Thursday, 27 October 2011

Food, glorious food

Another set of reflections on my recently completed Italian holiday – this time about something that was a central feature to just about all of it, the food! Apart from the hotels and the travel, it was by far the biggest expense – and believe me, not one I begrudged. I do like my food, particularly good food – I was once asked what my favourite food was and I struggled to answer, other than to say anything as long as it's good. The only thing about food – apart from tripe and boiled cabbage – that I don't like, is a bad meal. I always feel cheated if I've eaten something and it hasn't been good. Doesn't matter what it is, provided it's tasty and well cooked, I'm a happy bunny.

And this holiday has been great for that. The food, on the whole, has been excellent. It's also not been cheap. I think the fact that the pound is so weak against the Euro has something to do with it. Also, eating in predominantly tourist towns will have played a factor too. In fact the only place that had relatively cheap food was Palermo. Cheap, that is, but very very good!!

My rule of thumb on holiday is to try to eat local foods as much as possible. I research in the guidebooks what the local delicacies are and try to find them. This time round I've done pretty well – cannoli, involtini, panelle, an arancine, cassata and pasta norma to name but a few. My other rule of thumb is never to eat in a place that has pictures on the menu, to avoid the places that automatically translate the menu into 4 languages and only to have the menu fixe if it's neither of the first two things!

I also tend to try out places recommended in the guidebooks. Which is in itself a funny experience. You turn up at the place, described as being a quiet place where the locals eat, forgetting that you yourself found it in a book with a print run of several hundred thousand and therefore, you're NOT going to be the only tourist there. No wonder the staff all look a bit bemused, and generally speak very good English (and German, and French...).

The flavours this holiday have been fantastic – tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, seafood, aubergine. And bread – lots of bread. Which leads me to believe that my wheat intolerance is indeed more psychosomatic than real, or at very least, linked to stress. It's no coincidence that after the ferry trip my stomach rebelled when it had been fine for the rest of the holiday. And I'm pleased that seems to be the case, otherwise I'd have missed all sorts of culinary delights – no pizza, no lovely Italian bread, no bruschetta, no (gasp) cannoli and no torte. It would have been a completely different holiday without the wheat!!

I didn't try everything – I gave the panini con la milza a miss, and the ice cream breakfast brioche (yes, really!). I confess I did have veal – and it was lovely. In my defence, it was already dead and it would have been a waste if I hadn't eaten it. Ok, not much of a defence...

There's also been plenty of wine – not in excess, but certainly in everyday quantities. And Limoncello, my new discovery of the holiday. And Almond wine, beautiful.

And yes, I am the size of a house now and will need to get back running again fairly soon to shed some of the pounds and inches I've doubtless gained. But it was worth, oh it was so worth it!

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