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Annie Epstein – Gelato adventures

My assignment for this week was to write two different gelato articles.  Both my bosses emailed me asking for blog posts on the best gelato in Rome.  One boss sent me a list of her five favorite gelaterias and told me to visit each, take photos, and write about each shop.  My other boss emailed me asking for a blog post on my nine favorite gelato flavors.  Both of these assignments were challenging in their own way.  To do the first assignment, I had to map out where each gelateria was, get there, take pictures, and research the shop.  The process of getting to each place was a challenge on its own.  One gelateria had a different name than my boss had told me, so I spent a good couple of minutes panicked, walking up and down the street looking for the correctly named gelateria.  The second assignment assignment was also a challenge because I was not sure I had even tried nine different flavors, let alone felt comfortable naming them as my favorites.  While the process of analyzing gelato was in no way unpleasant (who doesn’t want to spend a few days eating cup after cup of gelato?), it posed more challenges than I’d expected.

For the first write-up, I had to get myself to each gelateria.  As a newcomer to Rome, there are many neighborhoods I am unfamiliar with, and thus unable to confidently navigate.  So the benefit and challenge I first dealt with was seeing what buses led to what gelaterias and actually getting myself there.  The reward from doing all this (other than eating gelato) was seeing the layout of Rome.  I could see the connections between neighborhoods and how accessible these places actually are.  I ventured into Testaccio to eat at Claudio Torce, only to realize that it was only a short distance from Trastevere, a place I visited all the time.  I found a gelateria I’d never noticed before on the main street of Trastevere (Fior di Luna).  I went to Monti to eat at Fatamorgana and behind the Vatican to eat at Vice.  All of these places added to my understanding of the city itself, not just its desserts.

When it came time to write about my experiences for the first boss, I found myself struggling.  After I sent her my article, she told me that I needed to keep each gelateria blurb organized the same way (location, story, flavors).  Both of these pieces of advice were extremely helpful.  I took a class called “Creative Nonfiction” the semester before I came to Italy, during which time I was put into the mindset of telling a story and drawing the reader in.  Thus, when it came time to write an article describing these shops, I tried to focus on making each location have an attention-grabbing opening sentence and describe each place in a different way (one described through an anecdote, another the backstory of the owner).  My boss reminded me that when writing a blog for readers, it is important to keep the information you present consistent rather than jumping around for each description.  Though this seems obvious, I hadn’t considered the more realistic, usability aspect of the blog post.  I hadn’t had much experience writing about restaurants/shops, only writing more narrative-based articles on recipes or foods, so this advice will benefit me in the future as I attempt to continue food writing.  I had forgotten my audience, a mistake that I was so grateful to have Gina point out.

Writing for the second boss, on the other hand, I had to return to a more personal, narrative-based style of writing to describe.  The difficulty for this post was figuring out how to describe gelato.  It’s cold?  It’s creamy?  Describing the nuances of nine different flavors (let alone picking nine flavors) is a bit daunting.  To write this post I had to delve deep and think beyond the words “cold” and “refreshing.”  The article forced me to think seriously about what makes a good gelato flavor and how to put tastes into words without clichés.  This writing exercise was an invaluable way to improve my food writing.  I even discussed the challenges of the task in an interview for a summer job—during which my interviewer agreed that writing about ice cream is notoriously difficult.

These two experiences made me think outside the box and grow as a writer.  I learned about my own tastes and learned to write from a variety of perspectives.  Though a challenge, the two articles yielded great rewards.