Friday, 7 October 2011

Italian Expose Part 1: Food

 Hello Blog-o-sphere! I am back! And after a couple of days back on Canadian-time I am now also less jet-lagged. So I am finally feeling mentally able to tackle Part One of my Italian Escape Expose - Food!

I want to start off by saying that all aspects of my trip will be getting glowing reviews, because everything went swimmingly and it was all endlessly enjoyable. But the food was definitely on a whole other level. I like to consider myself a bit of a foodie, mostly because I like to eat, and Italy is definitely a foodie's paradise. I have returned full of excess amounts of cheese, refined carbs, culture, and happiness. In other words I can't complain!

The one big difference I noticed about Italian food culture is emphasis on FRESH food. There is a clearly a strong emphasis on locally grown and organic ingredients. In fact if a restaurant has to resort to using frozen ingredients (not to mention the sacrilege of something pre-made) to provide a particular menu item they note it on the menu. And many restaurants and shops regularly trumpet the fact that they only use fresh, locally grown ingredients, and that everything is made from scratch.You can definitely taste the difference! And to be honest for me it probably made it easier to indulge, because I could rest assured that I was only indulging in fresh, wholesome ingredients - something I think is really key to a healthy lifestyle. Things taste lighter, fresher, just generally tastier. Although I admit I definitely ate too many heavy diary products (aka cheese, gelato, and milk-laden lattes) and way too many refined carbs (whole wheat is not something they do over there) it was all DELICIOUS and well worth it!

The one food oddity I discovered while in Italy was their Breakfast Habits. So the typical Italian breakfast means squeezing up to the large coffee bar in one of the cafes, shouting your coffee and pastry order, inhaling them respectively with 3 gulps and 3 bites and then hitting the road. No one sits down for breakfast and certainly no one savours it. And don't be fooled by the fact that some cafes have table; those are strictly for tourists. They charge you extra for those seats, in some cases up to 3x what it would cost you at the bar. For the country that started the slow food movement; it clearly does not apply to their breakfasts. Now this is not at all my style. I a) like to start my mornings slowly and b) I am probably the slowest coffee drinker on the planet. So the hustle and bustle of Italian breakfasts did not suit me. Nor did the excess of breakfast pastries and lack of light breakfast alternatives. I missed my yogurt and granola like no body's business. So when I finally found a cafe in Varenna on the beautiful Lake Como that sold a variety of yogurt an granola combos I was more than willing to pay the expensive 8 Euro price tag for it.   

So Worth It!
 Breakfast aside, I very much enjoyed my Italian food experience.  Although I have to admit I have also be happy to return to normal dietary routine this week as well. As good as all the food was, I can't say it is the kind of stuff I normally indulge in, or at least don't indulge in quite so often. Eating out everyday for every meal for two weeks is certainly not part my usual routine. And if I were to do anything slightly different it would be to consider renting some apartments while vacationing and making some of my own meals, just to help balance out some of the heavy meals with some lighter fare. As I already mentioned the basic ingredients are amazing, so whipping up something delicious wouldn't actually be too difficult. To sum up my tummy and taste buds are happy, and my waistline is probably happy that am back to my routine again.

This trip, however, was more about balance and restoring my mental health, than it was a die hard fitness trip. And I do feel like lots of good eating helped restore my soul. (I know I know eating can't fix your problems, don't be an emotional eater, blah, blah, blah). But I think it was more the act of just taking that time out eat, enjoying really well prepared food created by happy chefs, sharing a bottle of wine with my husband, and relaxing that really did the trick. Enjoying a meal is about being the moment, and enjoying all of the amazing things you have right in front of you. So many things get rushed through, meals included, and aspects of your life are so often get taken for granted. But being away and taking time to enjoy all the little things reminds me that although there are tough times ahead there are so many things I have to enjoy and be grateful for right now.

One that note, Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!
And stay tuned for Part 2 of my Italiam Expose - Fitness!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,