Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Pasta Post

I have a controversial confession: I get tired of pasta. Not just tired of it meal after meal – I can get tired of it mid-meal. I like it, but when faced with a whole plate of noodles, I’m likely to get bored and leave half of it behind even if I’m still hungry. Now that more than a month has passed since the trip, it’s hard for me to look back over my photos and only find a few photos of pasta, because I feel like it’s all I ate.

Upon first arriving at our hotel in Italy, after a long overnight plane ride and a long drive, eating pasta took precedence over rest, face-washing, and probably even over hand-washing. Here we are in the mid-afternoon soon, with a plate of pasta plopped on the table. At the hotel restaurant, there were never any choices, for us, at least.

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Honestly, I have no idea why we got a fresh long pepper alongside a bowl of cheese. I cemented my status as an outsider early in the week by eating half the pepper and none of the cheese. None of my travel companions knew why we got the pepper, and none ate any. I thought it was just hot enough, and it was a fresh addition to the plate.

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After the pasta, we’d have some salad, and eventually we began ordering side dishes. We were presented with large portions to share of well-oiled, well-cooked, vegetables. For example, the broccoli below was really good, in a decadent way, cooked beyond tenderness with lots of oil and garlic.

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All the above photos are from the two meals we enjoyed at our hotel restaurant. The restaurant was generally packed even with folks who weren’t guests at the hotel, and the food was good. We kept seeing enormous calzones leaving the kitchen, although we were never presented a menu to order from and only had plates of pasta. I’m not sure if anyone out there reading would ever make it to this place, but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I’ll share the recommendation: Il Quadrifoglio.

After a few days there, we hit the road by car. Many of our meals were at the Autogrille or other service-plaza style eateries. Below is a pasta arriabiata (I was trying to get them to put in the spice for me) at one roadside restaurant. You see, as I had no interest in finishing the whole plate, it didn’t matter that there are four un-sauced noodles sticking together.

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At this service plaza, I took a tip from a fellow traveler that didn’t work out so well for me. Apparently, in order to stomach a full plate of penne, you need to pile at least eight noodles on your fork and continually pop forkloads into your mouth. I could do this for about two bites before I would have to stop and chew.

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It was also at this service plaza that I realized that not all side dishes are served warm. That delicious plate of spinach was cold, cold, cold. I eventually tried to enjoy the chilled vegetables, which is not a problem with raw veg, but I can’t really stomach too much cold cooked veg. In the upper right, there are cold cooked cauliflower, cold cooked broccoli, and cold cooked green beans, along with the lettuce, tomato, and carrot salad. Maybe it’s just familiarity, but I enjoyed the cold green beans, but not the others.

I recognize that this post sounds a little negative. I ate enough in Italy, promise – but maybe this is just proof that even someone who spends a lot of time cooking, shopping for food, trying to grow it, reading about it, writing about it, taking photos of all of it, can eat just to eat and it’s not a big deal. On our third or fourth day, I don’t remember, I expressed a desire to eat at someplace other than the hotel restaurant or at rest stops, and that seemed like an unacceptable wish. If we were to veer off course, we needed to be sure to follow the advice of Rick Steves. I am a self-proclaimed NPR junkie, but I’m not a Rick Steves disciple, but just you wait – he will make an appearance in my next Italy post, whenever I get around to it.

10 comments:

  1. the cold cooked veggies..yea that wouldnt be my fav either:)

    so at your hotel you didnt get to order? they just brought you food?

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  2. I don't think I would ever get tired of eating pasta. :o)

    Cold cook veggies...bleh. I couldn't do cold veggies like that. The thought of eatig cold spinach...ewwww

    That's too funny about you putting forkloads of penne in your mouth. That wouldn't last very long with me either. If I ever make it to Italy, I will be sure to check out Il Quadrifoglio.

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  3. I'm really enjoying these trip recaps!
    I live to eat and food is my priority when
    travelling. Wasted/bad meals I've had while attempting to be 'congenial' are not forgotten or forgiven. I believe you are more mature than I am. (I really had some great food and drink at those roadside plazas. Europeans are so civilized! (Except for the gypsys)).

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  4. I don't know whether I could ever tire of pasta...but I think if it was all around me all the time, and I had little choice of other stuff, except for salads or sides, I'd start hankering for something different...a bit of variety. But, I know I could never tire of pasta mid-plate (unless it was overcooked or gross).

    I know what you mean about the overcooked broccoli; I like cabbagey veg cooked like that too, but you're right, it does seem a bit decadent. Cold cooked veg eh? I don't think I'd mind to much as long as I could put vinegar or lemon juice on them. Seems like really lo-cal meals.

    I'm not a disciple either, but as a fellow NPR junkie, I'll be awaiting the Rick Steves interlude. :)

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  5. Yes, Michelle, they just brought us food, they asked if we wanted pasta or meat and pasta. The first meal, we thought it was normal, but later we saw other diners ordering from menus and choosing impressive calzones.

    Shen, I do like good meals, and maybe I misrepresented the companionship if I seemed to be enjoying myself. That's a whole 'nother story, though, and this isn't that kind of blog.

    Rose and Michelle, maybe the cold veg needed some vinegar. It was available - that must be my loss. Maybe next time.

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  6. Hmm, interesting - cold, cooked veggies. Not really my style. It's so illuminating to see how people from other cultures enjoy their food. I love how you pointed out the four stuck-together noodles!

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  7. I cannot pile eight penne on my fork, but I definitely never get tired of pasta. Especially Arrabiata. I even like cold cooked veggies. Am I weird?

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  8. I don't mind cold cooked broccoli or cauliflower, as I sometimes put those things in my salad, but I don't know how much of other cold cooked veggies I would be able to eat. Only if it was mixed in with something else. I'm more of the "eat too much" pasta person, rather than not being able to finish it person. And I always love it when I find noodles sticking together in my bowl.

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  9. I get tired of stuff in the middle as well. And I hate leftovers, but I also hate wasting. How weird am I?

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  10. I can eat some cooked veggies cold, if that's what I'm in the mood for. I don't think I'd like going out to dinner and having all of my food be cold though. Now that you're back from Italy I take it you won't be cooking pasta for a while?

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