures whose lives still remains a mystery to biologists. The festival was very strange with its mix of vendors and its featured medieval boat race down the canal. I felt as if I had entered some strange place. Since it was an Eel festival I, of course, had to try the food now become something of a delicacy in the culinary world. My bus schedule prevented me from eating lunch or dinner so I decided to have a marinated eel piadina (Sandwich typical of the Northeast, like a pita but thicker). I was afraid. You see eels and they are slimy and black, elusive and rubbery. But I rather enjoyed it, not too strong, subtle, substantial and with a taste that lingers hours after while you wait for the bus and arrive home.

Perhaps next week as the weather chills, I’ll try horse and go to the supermarket to purchase the equino (horse meat). I thought I had eaten horse this summer mistakenly in Milan, and I’ve always been curious to give it a shot. Let the adventures begin.

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