"Okay man, where are we? Because THIS is where we wanted to go.." John holds his phone up to the driver while gesturing to the google maps location of the Interspar we had intended upon visiting.
"You want Interspar?"
"Interspar...Yes!" John's frustrated at this point and I'm almost afraid. Fake taxi services are big in this country leading to all sorts of things for the victims like attacks, theft, etc. With you not being able to carry any sort of self defense weapon with you, a bad situation can turn worse in mere moments. Though, this cab has all of his credentials and is with a service, that doesn't mean he's a good person.
The man fakes surprise that we had wanted the Interspar closest to base, which would have resulted in half the cab fair and only been logical.
"Interspar..." He trails off hissing the word through his teeth as if he were cursing but continues driving in the opposite direction of where we had intended, and he now recognizes, to go. He stops the car and points out the window, John and I are both fuming by this point.
"Interspar!" He gestures to the building just outside. Sure enough we are sitting in front of our beloved Italian grocer...just not the location we wanted.
"Two Interspar in Vicenza!" The man exclaims, while zeroing his toll meter.
"Alright man, ten euro?" John replies. Completely annoyed with the man taking advantage of our inability to keep track of where we are what with being new. In short, we were ripped off. John pays and we get out heading for the building quickly.
"That guy was an ass, and a horrible driver! Worst we've had yet!" I complain.
"I know sweetie, but try to forget about it, we're shopping!" He flashes his gleaming Abercrombie model smile at me and I melt into his dimples. All worries completely faded.
"You want a cart?!" He goes to get us one and I peek inside the entrance but he returns empty-handed.
"No coin..." He shrugs as we hold hands and head in. Pretty much all of the grocery carts and luggage carriers, anything that wheels that lazy Americans tend to leave in hallways and parking lots? Yeah...no, Italy doesn't put up with that. You have to deposit coin like the popular American grocery chain Aldi, just to unlock a cart, which you get back when you return it to its proper place, of course. On this particular day, both John and I had forgotten to bring change, or as we've taken to saying, "coin".
We walk in and both breathe deeply, it's like the best scents on earth have congregated in this one place just for your smelling pleasure. Fresh warm baked breads, bright and dewy vegetables and fruits and something sweet I can't quite place, fill my lungs and make my head swim with excitement.
Walking down the aisle we walk all the way to the right and go in the entrance gate as if entering an amusement park ride. Once you enter you cannot get back out without passing directly in front of an employee, to ward off theft I'm sure. We grab a basket that rolls as if it were luggage and start down what seems to be a never-ending produce section.
You know that scene in "The Wizard of Oz"? The one where for the first time Dorothy sees the colors and wonders of Oz and your senses are bombarded with the fantastical colors after only seeing black and white for so long? That's the Interspar produce section. The moment where Alice from "Alice in Wonderland" where she wanders into the GIANT forest that is actually just an oversized garden of flowers the size of houses and the technicolor smoking caterpillar? That is also the Interspar produce section. Well, minus the caterpillar. It is a magical, fantastic world filled with things I had never seen before, and I made sure to comment on it.
Only a small selection of the
wonderful world of
Suppressing my urge to break into song I practically run over to a stack of melons, the likes on which I had never seen in my life. They were cantaloupe colored and textured roughly but had distinct stripes like a basketball.
"Look at these!" I exclaim to John who is still trying to process it all.
"Yeah.." He furrows his brows, "aren't they cantaloupe?"
"No, they can't be, look at the stripes.."
"Hmmm, very strange.."
We continue to wander as I touch and smell and inspect different fruits and vegetables. We spot a display of strawberries that could not have been more beautiful if they had been painted. Fragrant as if you were walking through a patch of them in your backyard and gleaming with ruby red color, they were irresistible. I grab a package of them and gently put them at the bottom of my rolling-tote type shoppers basket.
Me checking out some vegetables.
"Honey, what do you need for your recipe?" John gets me on track as I try to remember the purpose of our trip. A restaurant copy-cat recipe I hope to create of one of my favorite dishes I miss and have been craving since we left Alaska; Snow City Cafe's stuffed french toast.
"Oranges!" I say as we meander over to a display of at least ten different kinds of oranges.
"How do we know what's what?" I ponder to John.
"Just grab what looks good!" John laughs off my concern and heads over to look at seafood. I grab a bunch that look just the right size and fairly ripe.
Check out my groovy basket!
I catch up with John at the seafood. Yet again I am transported to some sort of fantasy world. We spot some delicious delicacies from the food we've been eating the past week at different amazing restaurantes. A particular favorite we've developed is anchovies drenched in lemon. I know, I know, but don't knock it until you try it. And when you do try it, make sure it's at Vecchia Fattoria. That particular meal changed my views on food, it was an experience.
Highlights of our meal at Vecchia Fattoria.
As John is documenting the beautiful crustaceans and water-breathing produce alike, a woman stocking her case snaps at John that pictures are not allowed. We're pretty sure they were but that she just didn't want herself in the photos. Though John puts his Nikon away and gets out his phone to replace it, just to be safe. We round the corner and see a bakery across the building. Passing cheese and meat sections that would make even the most seasoned of foodies cry and finally make it to our destination. Pane.
Loaves and rolls and croissants, I briefly picture myself sitting in the corner tearing off hunks and shoving them into my mouth with abandon. Reluctantly I decide against introducing myself to the Italian police and spot a ciabatta loaf that will work perfectly. John slides it out of its drawer and then we see it. A very unfamiliar scale with a touch screen monitor that produces the sticker you must put on your baked good so that it can be purchased. John puts the ciabatta loaf on the scale and tries to punch in a number but nothing happens. We try this again roughly half a dozen times when an Italian woman rolls her cart up to our section and bags a few rolls. John quickly snatches our loaf off the machine and we awkwardly watch over her shoulder as she expertly weighs her goods and punches in the number from the drawer she took from. We follow her lead as she laughs at us and rolls her cart away to continue her shopping. Having filled our quota of overly American moments for the day we are now focused and determined.
We go up and down each aisle and pick up spices, (which I was able to locate correctly without translation assistance from John) cream cheese, and raspberry preserves that are too adorable for words. While hunting for eggs we realize we are standing in the middle of an aisle of literally only pasta and pasta dressings. Yes, these people take their most famous dishes very serious here.
The GIANT aisle of entirely
pasta products. The gnocchi was
calling my name!
We locate the eggs...in an unrefrigerated section and John attempts to grab a carton when I protest;
"Oh hell no! We could get diseases or something.."
"Honey, it's just like farm fresh eggs. They're fine."
"I don't eat those either! If I ever cracked an egg only for an underdeveloped baby chick fetus to pop out, I would be scarred so badly I would never be able to even look at eggs again...And that would make your life very difficult, my friend."
Eggs. Unrefridgerated. I know,
John laughs at me but agrees we can pick up eggs at the commissary along with a few other baking essentials I couldn't locate, when we get back to base and we keep moving.
We checkout with our groceries, surprised we are expected to bag them ourselves (another lazy American essential) and carry them out the exit gate and out the door.
After returning to base and picking up what else we needed we head back to the room. With only a pot and a small skillet cooking should prove quite the challenge but it is not long before I am in the zone. With the mindset of an "Iron Chef" and the determination to adapt of a "Chopped" chef I breeze through recreating my beloved french toast and though it turned out well, I have decided to tweak it a bit and try again soon.
My ingriedients including the
scrumptious raspberry preserves
I used to make raspberry butter.
Also, the final product,
a crispy cinnamon-nutmeg french toast
stuffed with an orange infused cream cheese,
garnished with toasted walnuts, raspberry
butter, and powdered sugar.
Entering the wonderful world of Italian cuisine has proved to be quite the feat. Though John and I both talk fondly of future times where we can grill fresh fish and boil real Italian gnocchi in our apartment. (We sign the lease tomorrow and hope to be in before the month of May is out!)
I would say that meals mean more than just fuel or indulgence or a gathering of people here, no, here...
'il cibo è vita'.