Productive

Wait…what could this be…an update???? Surely thine eyes deceive!
Nope. I’m here, and [mostly] in one piece. What prompted a sudden revival of posting, you ask?…a weekend of blatant procrastination. I am none too proud of it, but the past 3 days have been painfully unproductive. And with 6 1/2 weeks still left in the semester, it’s not making me happy.
Today, however, for the first time in two months, I actually read blogs. I blew the dust off of my Google Reader and read. And I’ve decided, it was possibly one of the more productive things I’ve done yet during this absolute hell ,ahem, busy semester.
As I’m sure any current college senior can attest, that ubiquitous question “so what are you doing next year?” is the hot topic of the moment. And I will say it is quite a relief to a) know the answer and b) be able to ignore the GRE-mania that has taken over my friends and fellow tormented classmates. But, I can’t say I’m immune to my own self-questioning of is this what I really want. As I’ve been running around, making arrangements for gaining my 6 months of food prep experience required by the CIA, I can’t help but hear that very teeny voice in my head saying “oh, but this could be BAD. WHAT do you think you’re doing?” etc, etc – that same voice that held me back before Florence figuratively slapped me in the head.
One of the blogs I depended upon in Florence for restaurant recommendations had been left ignored, like all the others. I caught up on it today, and it all came hurtling back to me. Everything I learned – everything that Tuscany taught me – about food, and food as something inexplicably more, flooded my senses. Oh right – this is why I love it, why I want it. Duh.
I really do miss those yellow apples.
BUT, a number of other exciting things have happened in those few & far apart moments when I’m not metaphorically [usually] bound to my desk chair researching recipes from the 1940s. (My thesis and I….it’s a love/hate relationship. Not sure if I’m the love or hate…but that’s another post for another time.)
Fall Break was last weekend, and I spent it with my aunt & uncle in Georgia. Not only did I get to hang out with these adorable faces for 4 days:
Bosco, Banda, and
Buster!
…but I am also hoping (planning? let’s not jinx it just yet.) to spend the summer with them while getting the aforementioned food prep experience at a restaurant just down the street from their house. We went there – Three Blind Mice – for dinner and a little good-natured schmoozing with the owner/chef to check out that possibility.
My initial reaction to the restaurant itself was something to the tune of “too good to be true.” And I hadn’t even tasted the food yet. The decor is pretty perfect – you walk in and there is a wall of wines ordered by country of origin in front of you; a look to your left is a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with culinary literature*.
*Side note: As a result of my thesis, I now have a venerable wealth of knowledge concerning what to call “food writing”: this includes, but is not necessarily limited to, ‘culinary literature,’ ‘culinary writing,’ ‘cookery books/literature,’ and ‘gastronomical literature/writing.’ Just in case you thought I was only trying to use fancy words…I wasn’t. That’s just a broad enough title.
But let’s get to the menu, right?

 

Now, I don’t know if you can see it, but if you look under appetizers, you will see a affettati board, which is Italian for literally ‘slices’, usually referring to meat. Look a little further down. Any die-hard Gillianasana fans remember finocchiona???  (Hint: here and here!) Only my favorite.sandwich.EVER. from my beloved sandwich shop/wine bar, Casa del Vino!! Y’all, I just about had a heart attack. I have not had the pure unadulterated joy of finocchiona since my last day.second-to-last sandwich in Florence.
…and then our waitress brought out the bread.
Ok, no olive oil & balsamic, but it is in middle-of-nowhere suburban Georgia. Let’s not push it, shall we?
I was seriously torn come decision-time, but I went with the Nicoise salad. I’m a huge fan of tuna in salad – but I hate ‘tuna salad’ (mayonnaise makes me gag. and shudder. and then gag again.). I actually make it all the time at home. That, and when my family and i were having lunch after touring Pompeii, my mom and I got this salad with tuna, corn, olives and arugula that blew our minds. Italy kinda does that.

 

Loved it. Especially because it was over arugula, my love for which knows no bounds.
My aunt ordered the Panzanella after I had another mini spaz attack over it (another fave of my mom’s & mine), but I actually didn’t love it. In another appeal to its audience, it included chicken and that was just kinda wrong to me. That and my pescatarian ways are slowly taking over. My uncle got the shrimp & grits (you see how awesome this restaurant is – it had rigatoni abruzzese just under shrimp & grits…genius.) and near licked his plate clean.
But, I will never forget the sage words (haha, get it? sage? like the spice…oh, never mind.) of my Italian cooking professor when he told us that the way to judge a restaurant is by its appetizer menu – CHECK – and its dessert menu.
We ordered 3.
My uncle ordered a chocolate-raspberry fontaine, a pastry of deep dark chocolate and raspberry filling enclosed in a flaky phyllo dough
I had a bite or two, but found myself a little distracted by the meringue-topped key lime pie…
…was amazing, mouth-watering, and basically exactly what I think of when key lime pie comes to mind, only maybe a step above. Even my aunt who hates key lime pie – and really desserts in general (I don’t know how I’m related to her either) – had a couple forkfuls. It was so light and perfectly tart, and didn’t have any of that icky gelatinous artificial mouth-feel that waaay too many key lime pies do. My fork was momentarily panicked when it could find nothing but a few graham crust crumbs left. Of course, then it found…

 

…the sticky toffee pudding.
Ok, now I am well aware of the reputation – or perhaps infamy – of British cuisine. That being, in layman’s terms, that it sucks. But I had heard of this dish before and being the dessert aficionado that I am, I was curious if nothing else to see what it was.
I did not expect it to be one of the fluffiest, most moist and caramel-y cakes ever steeped in a heavenly bath of liquid toffee. My aunt – you know, the one who “doesn’t like dessert” – and I dueled over the last toffee-soaked speck like two cats over catnip. I promptly texted my brother to inform him that his birthday present this year was going to be my recreation of this. It will be done.
The prospect of working here for a whole summer? Exciting is a sufficient but mundane word to describe how I feel about that!
And on the summer, I just might have a life again. A thesis-free life, at least!
I’m also writing a weekly blog for Converse (my college) – because, you know, I need something else. But it’s pretty fun 🙂 And the next post (up tomorrow I believe!) is all about my favorite topic – Florence!
Ok, back to…Henry James, a paper on Emerson, or chemistry problems. Gosh, what thrilling prospects.
Here’s to being productive.
~Namaste~
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