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Posts Tagged ‘locavore Italy’

We find ourselves snacking on fruit a lot.  There are so many reasons why.  First of all, there so much of the juicy stuff in season.  I was walking along this morning, not planning on buying food, when I saw one lonely market stall, with the most bulbous figs! I bought a basket, and we ate most of them before I remembered to take a picture:

figgi

What I should have done is have my son hold his little fist on the plate, too.  Then, you would have gotten an idea of the size of these gorgeously squishy, heavy fruits.

Jack loves the melon, though.  He’s not a fig guy, so far:

melone

Jack had his second day of school today.  I went with him again, and left for a short while.  Tomorrow he’ll stay through lunch.  I’m excited about their lunches.  The culture of food in general at Scuola Arcobaleno is no less Italian than you would expect.  Every morning, each parent leaves a piece of fruit in a basket by the classroom door.  This week we’ve seen bananas, pears, apples, peaches, plums, grapes, and kiwi (some of which are obviously not of Italian origin, but some of which are very local).  At 10:00, the teachers cut the fruit into pieces, and one of the children carries around a plate, and like a little caterer, offers everyone a piece.

Lunch puts a food-focused parent like me even more at ease.  Each child lays out his own place setting, and pours her own water out of a pitcher.  Then, they are all served a primi and a secondi.  A two-course lunch, involving fresh vegetables and big bowls of pasta!  And this is not the pasta that blubs out of a huge can with some sweet sauce distantly related to tomatoes.  This is the real thing.  The only thing that will disappoint me will be my four-year-old son’s ability to accurately report what he had for lunch.  The usual answer to that question, for any kid, is, “I don’t know.”  But I’m hoping he’ll be able to bring home some culinary tidbits in Italian for me.

It’s especially interesting to be having this school-lunch experience at the moment when there’s a parental, grass-roots uprising in the U.S. against the atrociousness of school lunch there.  That problem, which I hope schools, cities, states, and the Obama administration will work to solve, is of course part of the much larger problem in the U.S.: the lack of a culture of food, and the economics of food, in which the cheapest food is the worst for you.

Anyway, though, I want to touch on our other fun today: checking out the view from Fontana dell’ Aqua Paola, which is on a hilltop in our neighborhood:

view 1

(Is this really my life?)

view 2

taking a bus home from a long walk in Trastevere, (which we got to by taking the long staircase downhill from this fountain):

Jack on the bus

and spotting a cool weather vane that reminded me of home:

weathervane

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This is one of the aspects of living in Italy I’ve been looking forward to.  There is such an onslaught of brightly packaged processed food at kids-eye level, (ok, and grown-up eye level) in American supermarkets, that it’s difficult to avoid loading your cart with boxes of convenience food.  The array of breakfast cereal is astounding, and hard to resist.  Breakfast cereal, to follow this example, is also very expensive, considering the ingredients, and is loaded with sugar and sodium—even the “healthy” varieties.

I was thinking about these things as I walked through the aisles of the GS—the big supermarket near Jack’s school here in Rome.  There are a lot of crackers and bread products that are far from “fresh,” but in general, there is a dearth of processed foods in an Italian supermarket, compared to those in the U.S.  You certainly won’t find any large jars of pre-made tomato sauce (loaded with high fructose corn syrup and sodium).  And breakfast cereal?  Instead of a gazillion choices, there were just a few.  And if you want to spend 7 Euros, you can get a small bag of honey-coated puffed farro.  Farro!?  That would only go over in a natural food store of some sort, in the U.S.  Also, note the price (don’t forget the exchange rate).  My conclusion is that Romans don’t eat much cereal for breakfast.

I was also thinking about these observations when I read this article in today’s Times, about a new green checkmark label that is supposed to lead consumers to healthier food choices.  Froot Loops apparently received the checkmark.  The idea that consumers are so stupid as to need a green checkmark to tell the difference between a Froot Loop and an apple in the first place, and that they are too stupid to know that Froot Loops actually aren’t a healthy choice, is astonishing, and really depressing.

So, what did we have for breakfast here in Rome?  Whole-grain toast with honey (or, ok, I admit, a bit of Nutella), coffee, and milk.  Good food.

breakfast

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