Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pizza–My favorite food in Italy, and my trip wrap-up

In this post, I’ll show you my favorite food from my recent trip. Well, almost. Honestly, I don’t like playing favorites, and my actual favorite food might be something that was eaten during a long layover between Philadelphia and Rome. But I’m not including that in my self-imposed end-of-January deadline to wrap up the Italy posts. (Thanks, Jenny, for introducing me to Blackbird Café!) I’ll also share with you a true story, knowing that some of you are probably (hopefully? it’s okay!) skimming, and thereby giving me confidence to disclose things that aren’t even embarrassing anyway.


This was my favorite food. If I had it to do over again, I’d eat more pizza. Why did I keep trying new things when I’d found a winner?

I look back on my trip with a little pain, but I don’t know how I could have enjoyed myself more. If I give all the details, you bloggy readers might think I’m a big baby, but it’s not a surprise. It’ll happen to all of us. Everything that lives, dies. Things that don’t die aren’t living. Duh.

There was a question in the comments I never addressed, and it’s a good one. Why did we take our trip that week in December, subjecting ourselves to cold and snow? Well, it was important to Alex’s dad that we make a trip during the same calendar year that his father died. The grandfather was a recognized at a church service we all attended; plus, we visited the mausoleum, his apartment, some family friends, and held a little reception. Originally, we were planning to travel in May, but this seemed important to do on the timeframe specified by Alex’s father.


We didn’t eat here, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the sign.

So, Sunday night, just a few days into the trip, – and right after I ate that delicious pizza pictured above, which I look back on as my last oblivious meal – I learned via email that my grandmother had died. Now, maybe I’m naïve, but this was a surprise to me and it hit pretty hard.

Initially,  I was tickled to have internet access for the first time in days. I could hardly wait to check my email, only to be faced with sad, bad news. For the rest of the week, I was frustrated with lack of information as I waited on trans-Atlantic emails, wondering if the funeral would be scheduled at a time when I could be back in the country.

(It wasn’t, and that’s fine. My family wanted to do it soon, and I understand that. The event itself was actually going on while we were trapped in the car. Remember the time Alex and his dad were putting on the chains? I spent that time inside the car, by myself, crying my eyes out and listening to Patty Griffin sing Long Ride Home over and over.)


I ate breakfast daily, typically fresh fruit and juice. There was almost always a fight over the clementines, especially when there was only one or two. I enjoyed espresso, probably too much, because I didn’t want to cut it with milk and I was too embarrassed to ask for hot water or cafe americano.

So, yeah, that trip had a big black cloud over it for me. In nearly every photo, I’m on the edge of tears from trying to break my “holding it together” face into a smile, and my only appetite was for wine and bread. Now, before you think I’m nuts, I realize there are only so many tears you can shed for dead grandparents. Who are old. Who have lived long lives.

I’m happy to report that this is why I felt immediately better once I was able to hear from my family and take off my happy face imposed for my travel companions (only to find out that they had heard the news, while Alex reminded me that there was nothing I could do—and I agreed—and nudged me to just enjoy the vacation).

Actually, seeing these travel companions was part of what was so painful for me. Throughout the trip, our party of six was clearly divided in half, and each time I suggested to Alex’s sister that we trade teams so she could spend time with her dad, there was laughter like I said unwittingly said the Mystery Word on The Ellen Show (you know, when everyone gets the joke except the person who said it). It wasn’t lost on me that the point of this trip was to support Alex’s dad, losing his father, and meanwhile I wanted nothing more than to be with my own father going through something similar and much fresher.

I hope it comes as no surprise that I was worried about the survivors, not the dead grandmother. Of course, they were doing okay, in their own way. My dad. My grandfather. I had the chance to visit him Christmas Eve. He said, “I ain’t grieving too bad.” (Don’t laugh, he’s Southern.) He died three weeks later. You didn’t think those two trips to Memphis were planned amidst all my other trips, did you?


Of course everyone loves fried food: these fried mixed vegetables were part of our meal at 4 Leoni.

Now that almost a month has passed, I’m finally feeling better and coming out of my funk. I’m comforted and scared, knowing this can’t happen again. I’m out of grandparents—so if it happens, it will not be an old person. At least yet. Nearly five years ago, another grandmother died while I was vacationing with Alex, but back then we were too busy falling in love for it to hurt too terribly bad.

Thanks for sticking with my through my pity-party; I know my general down attitude was showing in some of my writing. Now, I’m all set to have some fun this weekend. And like most other bloggers who take a little break, know that the food I’ve been eating has still been delicious, even when I didn’t stop to tell you about it. And I highly recommend the tofu cubano at Blackbird in Philadelphia, photos coming soon.


  1. sneak approach - classic!

    you are funny even now, thanks for the uplifting downer post.

  2. That pizza looks really good. You were so lucky to get to take a trip to Italy. I would die to do that!

    I'm so sorry for your lose. I know how you feel, I lost a grandpa on my mom's side and my husband's grandma last year. It was hard. I only have one grandma left now. Cry all you want ! I do!

  3. Thank you so much for explaining what was wrong w/your trip. I never would've figured it out and didn't want to pry (too much). (Getting stuck in traffic for 24 hours sounded like your favorite part of the whole thing).

    Your Grand Parents were fortunate to have such a caring Grand Daughter.

    Also: let this be a lesson to never contact home when you're on vacation. No good can come of it.

  4. You brave sweetie...I'm so sorry for your losses.

    Lovely of you to show support and caring for your Dad in law, and hanging in there for the vacation.

    Good to hear you're feeling brighter. Take care...sending good vibes your way.

  5. i'm so glad things are getting better now, Jessica. wow - you were going through a lot, and you held it together much better than i would have, for sure. i'm so sorry to hear about your Granparents - i'll be thinking of you and your family. what a whirlwind of emotions to be going through - and to go through them in a place where you're out of touch and not feeling very grounded isn't any fun. i'm so glad you're getting your ground back, my friend! i'm sending you many hugs & happyfaced thoughts.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss! It's hard loosing a loved one and especially hard when you are in another country. It sounds to me that you held it together pretty well....much better than I probably would have. It's much better to cry and let all your feelings out instead of keeping them inside. I'm glad you are feeling better now....I'm sending a big hug your way!
    I hope you have a great weekend!

  7. Oh, I totally forgot about the food....that pizza looks so good! I could have easily had that every day. :o)

  8. Oh wow, I can't imagine how difficult the past few months have been (and what an exhausting whirlwind of traveling to grieve it all with)--love and thoughts for you, even though you are able to see out of it and into the future. The food, of course, looks superb, and I hope this year brings more joy than sadness!! <3

  9. The pizza looks amazing!
    I'm so sorry to hear about your loss and I wish you the best during this difficult period. However, I really admire your optimism! Stay strong and just continue to be grateful for everyone in your life right now. *hug*

  10. I am very sorry to hear about your grandparents. Losing people is difficult no matter how long and happy a life they have lived. Sending you a big cyber hug!


  11. Oh, Jessica... :( ...I wasn't skimming - sorry. I understand how you were feeling. Well, I've never been to Italy - but all factors. I do have one grandparent left, but he is 91. I saw him this weekend, and I hugged his neck extra long. I don't think it gets easier, no matter how old they are or how great their lives were.

    My greatest loss I've ever felt was when I was 17, on a super fun school trip to D.C. I was on a payphone, and my mom told me she had bad news and did I want to wait until I got home to hear it? Of course, I told her to tell me. I spent the rest of the day/night huddled under my hotel bed blanket, bawling my eyes out. I'm still not over it, 18 years later. I cry about it regularly, probably will right now.

    Wow, your grandpa died 3 weeks later...

    Your Ellen comment was funny, though. And I'm glad you got to try Blackbird. I am glad you are coming out of your funk. I was in a funk during December, but I didn't even have a reason as good as yours.

    Love and hugs!

  12. sorry - bad editing: I meant "all other factors" in first paragraph.

    and i didn't say it was my great aunt who was like a grandma to me and more who passed away.