Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Italy: An Introduction (to a series of articles…)

Apologies for my absence, dear reader.

Things have been, how shall I put this?  ....hectic in my life.  My late father, Dr Denis Fennessy went and died (RIP Dad), I moved out of a house of eighteen years (not his, just coincidental), and subsequently went on a trip to Italy for a few weeks to recover – so I trust you don't blame me for the hiatus in entries here.

In good news, however, I have come back with a swag full of notes on Rome, Umbria and their local specialities which  should guarantee your gourmet satisfaction. I'll also be including some restaurant recommendations for you, which I'll be sharing over the next few weeks.

So what can one say about Italy, and what makes Italy so very… Italian?

Cobblestone streets, blocks of blue stone in squares, being driven over by small cars; people walking on the street and making way for cars and scooters as there is no pavement. Discordant ambulance sirens, the drone of traffic. Tooting.

The smells: earth, sewers, petrol fumes, pizza, garlic.

Living in Rome is like being in a thriving and living ruin, with string and wire attaching the new century on the top of thousand year old foundations.

Churches, ruins, and fortifications prop up buildings with housing on top. The vista is filled with warm colours: the buildings in terra sienna, yellows, creams, and brick, with wooden shuttered windows. Roof tiles are baked half clay pipes – loose tiles threatening to fall onto the rococo balconies belowwith satellite dishes hanging off them. And the brick work: old block foundations, topped by millions of small flat bricks in frontages.

It's controlled chaos.  Wires hang out of walls, or lead to lights in the Forum across the grass.   The roof tops are covered in home gardens and junk heaps that remind me of an old next door neighbour who was a hoarder.  Bristles of television antennas frame memorials, churches and government palaces in the background. Those trees – pines – that look like floating clouds, the surprise sound of parrots flying past who were released from a bankrupt zoo in the fifties and managed to thrive.

I was there in summer, and had an overwhelming impression of heat. The cities absorb the sun, so you swelter until you walk around a corner and are greeted by the relief of a breeze channeled up an alleyway.

And of course what would Italy be, especially Rome, without tourists?  German, Australian, American, English, Russian, the panapoly of Asian, all mixed in with an Italian background chatter at peak tourist attractions while refugees sell selfie sticks, rubber toys, hats, and water, and gypsies lie begging in the streets and in church porticos.

“Beware of pickpockets”.

And the food? No joke, there is a lot of pasta and pizza everywhere; omnipresent, omnivorous but not necessarily omnipotent. You’d think Italy would be a nightmare for celliacs, but surprisingly the supermarkets sell gluten-free bread and the restaurants all offer allergy indexes as per EU regulatory requirements.

You don’t get the restaurant diversity in each town or city as you do in the "new world" (I include the States here).   Food is regionally focussed – each region's restaurants have virtually the same menu, the emphasis heavily on local specialities and seasonality. You might get standards between regions, like Pizza Margarita, but then in Rome the specialties being pushed – Roman food – are offal dishes like tripe and oxtail, whereas you never see that speciality pasta of Umbria (Strangozzi - "strange string"?) with tartufo (truffles), which is everywhere over there.

But neither region typically offers something as outlandish as spaghetti Bolognese.

Which is part of the charm really, and will take up the next few entries... the differences between localities and what they offer.

Still - and you can have this for free - if you were to open a trendy Californian style Mexican restaurant with beers and tequila, you would make a killing.

Next entry: eating around Rome…