Spoonful of Sugar By Lucy Williams

Hello, all! I’m happy to introduce this lovely guest post by Lucy Williams for you to enjoy. It’s a beautifully written piece of flash-memoir that I absolutely love. Don’t forget to comment below and share if you’re feeling fancy.

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Hung-over on the bed, but without having been to sleep yet, I force myself to check the time. It’s 3:57am. The side street below my window refuses to sleep either.

Rickety bikes rattle along below, carrying their intoxicated mounts to safety like trusty steeds, homeward bound. The youngsters flowing home along the cobbled river is a sight welcomed by the baker on the corner of Via Matteucci, who half an hour ago exhaustedly turned his key in the lock of his pasticceria door to start making the dough for the day ahead. It’s at this time of night, in his secluded stone doorway, that he hopes to make a little cash-in-hand profit from these students’ wine-induced craving for fresh strips of garlic and rosemary infused ciabatta, still soft and doughy in the middle and half the price of what they will cost them when they officially go on sale in a few hours.

Sleep is on its way, clouding my vision and thoughts until I succumb to its beautiful nothingness. After being awake for this many hours it must surely arrive soon.

It has been one of those days for making list upon list, mistake upon mistake, and handing over more and more money. A day of wearing lots of layers and not having the warmth of someone else’s knowing eyes penetrating them. A day of free beer and telephone cards to reach those who really know me. A day of blurred photographs and of folding paper. A day of looking ten years ahead. A day of putting an extra spoonful of sugar on the foam of my cappuccino, while looking at my watch to work out how long I need to wait before I’ll be dissolving a sugar cube over my absinthe with Federico, when I will be able to lose track of time in the mesmeric cloud of whiteness swirling through the liquid below. A day of playing music too quietly, and of piling boxes high against the wall, filling them with packets of snapped willow charcoal. A day of imagining material on every surface, and of wanting to stop pretending that I know how they feel. Of being the last to go to bed again.

In this gap before the night closes and the day begins, it feels as though it can only be me and the baker who are still awake. The sound of him opening the door to let the heat out of his floury prison floats up to my window, followed shortly by the smell of fresh pizza dough, and I realise that I don’t have to be asleep to have my sogni d’oro here in Italy.

An hour soon gets swallowed up in my thoughts, and the air is now so still that I can hear the baker rest his sweaty weight against the stone wall outside, methodically wiping his forehead before he lights the first cigarette of his shift.

When he resumes his work after this first break the sound of the trays scraping against the oven is my cue to give in to sleep, as it won’t be long before the first customers will be leaning on his counter and I will have stayed awake into a new day. He will greet me tomorrow as I cycle passed and he will be thinking about how lucky I am to have had a full night’s sleep, utterly unaware of how many hours we have spent awake together at night.

As the North Italian sun starts to trickle into the bedroom, I am pleasantly surprised to notice that today the view of the neat orange terracotta rooftops through the mess of curtains has become as familiar and comforting to me now as one of the green hills back home. Every day, as I witness the darkness turn into dawn, I momentarily expect to see Welsh countryside appear but the usual disappointment is less today.

After my time in this special country, I am going to go home and know what I am going to do in the morning. I won’t confuse day and night. I won’t have unpacked bags in the corner of my room. I’ll answer my calls and be outside ready to meet them. I will see doing nothing as a worthwhile thing to do with you. I’ll have just one book in my bag. I’ll redo what I tried to do when I was continually drunk, and start to know what happened and when. My earring will not hurt after a day in the wind. I will be happy doing all the things that they think I’ve done. I will close the back cover and let someone else write their name now.

Author Bio:

Lucy lives in Wales and spends her time as an Italian Translator, Technical author, and Creative Writer. She is particular interested in the translation of culturally-bound humour, crossing boundaries through literature, subtitling, and writing for therapeutic purposes. She has poetry published by The Emma Press, and Hysteria, and was recently a judge for the Hysteria Short Story competition.

She is a freelance travel writer for Looking for Italy where she gets to spout off about how amazing Italy is. Here is an article about why you should shut your computer down and book a flight to Naples right now. She also documents her own travels on her creative writing site: www.lucyrosewilliams.com. She is currently working on getting the courage to move to Italy and live off arancini, views, and calzedonia tights.

Italy In The Winter: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside. And Inside. I’m Basically Dying Of Hypothermia In Florence, Italy

Let’s start this winter post about Italy with a short apology: I’ve been sort of absent lately. Not because I want to be but because Francesco was laid off after 3 weeks at a new job (the CEO decided to close the branch, you know, for funsies), and we had to move for the second time in ONE MONTH. He finally found a new job that is totally awesome and started yesterday, we move yet again next week, and all the while I’ve been editing my book with two completely badass editors who have worked for a bunch of fancy publishers and it’s been glorious. Unfortunately, I’ve been pulled in so many directions, and my head has been lodged so far up my own ass, I’ve hardly had time to be here, with you guys, doing what I love. However, my beloved COSI GROUP was all, “Nuh-uh, bitches,” and they collectively pulled all of us out of our slumber (there’s been a few of us struggling lately…this summer/fall has been a real pain in the ass), to get back on the COSI bandwagon and blog. This month’s theme? WINTER IN ITALY. And guess what? This subject could wake me from the dead because there’s nothing that causes me more suffering, or makes me whine like a toddler, than the cold.

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Does This Country Make Me Look Fat? Guest Post By Melissa Kulp Frankenfield

This morning, someone asked if I was pregnant. Again. *Sigh* And she was a beggar. So, it was practically a hate crime.

Since this faux-pregnant gal is all for improving human-relations, I just graciously smiled (and swore off eating) as I assured her “No, bambini! No bambini! Mi dispiace.” I actually apologized. For not being pregnant. Does this country make me look fat? Apparently. No thanks to my steady diet of wine with a side of wine.

Here are my (unsubstantiated) anthropological findings: Italy is a study in contrasts. Legislation and liberty. Restraint and moxie. Beauty and decay.

For example: The Italian government gives trash removal the same oversight a TSA agent grants a passenger named “Kamil” with pilot’s license. Clear plastics must be separated from colored plastics which must be separated from glass which must be separated from paper and so on. Basically, it’s the IRS of trash laws.

So, you have that regulation. And then you have this liberty: While recently dining at a local trattoria, the proprietor/probable mafia godfather approached my entourage. The invariable first question is always as to whether all three are mine. All. Three. Friends, “three” does not even qualify me for a TLC reality show.  But, maybe I just seem that overwhelmed. Or like a child-trafficker.  You decide.

*Tight smile* Yes, yes, they are all mine. But, we aren’t sure about the father.

Kidding.

Then, suddenly, this hairy godfather reached down and plucked my toddler right out of his seat, holding him in his floured arms as he pinched his cheek and kissed his head.  Kissed. His. Head. And I hadn’t even signed a “photo release” form yet. Liability release forms. That was my first thought as he affectionately stroked my toddler’s chubby face. On one hand- I can hardly blame the guy. My man-child is edibly adorable. It’s his fatness. (An unfair asset for only the very young.) But, still, can you imagine a comparable situation in say- an Olive Garden? Um, never.  You would be on Megan’s List, labeled as a predator before the day ended.

But, to be honest- my “creeper radar” registered nothing on this old mafia kingpin. Most likely, he was one of those fabled Italians, who actually love children. And frankly, it is the trash police that we could do without. Cause ain’t nobody got time for that.

About The Author:

Melissa Kulp Frankenfield is a washed-up high school actress. Obscure pageant finalist. Child-wrangler. Homeschooler. Wannabe spy.

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WWOOOF WWOOF (On Wwoofing In Italy) By Jenni Midgley

Wwoofing has nothing to do with dogs, dogging or doggy. I mention the last two for reasons that will become apparent later. No, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s essentially sustainable farmers who seek help with their land/forest/vegetable patch/pigs/cattle/sometimes children. In return, those who go and help get to stay in a new location anywhere in the world, for little or no expense.

‘’What an amazing concept, it sounds right up my street!’ Well, if you’re savvy about it, it probably is right up your street. The best thing about WWOOFING is your destiny’s in your hands. You do need to know which country you want to be in, so you can’t just sign up and go the next day; that’s just a warning to anyone whose perilously close to running out of money and fancies a WWOOF to dodge their woes. For those sane people who know which country they wanna WWOOF in, congratulations. For a small fee you can become a member of that country’s WWOOF website and then off you go. Well I say off you go, that opens the gateway to a huge list of contact details for farmers who need help, then you have the task of dealing with a huge breadth of options.

I WWOOFED in Italy. For me, WWOOFing was a segueinto a lot of things. Meaning, I’m not much of a tree-hugger but I take a fashionable interest in sustainable living and completely alternative lifestyles. I was hankering to get out of London, sick of wittering away hours of my life on needless journeys to work, so I wanted to throw myself headfirst into something new. I left said job, flew to Rome and ended up right in the heel of Italy on a farm in deepest, sunniest, Salento.

My lovely farm Down by the veg

Having spoken to a lot of those who are on the WWOOF trail, some do it once, some make a life out of it for many years. No two experiences will ever be the same. So, while mine consisted of five weeks with an incredible family and a great work/life balance: five hours work each morning, many afternoons spent on breathtaking beaches, jumping off rocks into the Adriatic and learning how to cook, with ingredients they’d grown, like an Italian boss. There is really no telling what you’ll get.

The big DON’T is: don’t expect your time to be your own. While I was lucky in landing a pair of hosts who I got on incredibly well with (they were three years into it, ex-city dwellers. Incredible parents and farmers by day, swingers by night), all of my time, pretty much, was spent near them. For some people, this is just a big oh-no-no. Which I understand. The five weeks WWOOF was a big ask, I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I really did feel like the world consisted of me, the farm, my ‘family’, my bike and the 10 km radius surrounding me. While I know a lot of hosts will be in all kinds of locations, what I’m saying is WWOOFING ain’t a holiday. It’s not a way to pick a place you want to see and go chill there.

Tractor love

The big DO is: do try everything that’s thrown your way. I’ve never felt as good as when I was stood in a forest in the pouring rain with a swarthy Italian man in a JCB shouting at me to ‘pick up those logs and throw them in’ – those logs were each the size, and weight, of a teenage boy (possible exaggeration) – but, I did it. I really didn’t think I could but I had no choice and afterwards I felt like Wonder Woman. Really.

As always with anything travel related. Use your instinct. When you’re in touch with a few farms and are discussing dates and lifestyles, remember that this is just as much for you as it is for them. They are getting free labour and you are getting free board and food. This also means both parties are entitled to be happy and comfortable. Of the WWOOFing community I’ve met, they’re pretty open-minded and straightforward. Make sure that, before you say ‘yes’ to a host, you’ve asked them the right questions. For instance, it’s not embarrassing to care whether you’ll have WIFI or not but; they might not tell you that upfront. ASK. It’s all those little prep things that will make sure you wind up somewhere you like and enjoy. In the end, that’s what everyone wants.

Staggering sunsets

I  didn’t know I’d wind up with such an awesome, if outlandish couple, but all three of us got on like a house on fire. And they weren’t afraid to sit every night with me and answer ALL of my questions on their alternative activities, often leaving me open-mouthed and feeling like I’d only just been born – so tame are my sexy experiences compared to theirs. Whatever, we struck up a great, if slightly odd relationship. I knew we would because I had sent him lots of emails beforehand. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, get to know them as much as you can through your contact before you arrive.

What I got in return for said preparation were beautiful sunsets on tap, a whole new way of life was shown to me and I made lifelong friends.

By the way, Salento, Puglia is Italy’s last laugh. I’d never really heard of it before I arrived and my god – it’s a rough, tough paradise! Only Italians seem to know it exists, for now, which makes it all the more beautiful. If you can get there (fly to Brindisi airport from all over Europe) it’s so worth a car and a week of coastline hopping.

Torre dell'orso Another Salento beach (1)

I did feel like I had Stockholm Syndrome when I left (for two days, then I got to Rome and partied like a maniac) so perhaps I should have struck up a healthier balance between leaving the farm and exploring Salento. Like I said be a little assertive when you’re working out what you’ll be doing on your farm.

If you’ve got this far and you’re still interested, here’s the all-important WWOOFing list (by no means extensive):

DO wear a hat or wet your head a lot. I hate this one but if you’re out in the sun all day…neither are sexy but neither is sunstroke

DO be open-minded, say yes to things. I mean this in the working/farming environment…we don’t have to say yes to everything

DO ask questions, not all farmers are hugely outgoing, cabaret-sorts

DO take clothes you don’t care about. I ruined everything

DO take time to consider your country/location

DO your research.

DO ask for rides on the heavy machinery

DON’T expect to wear makeup.

DON’T ever tell a host (especially an Italian one) you can cook

DON’T feel you have to offer yourself to work just because you’re free time is spent on site

DON’T sweat the small stuff, my feet were dirty for five weeks. Get over it

DON’T feel obliged. If both parties are unhappy, nothing’s contractually binding

DON’T bite off more than you can chew. Five weeks for a first time was pretty nuts. I’d probably do two first, if I had my time again

DON’T expect all WWOOF hosts to be swingers

AUTHOR BIO:

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Jenni Midgley is a 20-something writer. She left her 9-5 editorial role in London to reinvigorate her lost sense of adventure and to take more naps by the sea. She currently resides in Bologna, enjoying good food, better wine and writing about what happens whenever she leaves her apartment at jennimidgley.com. She loves Instagram.

My Mother-In-Law Is Stalking M.E. And It’s Hilariously Traumatic

It isn’t uncommon for moms everywhere to be on top of their kids like, “flies on shit,” as my mom would so eloquently say and Italian moms are no different. Italy is famous for the food, the beauty, and the tight-knit families which naturally include Italian moms who are known for being great moms. They’re sometimes teased for being crazy moms that occasionally try to re-womb their adult children like in this ad from Norway. Apparently, that ever-present helicopter mothering can go on until their kids are elderly. I once saw an old Italian mom clad in widow black lecture her elderly daughter on a street corner, passionately waving her cane around. The daughter who was also wearing widow black and looked to be in her seventies or eighties argued back indignantly until eventually teetering away with her mom yelling in hot pursuit.

Sometimes the helicopter mothering can be crazy, other times sweet, and every once in a while it’s downright comical in a “holy shit,” kind of way. F isn’t Mammoni, but when my MIL is around she takes full advantage of her time by being ever-present, kind of like a stealth ninja. Over the past week my MIL has been stalking us while we stay at her home. Somehow, no matter what we do or where we go she’s there. Almost magically like she materializes out of thin air. She’s given me so many heart-attacks I’m worried about my cardiovascular health AND it’s made me a little paranoid. I actually checked under my bed and behind the bedroom door the other day. Yes, seriously.

One night, after being surrounded by people for a long ass time, were desperate enough to “be marital,” in my in-law’s guest room because we are idiots. It was 2 a.m. so we thought we were safe to make the boom-boom. After, I tip-toed to the bathroom (ain’t nobody got time for a UTI) through the pitch-black hall, passed my in-laws room. I reached out for the light switch on the outside of the bathroom door and right as my finger felt the plastic nub, I heard the thundering voice of my MIL from her doorway scream for my husband “FRANCHEH!” I reeled back, totally scared shitless. I stood motionless in the dark hallway, listening to her breathe only a few feet from me. Francesco responded from the guest room where he’s drifting off to sleep (how typical?) “Yeah Mom?” I opened the bathroom door and closed it quietly wondering if she’d somehow managed to hear us doing the nasty despite our attempt to be absolutely silent, like two corpses in love, silent. Had she seen me standing in front of her in the hallway or did she just hear me and assume it was F?  She continued to Francesco, “Turn on the fan on in your room and don’t open the window too much! You’ll get sick or someone will sneak into your room at night!”

“Okay mamma,” he replied.

I waited in the bathroom for a minute, hoping she’d go back to bed so I didn’t have to face her. Finally, I snuck back to the bedroom. I whispered to F, “Holy, shit. Do you think she heard something?” while crawling back into bed.

“Oh, gross! Ugh! I don’t want to think about it, honestly.”

We both stared at each other for a minute and drifted off to sleep feeling like we needed to take bleach showers with a scrubby brush.

***

It was Sunday morning so Francesco and I woke up a little bit late and slowly got ready to head over to my Sister-In-Laws house for our nieces birthday party. I teetered into the bathroom, noticing that the house was quiet and seemingly empty. I piled my hair on top of my head and secured it with a few bobbi pins, brushed my teeth with my electronic toothbrush that sounds suspiciously like a vibrator, and rubbed some creme de viso face wash into my cheeks. I rinsed my face and reached my arm out into the air to feel around for a towel, burying my face into it to pat it dry. I removed it and opened my eyes to find my MIL Standing in the bathroom with me, her hands on her hips, her face two inches away from mine.”CLOSE THE WINDOW,” she barked, gesturing to the window behind me. I jumped back, nearly tripping over the bidet and screamed, “WHAT THE MOTHER FUCK!” in English (which she can’t understand) because for a second I thought I was about to get ax murdered. She shook her head at me like I was insane, rolled her eyes and pivoted out of the bathroom.

***

“It will make you incredibly sick! You’ll hurt your stomach!” My MIL explained to my three year old niece who was begging for water. “No! NO! It’s too COLD!” My MIL held the bottle of chilled water above her head, out of my niece’s reach. “Ma DAI! NONNA!” my niece pleaded, desperate after running in circles in the ninety degree heat.

“No! NO! You’ll get sick!” She said. My niece opened her mouth and let out a shrill scream of frustration, wondering why she was not able to drink water when she was thirsty. I watched, equally as perplexed. What the fuck?

My MIL has decided that along with wind chill, cold water will basically kill you. Drinking cold water on a hot day will destroy your stomach, causing unbearable pain and ruining your life with gastric discomfort. I’d spent my entire life guzzling ice water during the summer and wondered what made me genetically capable of downing the liquid poison? Cold water had yet to make me sick. No matter, I was still forbidden from drinking it, instead we were told that we were only allowed to drink cups of liquid the temperature of fresh urine. Mmmm. Every time someone would raise a cold bottle of water to their lips to alleviate the hot, hot heat she’d burst into the room, pop out behind a door, or spring up behind them, scream, and take their water away. It became a sort of family joke where we’d hide our cold bottles, or sneak away to drink out of them. But once after being outside in the sticky heat, and returning inside to the apartment without air conditioning, Francesco forgot that his mother was lurking. He grabbed a bottle from the fridge, an extra cold one with condensation beads, and started guzzling away. His mom magically appeared in the kitchen like she’d jet-packed in from the balcony upon hearing him swallow, slapped him hard in the back of his head with a massive “THACK.” forcing water to spurt out of his mouth onto the cabinets like a sprinkler. “MOM!” he choked and gagged.

“It’s TOO COLD! DIO MIO!” She grabbed the water out of his hand and slammed the bottle onto the table on her way out of the room.

Francesco turned to me, “ouch!” and we burst out laughing.

***

We went out drinking with friends and returned to my in-laws home around midnight. We crawled into bed and Francesco dozed off right away but I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry and my blood sugar was too low. I tossed and turned, counted sheep, and eventually accepted that I needed to find food. I pulled on my pajamas before padding down the hallway towards the kitchen. I slowly made my way past the office which I assumed was empty since it was the middle of the night. Suddenly, the office light flipped on and my MIL sat up on the office couch, “What are you doing?” She demanded.

I jumped, “Holy shit! Uhm, I’m hungry?”

“There is cheese and bread in the kitchen.” She looked me up and down. Then, while still looking at me, she switched off the light. I stood in the dark hallway for a minute pondering whether or not it was possible that she had super powers. How else could she possibly be EVERYWHERE at every second of the day, always? I pulled some bread and scamorza from the fridge and walked back to the room on-guard yet feeling somewhat safe. Maybe we couldn’t drink cold water, make the boom-boom, or sneak a midnight snack, but least it would be impossible for someone to sneak into our house and murder us.

Rules of the Italian Kitchen: Guest Post By Jenny Marshall

In life, there is complicated and there is simple. The former category encompasses astrophysics, Zumba choreography, and divorcing with children. But breathing. Deciding not to wear Crocs in public. Eating. All of these, at least I used to think, fell under the latter.

And it would be so, if it weren’t for those damn Italians! They took a routine motion, something as seemingly simple as lifting food from plate to mouth, and they complicated it with all sorts of rules. Rules my untrained American stomach never imagined existed. Of course, they made the ritual act of eating 1,000 times better in the process, but man have they messed up my wonder-bread-bologne-sandwich game. I now have extreme guilt when I crave McDonald’s soft serve, or really anything that doesn’t resemble a labor of love.

If you’d like to remain blissfully ignorant of Italian culinary rules, read no further. You may be better off for it. If, however, you intuitively find the idea of combining dairy and seafood repulsive, you’re already half way to refinement. You might as well take the next step.

I must preface the following rules by saying that I’ve never actually lived in Italy, and three years residing in Spain doesn’t quite count as the same. I have, however, visited the Boot on four different occasions, staying with Italian locals and families, some of whom adored cooking. (Others, not so much. They have been ex-communicated.) And most influential of all, I’ve lived with and befriended several Italians while in Spain. One has told me that just looking at my typical morning oatmeal makes her nauseous. All have acutely judged me for drinking a cappuccino as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Me in Pisa 1

Through their tough love and brutally harsh mentoring, they have guided me towards the path of enlightenment that is the rules of the Italian kitchen:

1. No cold leftovers.

Cold pizza and pasta join the ranks of blueberry pancakes and Ben Affleck in the list of “Things I Would Like to Wake Up To.” But my Italian friends looked at me with that awful mix of disgust and pity when I declared during our last pizza and movie night, “No one eat the last slice, I need it for breakfast tomorrow.” Apparently congealed cheese and rock-hard dough have no place in a proper diet. So sue me.

2. Gelato just fills in the cracks.

There is always room for dessert. Always. Because actually ice cream is just liquid in a different form, and liquids don’t count. (Same goes for wine.) I feel like my American mother actually invented this rule but the Italians co-opted it and it’s one I can really get behind.

3. Pizza isn’t meant to be shared.

None of this slice business; a true Italian stomachs the whole pie. Sure, the crust tends to be thinner than what we Americans are used to, but I felt like that guy who polished off 200 hotdogs by the time I was just half through with mine. But no one let me off the hook. This was pizza from Naples, which means it’s actually more valuable than the current Euro.

pizza napoli

4. Bread is for doing “little shoe.”

In America, we scarf down a loaf of bread and a liter of olive oil at Italian restaurants before we even start the meal. It’s what I love most about my country. But in Italy, bread isn’t for tiding you over before the main course comes to the table; it’s for cleaning up after you’ve finished. “Fare la scarpetta,” or “do the little shoe,” is some really bizarre Italian idiom that means using bread to wipe your plate clean*. Someone was probably drunk off excellent Italian wine when they thought to use “little shoe” in this way, but it stuck. So don’t fill up on the stuff before the meal, just use it to your aid after the meal.

*Fare la scarpetta your face off but it’s not necessarily polite in formal dining situations.

5. Learn to embrace the metric system.

Bread is sold by weight, and pasta is measured into appropriate portion sizes, about 60-70 grams per person. The American obesity epidemic probably didn’t start from a couple of extra, unmeasured fistfuls of linguine, but one can never be too sure.

6. Avoid pairing certain foods together.

Parmesan cheese makes everything better, right?

WRONG, because dairy mixed with seafood wreaks havoc on the digestive process, or upsets the Pope, or something. Also mixing things that just don’t mix ruins the integrity of the meal, or at the very least doesn’t earn you Michelin stars. I would put Parmesan cheese in my morning breakfast cereal if it didn’t cost $14.99 a pound, but apparently I don’t know how to eat food.

prawns italy

7. Let the experts handle it.

Don’t show up to your friend’s house with the intention of learning to cook like her Neapolitan mother. She has years of practice, generations of family recipes, and Latin blood running through those veins. She may take you under her wing and agree to teach you how to make gnocchi from scratch, and you may have the best intentions in the world of trying. But after struggling to get the perfect curvature on each miniature dumpling and watching your hostess discreetly reshape every failed piece of dough you send her way, simply thank her so much for opening her kitchen to you and in return, offer to open her bottle of wine.

making gnocchi

8. Don’t stop eating.

This is especially true if you’re staying in an Italian household, and it’s the rule of God if you’re visiting over the holidays. People say Americans eat a lot, but that’s misleading. Sure, some American restaurants serve massive portion sizes, but in general Americans consume a lot of calories packed into very small quantities of actual food. Somehow that miniscule, wilting McDonald’s patty contains a year’s worth of saturated fat.

The thing is, Italians eat quality and quantity. And especially over the holidays, they eat appetizers, second appetizers, first courses, second courses, desserts, and barrels of wine. The dishes keep coming, like the host is trying to clean out the pantry before a long trip. But really there are no travel plans. There are just 40 variations of carbs and meat, and you better try them all.

Your pitifully shrunken American stomach is accustomed to “lunch” meaning 10 minutes away from the desk munching on a yogurt and a Cliff bar, so you better adapt fast. Four days clutching your stomach is preferable to insulting the host by putting down the fork prematurely.

9. Even Italians who don’t cook know how to cook.

My roommate’s mother is a badass. She refuses to slave away in the kitchen and rejects the notion that the kitchen is a woman’s domain. She throws together simple pasta dishes, sure, but also has the delivery guy on speed dial, which is almost sacrilege in a country where food equals religion. The mom dislikes cooking but what’s more, claims she doesn’t know how.

LIES.

If she doesn’t know how, then how do you explain our Boxing Day lunch? We’re talking tuna pate, grilled prawns with crudités, calamari risotto, leek and codfish stew, and homemade ginger cookies.

When I say, “I can’t cook,” it’s in reference to blowing up the microwave when I put some Indian takeout in with a metal fork. When she says, “I can’t cook,” it means she’s rarely attempted a 6-course meal, but this 4-course shit? She’s got that down pat.

10. Carbs only weigh down outsiders.

Because the cruel irony is, if you eat like this for a week, you come back five pounds heavier. If you eat like this for a lifetime, you can somehow still wear Valentino.

Arthur Bio:

Jenny Marshall at park guell1

Jenny Marshall writes about all things language, culture, and expat life over at A Thing For Wor(l)ds. Last year she “taught English” to babies in Barcelona, which really meant diaper duty. Luckily she also wrote for her blog and freelance travel outlets, so life wasn’t all just drool and poop. She recently moved back home to California, and is currently experiencing Iberian ham withdrawals. Keep up with her rants at her blog, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

A Glimpse Of The Real Florence, Italy. By Kari Varner

I’m really excited to feature photos from this amazing photographer Kari Varner. Kari is also a former SACI student and she’s incredibly talented (Unlike me. My photos look like a child took them after over-dosing on baby Benadryl). I love her style of photography, it’s super intimate and I feel like I’m standing right there with her. But not so much in a stalker sort of way. This series really captures the feel of Florence. I know you guys are going to love them as much as I do. Tell me which one is your favorite in the comments below (I especially like the dead pigeon since I’ve stepped over many of them on the streets of Florence and I have a weird love/hate relationship with bird corpses because of it. But not like a serial killer.).

REFLECTIVE PUDDLES (or, where I fell down)

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