Saturday, February 13, 2010

Florentine Family Dinners

I've mentioned in older posts that I'm grateful to have made friends that I get along with so well so quickly. My experience here in Florence wouldn't be half as incredible as it has been so far if it weren't for them. They have become, in short, my Florentine family. Spending time with them is my absolute favorite thing about this experience. This isn't something I say lightly, either. I mean, shit, I eat the best food in the world every day, I can drink in the streets, I live in a city that houses all the art I worship, and I choose these people as my favorite thing about this place. I'm going to go home and they are going to be the thing that I miss the most. The fun we have will never be the same as it is while we are here now, no matter how often we see each other when we get home.

This is why I get so excited to have dinner with them. I'm used to big family dinners. I have them at home with my family at least once a month. I love homemade food, I love helping to cook with my Mom, and I love sitting around the table and laughing with the people who I love. I was really unhappy when I left Jersey because I was going to miss my family. Thank God I fell into a family here and thank God we've made a habit of having weekly family dinners. I swear, the very best nights I've had in this town have been those spent around tiny tables with huge groups of friends. These dinners are homemade. We cook together. We listen to good music. We drink lots of delicious wine. We laugh so hard we lose a pound a piece. There is nothing to complain or worry about. Our homework woes are long forgotten. Our stress over our dwindling bank accounts dissipates (no matter how strong the stupid Euro is that day). We forget to hate our teachers, we forget that we're all gaining weight, we forget to miss our homes and our dogs and our beds and Doritos. We forget how much it sucks that Italy hasn't adopted a Starbucks yet. There is nothing better than these nights.

I haven't mentioned this yet but Selvaggia is an incredible cook. The first family dinner I had was with her and the boys. Let me tell you how gratifying this meal was, readers. Selvaggia, Carino, and I cooked up a storm in the boys kitchen. Selvaggia head chefed it up with some incredible recipes, Carino Su chefed with equally delicious additions to Selvaggia's artistry, and I kind of just did the bitch work. Whatever. I felt important. We tend to eat late here in Florence and our cooking spree started at around 8:30 at night. Selvaggia wrapped some chicken around an incredible rosemary ricotta filling and then wrapped that in proscuitto. Carino made a spicy sauce to put over our pasta (because obviously we had to include pasta in the meal somehow). The two of them together roasted potatoes and carrots and although this sounds simple it was the most delicious roasted anything I've ever had. I chopped and mixed and washed whatever those two handed my way. By 10:30 at night our meal was ready. We set nine places around one coffee table and sat down to enjoy what tasted like a combination of Heaven and Shangri-La. Poeta read a poem for us, the best grace I've ever heard, and we all sat in awe of him for a minute or two before digging in. As much as Italian cooking rocks, they can't touch this.

The next week we did it again. Guess what? It was even better this time. We started cooking around 9:30 at night. I can't explain why we eat so late but thats how we do it here in Florence, readers. It has had a steep contribution to the weight I think I'm gaining. We wanted to have baked ziti (which is totally not an Italian food, I'll have you know) and we went all out for it. We made garlic bread (also not very Italian), chopped up tomatoes to make sauce from scratch, layered our rigatoni with ricotta, and threw a ton of mozzarella cheese on top. Oh Mio Dio (thats Oh My God in Italian). We honestly outdid ourselves. Selvaggia, Carino, and I were all in the kitchen again with Buzzarro bartending and Fresco deejaying. We cooked, listened to Jimi, and drank rum and coke until 12 o'clock at night. When the food was finally ready and we all sat down to eat our stomachs were grumbling in a cacophony of eagerness. Poeta came out and stood up to read us grace again-a new, fresh poem we were all ready to hear. Too bad we all got a case of the giggles. We laughed uncontrollably. Poeta's poem was absolutely breathtaking; his poems always seem to resonate in people's souls. It certainly wasn't the content of the poem that had us laughing the way we were. We just couldn't stop. When we would finally quell our silliness one of us would look at the other and we'd start laughing all over again. I was trying so hard to be quiet and listen to Poeta speak but found my giggle affliction so overpowering I couldn't even pause to breathe. The poem ended and we started to eat but the laughter just didn't stop. I was so hungry when I sat down but found I only ate a small serving because I was laughing too hard to get food into my mouth. Moda was espeically funny, cracking jokes every time I lifted my fork; I therefore had to set my full fork down because I was shaking so hard from laughter that my rigatoni kept falling back to my plate. I doubt I'll ever laugh so much again. What little of the meal I did get to eat was delicious and we capped it off with limoncello. We were all pumped up to have it for desert and cin cin'd to a great night. Thank God one of us remembered that limoncello shots aren't to be taken in the traditional way. Had I have downed the stuff like a regular shot I'd probably have suffered from a minor heart attack. The stuff sucks. I'll shotgun a can of teqiula before I sip on a limoncello again.

The last family dinner I had was a potluck in my apartment complex. I've made great friends with alot of the people who live in my building. Selvaggia, my other roommate who will henceforth be known as Benny Lava and her boyfriend who will henceforth be known as Sway, and I are all extremely friendly with different rooms of people in the building. One of my sculptor friends is the roommate of Sway and has become a regular in our apartment. My other sculptor friend and two of her roommates are also close friends of ours. We are all connected by a series of courtyard windows and it's a bond that can only be understood by those in this building. We're all friends with a group of girls who live near the Santa Croce and so we invited them and the boys over for our potluck. It was awesome. Selvaggia made the most amazing homemade macaroni and cheese in the history of homemade macaroni and cheeses. My sculptor friends and their roommates made a variety of different pizzas. One was spicy, another had ricotta cheese and tomatoes, and the last was pesto. Our girlfriends from Santa Croce baked a chocolate cake for desert and we covered it in gelato. The boys and I contributed to the potluck with a ton of wine. We sat around another very small table, played cards, talked and laughed loudly, and spent time enjoying good company.

It may not sound like a world of fun to you, reader, but it is. Its the very best thing that studying abroad has had to offer me so far. If my classes sucked, if I hated Italy, if I were so homesick I cried myself to sleep every night, family dinners would make the whole thing still worth it. Lucky for me, most of my classes rock, I love Italy, and feel like I could never go home again and be fine. Which means family dinners have gone ahead and pushed my level of happiness past astronomical proportions and straight out of this universe. Readers here in Italy who've been a part, I love you guys.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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