I have often passed the several McDonald’s that so hideously mar the historic atmosphere in the beautiful cities of Rome and Florence and thought, what kind of fool would come here and eat at McDonald’s when there is so much wonderful food to be had? Enter my father-in-law.
I left him unattended for two minutes. I swear, two, measly minutes! When we next see him he arrives with ice cream cone in hand merrily licking away. From the fast food joint! Soft service ice cream in the land of gelato is just plain wrong. We tried to explain the error of his folly but he was not to be convinced. He was happy with his cone and we could rib him all he wanted. To make matters worse, we couldn’t get him to taste an authentic gelato until his last day in Italia, practically forcing it upon him. Don’t get me wrong, my father-in-law is a great guy and I enjoy his company. But this! Mamma mia!
But actually, we enjoyed their visit and took pleasure in showing them around our adopted home and introducing them to new foods. While prosciutto is something I take for granted, having grown up procuring it from a market in Cleveland, it was fun to see someone who had never tasted it before have their first experience in the realm of mountain-air cured pork. We also experienced a nearly-literal “whole hog” experience when our landlords invited us to a pig-fest, grilling sausages, enormous chops and ribs. My father-in-law valiantly partook of everything that was over-laden upon his plate, drank all the wine that continuously flowed into his cup and tried to interact with our non-English-speaking landlords in a very genuine (but often comical) way. He redeemed himself (somewhat) from the previous Incident.
Most of the restaurants in our area have menus that change constantly and are recited orally rather than having a written menu. I translated as we went along and they bravely tried many new-to-them, regional specialties. I think we convinced them that a trip to Italy really is “all about the food”.
Lest you think I fail to mention my mother-in-law, it’s not from lack of respect but that she just has the good sense to not expose herself to such ridicule. She is easy-going and allowed us to drag her along, letting herself be happily led to each new experience. She thoroughly immersed herself in her son’s passion for Italian coffee, partaking nearly as often he Bryan. We hope they enjoyed the sights and tastes of the bel paese; we enjoyed their visit. One particular ice cream cone excepted.
copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider