Archive | November, 2010

An actual final look at Cioccoshow

29 Nov

You thought the photos were the end, but I’m here to say they were not. Colin asked me to write up a Cioccoshow review for the SAIS blog, and I will redirect you to that now.

First snow! And one final trip to Cioccoshow

28 Nov

I’m looking out our dining room window right now and the roof across the courtyard looks as though it’s been dusted with powdered sugar.

I’m also wearing my flannel pajama pants under my jeans. But that’s only because I keep opening the door to take pictures.

We’ve got Christmas carols playing and a turkey soup bubbling away on the stove. Last night was the SAIS Thanksgiving dinner, and it was a really well-done event with lots of leftovers to truck home.

Kristen wanted hot chocolate and I wanted to walk in the snow, so with our combined efforts we persuaded Colin to leave his book review and join us for a walk to the final day of the Cioccoshow.

Happier campers

Sure you don't want a chocolate kebab?


25 Nov

Bologna is hosting a chocolate festival this week. It opened on Wednesday and I’ve gone twice already. Yes, both days that it’s been open. Yes, I’ve bought chocolate both times. No, I don’t have photos to show you because my camera hasn’t been in my purse where it normally lives. Yes, I intend to go back, so I’ll try to remember my camera that time (tomorrow, probably).

It’s right down the street! How can I not go? Most of the chocolatiers hand out free samples if you look long enough or show up with three other American girls. Not so much with a baby stroller.

In addition to the chocolate-dipped dried pear and pineapple ring and the assortment of artisan candies I brought home, I took something else from this festival: a new professional aspiration of crafting chocolate animals. I know, you need pictures.

Pasta like my mamma does it

21 Nov

Well, not my mamma, but Italian mammas. Allegedly. Jane, who teaches English to a class of Italians, said one of her students told her she makes all her pasta by hand and that other students chorused that that’s how their mothers do it.

So for our Wednesday cooking gathering this week, we attempted lasagna made with homemade noodles. It was only Pei, Jane, and me, but even doing it on my big wooden table and fully-functioning stove, it would have been tight with another.

Pei and Jane made a bolognese sauce for their lasagne, complete with a combined four pounds of meat. Poor Colin would have to be satisfied with my glorified tomato sauce (sauteed onions and garlic + oregano + parsley + splash of wine + 700 gr tomato sauce + salt and pepper).

Then the main event, the noodles. Jane had learned how to make them in a recent cooking class, so once again she played instructor. We built our flour volcanoes and scrambled in our eggs. (Pasta ingredients are easy! For 1 serving, you need 100 grams of flour and 1 egg.)

I got a double yolk! It didn't affect my ratio too much, though.

It got messy fast. You’re supposed to contain your eggs to the flour bowl for as long as possible, but Pei’s broke through right away. Then it’s a race to incorporate the flour and eggs before everything runs off the cutting board.

Knead the dough until it’s quite stiff, then let it rest for about 15 minutes. When you come back to your dough, divide it by servings (I used three eggs, so I made three balls), knead a little more flour in, then go to work with your rolling pin or empty wine bottle.

Roll and fold, roll and fold, roll and fold, roll and fold, rest. Repeat. It’s a real workout! Meanwhile I’ve got a box of no-bake lasagna noodles in my pantry. When your dough gets to noodle thinness, slice it with a sharp knife into whatever width noodles you need.

At this point in the night, we’d been working for three and a half hours, our work areas were a mess, and only one of the three lasagne was built. I had noodles and sauce but no filling, and Pei was still working on her dough. Unfortunately, Colin and I had another cooking activity that we needed to get to, so everyone quickly cleaned up and hustled out the door with whatever lasagna pieces they had.

Colin and I were going to the SAIS cooking club’s brunch for dinner event, and I was bringing the fixings for Mommy’s Pull-Apart Sticky Buns. Mom was unfortunately out of town and unreachable by email, so I got a similar recipe from Grandma and just winged it.

Oh man, were they a hit. With Colin’s help, my dish was the first done, and everyone dug in while the buns were still mouth-burning hot.

The next day I finished building my lasagna with roasted eggplant and zucchini and a ricotta filling, and we shared it with another veggie friend. I used this recipe for pumpkin lasagna, just switching out eggplant for the pumpkin puree. It tasted great, but not because of the noodles.

Colin and I finished the leftover noodles for lunch on Friday, but that was an ordeal of its own—my uncooked noodles had reattached in the fridge after two nights there. With just a simple pasta sauce, it was a lot more noticeable that we were eating homemade noodles, but there was definitely the lingering taste of the hassle of the whole process.

Grandma’s Pull-Apart Sticky Buns
2 cans of biscuits, or 1 bag of premade pizza dough
1 C butter, melted
½ C sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ C nuts, optional

Toss the nuts in the bottom of a bundt pan. Separate dough into ~ping-pong-ball-sized clumps and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place in bundt pan. Pour melted butter over the whole mess. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Invert onto a plate and serve; do not serve as shown in my picture.

Rise and fall

20 Nov

I’ve started taking an art history class offered at SAIS with Melody and Jane. I joined late, and the professor was just jumping into the Renaissance, explaining it as a reaction to the Gothic style that had spread to Italy from Spain and France.

I don’t remember how it came up, but in the lecture last week, the professor briefly lamented how English has come to replace French as the lingua franca. I imagine she learned French as a young girl and then also was made to study English.

I don’t think possible leftover resentment at having to study a third language sums up her resignation. She’s an art historian whose list of publications suggests a focus on Italy and France from the 1600s through the 1800s, and during the lecture which the comment was made, we were learning about Masaccio’s paintings from the 1420s. America just doesn’t have that old of stuff! In my head, I see her imagining America as this unsophisticated party crasher taking over the music selection and eating up all the food.

Obviously I know English comes from England and not America. A quick tour of Wikipedia explained that the British Empire of course laid the foundation for English as a global language, but noted that it wasn’t until 1919, at President Wilson’s special request regarding the Treaty of Versailles, that a diplomatic document was written up in English in addition to French.

An English person might disagree, but International English strikes me as America’s doing. However, all of the business and culture that flows from America to the rest of the world doesn’t change that even in America, English isn’t the official language. I’m not in favor of making that so, by the way—check out this language from our House of Representatives back in 2001:

The Government of the United States shall preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States of America. Unless specifically stated in applicable law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English. If exceptions are made, that does not create a legal entitlement to additional services in that language or any language other than English.

It didn’t get very far on the path to becoming a law, and that’s the most recent federal action I could find in under a minute on Google.

Meanwhile, Colin’s classes confirm that the United States has seen her best days. We’re over the hill and not handling it with a whole lot of class, what with our economic stumble threatening to the stability of the entire global market and Hollywood distributing pop-culture greats like “Saw 3D” and “Grown Ups.” All great empires have to fall at some point. I wonder if the Romans, the British, and the Chinese circa 1850 felt as though the whole world was collapsing with them, too.

Italy as a state is presented to the world as something as a joke, helped greatly by playboy Prime Minister Berlusconi, the politician with nine lives and at least as many scandals going on at any given time. That Italy is a cultural mecca, however, cannot be contested. My professor said that Italy takes its art more seriously than its politics. The father I babysit for complained that Italy doesn’t have tourism infrastructure worthy of the country’s treasures. Luca Montezemolo, aka Mr. Ferrari, who gave the SAIS start-of-term address and is a potential candidate for prime minister in the near future, spoke about Italy falling out of the top three in worldwide rankings as a tourist destination and his determination to reverse that. The United Nations World Tourism Organization ranks Italy fifth for the last three years.

Decline is not a fatal condition for a state. China is proving that a country can remake itself from the ashes of a former world power and potentially grow to be stronger than before. It only took China 150 years and a cultural revolution to do so.

Foto Friday: Civic Duty

19 Nov

Marches are a pretty frequent occurrence in Bologna--probably a combination of the huge student population and the politically minded nature of the city. I don't know what this march was about, but it was certainly a young group, it sounded like an upbeat gathering, and it stretched on a very long time. I snapped this by hanging over the edge of the terrace of the family I sit for.

A real post tomorrow and another on Sunday, promise.

I must be missing something

15 Nov

I don’t like giving up on things. Well, certain things. I don’t like giving up on teams or school groups, on causes or bake-offs or anything I think I can win at. I don’t like giving up on books. I’ve done that twice now—once when I was in seventh grade and one of the major characters in a novel I was reading killed herself. I decided that was too much for me. The other time was a few weeks ago: I gave up on Catch-22.

Colin would ask me why I wasn’t laughing. He’d read over my shoulder or ask if I’d met Major Major yet. I could see that the story was ridiculous and absurd, but it didn’t make me laugh—it stressed me out. I found all sorts of other diversions besides Catch-22. Finally, I gave it up.

I followed Colin to his school’s library instead. Most of the works are nonfiction and on SAIS-related topics like economic systems, political systems, conflict, resolution, etc., etc. But there’s a small fiction section, and I picked up a collection of Mark Twain’s works in addition to a couple nonfiction titles that caught my interest, The Ethics of Food and Sex & Gender in Historical Perspective.

I get a good deal more time to read now, not just since we’ve arrived in Italy, but since I’ve started working in the mornings. I stay with just Ludo while Mati goes to school and both parents are at work, and since I know I have a book waiting for me, I look for any signs that she needs a nap. There’s always some reason.

So now I’m reading The Ethics of Food, but already I’m making a list of authors whose works I’ll try to pick up while I’m home: David Sedaris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Angela Carter, etc., etc. I’d like to get Earth, the Book by my favorite funnyman Jon Stewart, the sequels to Wicked by David Maguire, and the sequels to Dune, which I was unable to find after starting the series in Taiwan.

Anyone reading anything good? I’m definitely open to suggestions.

Foto Friday: Weight/Wait

12 Nov

Hey, check this out

9 Nov

A handful of Colin’s classmates have created a blog for students to submit thoughts and reviews and announcements on, and he and I help out a little bit with the editing and organizing. Anyway, they post new stories every Monday, and this week Colin has a piece in there about the fear culture in America. You can read it by clicking here. To read in the future, click the link on the side of my blog that says SAIS blog.

Cheese, my favorite food group

7 Nov

There’s an article in today’s New York Times about the pushers and consumers of cheese and what it’s doing to the American waistline. It’s a pretty long article, investigative journalism at its best, so I’ve translated it to an easy-to-follow figure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture created Dairy Management to market milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. to the American public to help the dairy industry. Dairy Management went to a floundering Dominoes last year and suggested they boost sales by doubling the amount of cheese on their pizzas. Dominoes went with it, adding cheese to their crust and different cheeses to their topping, and because cheese is delicious, people ate it up. Sales soared by double digits.

Oh, right. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the same government agency charged with encouraging Americans to have healthier diets. The article compares Dairy Management’s budget with that of the Center of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, another USDA organization, which receives only $6.5 million annually.

Why does the USDA want Dairy Management to push cheese? Because America’s over-worked cows produce 60 million hormone-induced gallons of milk per day, and we’ve gotta do something with it!

The article quoted the president of the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine: “If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption.”

How much more cheese are we eating? According to the article, 33 pounds per year—triple what we were consuming in 1970 (well, not me, personally, but you all). And while it may not seem fair to drawn comparisons to the days of WWII, the Brits only got 52 ounces of cheese for the year during wartime (and for a couple years following)—that’s only 3 lbs. for the whole year! (I couldn’t easily find figures for U.S. consumption; what do you remember, grandmothers?)

I like to think I’m better than the average American in terms of diet, but I don’t think I can say that about my cheese intake. Sure, last year in Taiwan, Colin and I shared a total of three Costco-sized blocks of cheese, but I’m more than making up for that this year. There are five different kinds of cheese in our fridge right now, and to be honest, reading this article just made me want to go check on them, see if they still taste the same…

Meanwhile, my goal of finding an enjoyable yoga podcast on iTunes has stalled at the iTunes podcast search page.