I like pasta. I love pasta. I will eat pasta for every single meal (though not all in one day). Living in Italy, the shining capital of the carbohydrate world, was gastronomically a very wise choice for me. When I’m at home, my pasta frequently involves either alfredo sauce with chicken and vegetables, or carbonara with meatballs. A quick side note: I have yet to see either of those combinations served in an authentic Italian restaurant here. My favorite way to prepare pasta it is just with olive oil and seasoned breadcrumbs, which form a light sauce, with whatever dollar-store spices are sitting around our student apartment. It’s quick, cheap, tastes good, and lasts for at least three days – the typical frazzled college student meal.
I quickly realized how strange my conception of pasta was when I made lunch on my own for the first time here. Still getting used to the ingredients in my host family’s kitchen, I made my typical pasta with just olive oil and salt/oregano. My host brother raised one eyebrow from across his laptop and asked if I wanted some sauce or vegetables to add to it. I thanked him, and explained that I eat it like this at home all the time. His face fell, and he said, “But it’s sad pasta!”
Needless to say, that was the last time I made sad pasta.
My pasta got less sad over the next few months, and my next big misadventure came when two of my friends and I decided to make a batch of real, gooey, American chocolate-chip cookies. The crunchy biscotti here is delicious, but it doesn’t quite satisfy my inner need for soft fresh-baked cookies. I’ve made cookies from scratch tons of times, so we felt pretty confident walking into the grocery store to buy the ingredients from a simple recipe.
I have to say that I have yet to figure out how Italian grocery stores are organized. There’s no “baking supplies” aisle that conveniently includes flour, vanilla, etc. Our scavenger hunt took at least 45 minutes. We had to buy expensive organic brown sugar because we couldn’t find the normal kind, totally gave up on the vanilla, and settled for something called “sodium bicarbonato” with a picture of a muffin on it near the cake flour which sounded and looked like baking soda. Unfortunately…it wasn’t quite what we expected. Either we used too much of the mystery powder or had bought the wrong product all together because the batter and final product smelled and tasted like cleaning solution. After a few nostalgic bites, we had to scrap the whole thing. At least I’ve graduated from sad pasta to sad cookies – and hopefully my grandmother will have some real cookies waiting for me when I get home.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Elizabeth Benz is a lifetime upstate New York resident who never takes the snow brush out of the back seat of her car. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she is a senior Music Education/Violin Performance major and Italian minor at Ithaca College. These three passions were intertwined on a life-changing trip in 2006 to the International Suzuki Method Conference in Turin, Italy, where she not only saw the communicative power of music across young artists from many nationalities, but also fell in love with the language and culture of the country. Eight years later she is fulfilling the promise she made to herself to return to Italy, after completing her senior student teaching practicum. She is particularly interested in observing the emphasis and importance placed on youth music and arts programs across Europe, and returning with ideas to inspire and support her own program at a future teaching job.</span></p>