Posts in food
Conversations with Grandad

Whenever I could in those months I’d get a bus – with or without my friend Clare – and go *somewhere else* and that’s where the magic was, up and out of Florence, where shopkeepers didn’t roll their eyes and reply in English to our dodgy Italian and where I didn’t have to pretend I didn’t understand English to avoid American tour groups. (‘But today we’re supposed to be in Florence. This is Firenze – what have we got wrong?’)

Once we were out of the city people looked kindly on us speaking the language. Old men in suits in bars bought us espresso and joked they were going to marry us. We walked and walked and got sunburnt and talked about life and drank wine and then as the sun looked like it might disappear we made sure we were on our way back to Firenze. 

My Grandad’s cousin Romy had grown up in Perth but in her 30s decided to move ‘back home’ to a place she’d never known as her own home, just that of her parents, in Sondrio, right on the border with Switzerland.

All the puzzle pieces had been there in the past, and had I touched on them all. It was like I’d been circling, dancing around the edges for years. But until now, the timing hadn’t been right to create the picture. But enough now, it’s time to make the leap and see what happens.

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Some like it hot

Just a hint of chilli is nearly too much for my father-in-law. My mother-in-law though, is borderline obsessed with curry, especially the very fashionable turmeric, which has even made its way into some varieties of foccacia, giving it a bizarrely un-foccacia-like hue I’d call ‘highlighter yellow’. Last night at the dinner table my husband was dropping Tabasco directly on my tongue, so you know where I stand.

When I asked him exactly how you’d describe a ‘hot’ woman, ‘bella’ was his answer.

‘I expected something a bit more creative,’ I said.

The guy at the petrol station said ’Ciao bella’ to me after I gave him 10 euro for fuel. It’s not exactly…spicy.

Anyway the reason I asked him in the first place is because there was a bit of controversy in town this week.

The annual ‘Festa Pic’ – literal translation ‘Hot Party’ or ‘festival’, in its eleventh year, was on again.

And far from being about women, it’s about chilli.

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One step at a time: the Via Francigena

It feels like a million years (ok, ok, maybe a couple of months), since we undertook our six-day trek on the Via Francigena. So much has happened in the past few months that sometimes I struggle to wrap my head around it, and when that head is spinning, I have to remember why: between moving continents for the third time in 18 months, getting married, having friends and family here, Nicola launching his business, grasping again how to live in another country, another culture, with another language, trying to still make a living and retain and build my independence here (and deciding to cut up my credit card), teaching my first yoga retreat, wrangling with health issues and visas and…yeah you get the idea.

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Strip back in the kitchen: save more, think less, stress less, be healthier

In the wise words of my husband: you won’t die from eating pasta. Or my year ten health teacher: bread and toast are fine – it’s what you put on them that counts. If you don’t take my word for it, or his, or hers, read the science at The Lancet. It’s legit their job to publish only reputable info. What has worked better for me than radically cutting things out, has been to take a longer-term approach and focus on whole foods, stacking your diet full of plants, and then seeing what else you have room for. Living in Italy, I see nearly zero obese people. We don’t eat much meat. Our protein sources are legumes, and dairy (PS, when I said we don’t eat much meat, I mean when I’m craving a steak, I go and visit Elena, the meanest lady butcher around, for a t-bone).

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One day I'll eat chocolate again

The reason I had to stop eating chocolate for a while? There were days I would eat a whole block. Or hide it in the pantry. Or have a block in my handbag. We laugh off ‘wine mums’ and ‘binging’ on a Friday night while we watch The Batchelor. Or The Batchelor in Paradise. I probably have the wrong show and the wrong day but I don’t have a TV, so I’m not that up in pop culture.

Either way - if you’re still reading after that confession, we normalise this sort of behaviour as if it were ok. It’s not. It’s not ok for our health and it’s not ok for our minds. And I reckon most of us know that, if we dig deep enough and are honest with ourselves. Binge is a pretty serious word, and alcoholism laughed off in memes isn’t funny.

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Eat the cake and other Italian food lessons

I guess coming to Italy forced me to face my food fears head on. You can’t escape it here. Food, produce and cooking are as integral to life as sleeping and spending time with family and outdoors, some of the other big-ticket priorities. Having distance from the cacophony in Australia around what good eating actually means, plus watching my family here so well, without becoming overweight or obese, crystallised what I’d been grappling to understand for so long (and also what I’d been resisting, because I’m nothing if not totally stubborn and a bit resistant to change, or admitting I’ve got things wrong).

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