Bad wifi connections and illness have silenced this blog for far too long. Enough. I’m pulling myself out of a post illness stupor to post some brief memories. Hopefully sharing these will help dissipate the cold, vomiting virus and final flu flogging that have been clouding my holiday recall.
One of the best things about travelling in Italy with a young child is Italians (here’s Oliver with his cheeky devil friend, Naoise). Italians seemingly love babies as much as they love food, and embrace their chaos with smiles and exclamations like ‘bella!’ (everyone thought Oliver was a girl) and ‘amore!’. I and my dear friend Bridge even got a personal escort to the front of the Vatican queues! Quite a change from the often hostile reception children and their parents will often receive in restaurants in Australia. Sure, there are exceptions in both countries… (On that subject, I’d love to start a list of child friendly eats in Brisbane… anyone got one already??)
The other best thing about Rome is Elizabeth Minchilli (the only woman pictured above not strapped to a baby). Here’s us loaded-up-mothers with Elizabeth at the start of one of her food tours. The tours and her hugely useful EAT ROME app were my secret weapons against the tourist food doldrums (how I hate them).
Without Elizabeth, I might not have engaged with the bittersweet temporality of Rome’s fresh food markets, where a vegetable like this
embraces spring for just two weeks before saying goodbye for another whole year. I wish I could remember what it’s called… anyone??
Cooked for just a moment in boiling water and dressed with nothing more than olive oil, lemon and sea salt, it was just the antidote to all that pizza and bread we were munching non stop. Not that I’m complaining. I’ll never forget the crystalline crunch of this pizza rossa from Forno Campo de’Fiori.
Or the flavour and crust of this bread from Roscioli
the best bread I’ve ever eaten (I now know what to aim for in my bread making, and, care of Andrew Whitely and his Bread Matters book, I’ll be stepping back into a daily bread making practice starting… today!!)
Without Elizabeth, I may never have gone to Regoli, the best of its kind of pastry shop in Rome.
Its cream-served-with-pastry rather than pastry-served-with-cream attitude is not one I’ve always embraced, but now I’d (almost) go through the flu again to have another chance with those wild strawberries tarts.
Without Elizabeth, I don’t know if I would have discovered this Jewish Roman specialty: deep fried artichokes.
The artichokes are fried once to cook them and then a second time to crisp them up into flowers. Even the spiky leaves are eaten. They taste like artichoke chips.
And I definitely wouldn’t have ventured in here.
Boccione, a Jewish bakery in the Ghetto, which bakes only 7 or 8 things, and burns them all! But Elizabeth is right, the burnt bits taste great. My favourite was this:
pizza ebraica, or Jewish pizza, as it’s nicknamed. I’ve no idea what that green jelly thing is, but it didn’t taste artificial. It’s nestled into a just sweet dough along with some transparent jellies of the same ilk, almonds, raisins and pinenuts, and the effect of the whole is so so much more than the parts- a bit like a soft biscotti dough, still warm after the first baking.
One of the things I love most about going away is coming home. Being in another place with different food traditions, I can see all sorts of possibilities for Brisbane. I left Rome flooded with ideas for little food enterprises to set up. I’ll let them simmer away for a while longer, let my body recover from the flu for a while longer, before I let them flow.