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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Constant Craving

I would have betrayed my cappucino in a heartbeat this morning with a steaming hot slice of southern white cornbread.  Not an ideal breakfast choice, I know.  Food cravings always hit you at the wrong time.

I'm in a land of cappucino and croissants, espresso and biscotti.  Don't get me wrong, I love Italian breakfasts.  But every now and then the Southern part of me wants to come out and play.  I get incredulous stares from Italian friends when I start talking about grits and eggs, bacon or sausage links, steaming hot pancakes with butter and pure maple syrup (none of that fake stuff for me), or fluffy, buttery biscuits overflowing with grape jelly.  Usually the first thing they want to know is 'What is a grit?'  

When I first came over to Italy ten years ago, I went into shock.  (Apart from the fact that I didn't know a word of Italian).  Yes, Italy has prociutto, but where the heck was real bacon?  A 'grit' was nowhere to be found, high or low.  I had to make do with yellow polenta, which cooked up yellow cornbread.  I was making Cornbread with Yellow Polenta.  Utter despair.  Grape jelly?  Niente.  In a country with grape vines growing out of armpits, or so it seemed, there wasn't a decent grape jelly to be had.  (side note:  Italian women do not shave their armpits.  They could have all manner of fruit growing in them).   I nearly swooned when my mother-in-law said that milk was sold only in UHT boxes.  No fresh milk, you say?  Where had I followed my husband to, 1950s post-war Italy?? 

That was ten years ago.  Now, I can find bacon at a german supermarket.  During the winter months, I stock up on white polenta.   I searched long and hard, and found it in an African market.  (God bless us immigrants).  They're not grits, but hey, I can pretend.  I tried my hand at making my own grape jelly, but wasn't satisfied with the results.  So I use strawberry jam, and tell myself that it's close enough to grape.  I found yellow sweet potatoes just three years ago.  Yellow corn, too (corn is fed to the pigs here.  My mother-in-law thought we were nuts eating corn on the cob).  Lo and behold, a jar of all-natural peanut butter showed up at the supermarket five years ago.  See?  I just needed a few years of patience.  In the meantime I hit up relatives via USPS for Jell-o, fruit loops, fig newtons, chips ahoy.....

All this to say, that living in a country that you weren't born or raised in is a challenge, even on a good day.  And the cravings all show up on the bad days...

I could have sworn this morning that my cappucino tasted mildly of cornbread.

6 comments:

Holly K said...

Hello Tammy - I found your blog through BlogFrog and wanted to stop by and check it out. That is so inspiring that you are living in Tuscany and blogging about your adjustment. I am from the south as well (but not as far south, Maryland) but I can relate to the food choices you are missing! I am looking forward to following your blog. I also wanted to welcome you to BlogFrog. If you ever have any questions about your membership or how things work, please let me know.

Holly (co-founder TheBlogFrog)

trinamick said...

So it wasn't just me who missed a heart-clogging breakfast! Though I did find several food items I will be looking for in the States, I really missed some of the staples in my kitchen, like the real bacon and sausage. It's funny the things we assume everyone does, like eating corn on the cob. Change in diet would probably be my biggest deterrent to moving to a new country. I'm such a baby.

Tammy said...

I'll bet you are on the lookout for Nutella!

Taking Heart said...

I just bought a cornbread & honey candle that would probably push you over the edge!

Jane said...

Tammy-- I lived abroad for two summers in college and had such food cravings by the time I went home! Good job for finding creative culinary ways to adapt your old recipes. Do you ever return to the US to visit family and friends? Do your kids know about your Southern favorites? Great post!

Tammy said...

Hi Jane!
Yes, we went home for a month this past summer to visit and to get the itch out of us!

As they say, 'Necessity is the mother of invention'... I'm an inventive cook because there are no fast food joints around my home to rescue me, and the restaurants are outraegously expensive. I can't call pizza delivery. So it's either cook or die. Who wants to eat bad food, anyhow? Might as well learn how to cook well.

I swear everytime I serve food to my husband's family, the first thing they ask is 'what's in it?'. I'm famous for substitutions. Haha!

I've got one word catch phrases for when we are eating 'American' at home. Hamburgers! means all the fixings, plus french fries. Mexican! means tacos or burritos loaded with everything (except sour cream or avocados,,,still can't find those) Southern! means breakfast for lunch or dinner. Every now and then I try to slip something new in, like homemade pot pie, which I love but everyone else hates...You can't please everyone all of the time.
Glad you liked my post, I'm new to blogging. I'm finding that it gets easier to write the more I practice...
Thanks for the nice comment!