I stayed because I fell in love with: The Melanzane
I don’t have a single answer to the question ‘how did you end up in Italy?’ Depending on who asks, it could be ‘There wasn’t any place else I wanted to be at the time.’ ‘I found a job I liked.’ ‘It was May, would you leave Italy in May?’ ‘I fell in love.’ ‘The melanzane.’
Ahh yes, the melanzane, it’s true. I stayed for the melanzane. And the peperoni. And the pomodori. And the bunches of basil, rosemary, and sage that they give you at the market.
I’ll never forget the explosion of flavor when I tasted my first, real fresh Italian tomato. It was June of 1998, and I was shopping in an outdoor market in Rome. While I had the paranoid suspicion that all the fruit sellers were cheating me somehow—a condition natural to anyone with fumbling Italian who has only ever otherwise shopped in traditional American supermarkets—the grin on the old vendors’ face as she thrust the tomato into my hand —assaggia, assaggia—was sincere. And so was the tomato. It was red, firm but not hard, and juicy. The taste of it filled my mouth, my nose, my head, my summer.
Other summer fruits evoke equal rhapsodizing. In peak season, the only really suitable place to eat perfectly ripe peaches and plums is while standing in the sea. Bite, slurp, drip, swim. When I was 21 and back in Kansas after my first study abroad experience in Italy, those ripe peaches became my metaphor for life itself…ready, juicy, full of sweetness, all within reach, waiting to be devoured.
September. Grapes. Every September when the grapes start coming in I send a William Carlos Williamesque text message to a German friend who I met here in Florence during my first years here, hoping it will drive her to come visit: ‘they are delicious so sweet…’ I remember skeptically buying them for the first time…they didn’t seem as large as they should be, and they weren’t very uniform, and the color…well, sort of yellowy green, with a little bit of brown…(there’s that cheating suspicion again) but they tasted like…wait, try one: flowers. The most subtle perfume of…flowers. The same with apples. There are apples in Europe that taste like flowers. An eye-opener for someone who grew up with red delicious or golden delicious, both equally non-delicious.
Back to the US, let’s go shopping. It’s August. Green beans. There’s a discount…if you buy 10 pounds. 10 pounds of green beans. Two brown paper bags full of beans. That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of beans. But then, if you think about it, they’ll be good in the fridge for the duration of our visit. When you first come to Italy, you get mad because the produce rots in your fridge before you have time to cook it (you see, they did cheat me). A good American head of broccoli lasts at least 3 weeks before yellowing; an Italian broccoli goes limp after three days, yellow after four and rotten after not much more than that. There is compensation, though. Italian broccoli tastes good. And so does the zucchini. And so does all the rest.
So why did I stay in Italy? Well, I fell in love. But don’t tell my husband that…he thinks it was for the melanzane. -Jackie Gordon (FMs4Ms Member)
I am looking for stories to share with the moms. Short stories about an incident you found interesting, funny, sad etc. Something that is about the cultural differences you experience here while going about your daily lives. Submit them at email@example.com
The opinions expressed in this article are of the author and the author alone. They do not reflect the opinions of FMs4Ms Network as a whole.