Welcome to WBIB!

Welcome to When Bread Is Broken!

Yes, a new blog for a new year – don’t remind me of the terrible cliche that is. There is, in fact, a method to my madness.

Although I dearly love my 1st blog, Gillianasana, I felt that after returning from my semester abroad in Florence, Italy where it began, the focus started to kind of go everywhere. It was still on food, but it didn’t feel like me.

Well, that, and I’m kind of tired of trying to explain the title:

“My name is Gillian, and I do a lot of yoga, so I added the -asana, which is the Sanskrit suffix for all yoga poses…because Sanskrit is the ancient Indian language that yoga has always used…um, get it?”

“Ok…but’s it’s a food blog…?”

“…It made sense at the time.”

*insert change of topic here*

Another reason for the change of blog: M.F.K. Fisher. As a senior English major who recently uncovered her devout passion for food and food writing, discovering this woman was as blissful as my first encounter with chocolate mousse (which, for the record, was at the Chocolate Tea at the Le Meridien Hotel in Boston, and I had 4 servings. I was 6.)

Fisher basically invented American food writing, and she did it well. If you’ve never read her before, please start with The Gastronomical Me. Go on from there. In fact, I highly recommend getting your hands on The Art of Eating – it’s a collection of 5 of some of her best-known/loved works.

And if you’ve never heard of her before…you’re welcome.

I wrote my thesis on her book How to Cook a Wolf, written during World War II for all those housewives out there struggling to turn their grayish, meatish loaves into beouf bourgignon with their ration stamps. It was the hardest and most intense research project I have ever done. I laughed. I cried. I laughed because I cried so much I went into hysterics. But in the end, I learned a lot – and probably love food even more because of it.

The quote at the top of this blog, by the way, is one of my favorites of hers – and she has said quite a bit 😉

But, as you will notice, the entire contents of my 1st blog can also be found right here – just click over to that archive! Anything between January and mid-May 2010 is in/about my amazing 3.5 months lived in Florence, Italy. Going there should be on everyone’s bucket list. And when you go, please email me – I have a list of restaurants you must go to.

So, good things to know about me: I’m an English major & music minor at a small liberal arts college in South Carolina (Converse College – yes, like the shoe but no affiliation). I plan to attend culinary school after graduating this May for Baking & Pastry. Yoga is one of my favorite things in the world, and I swear by it – shoulder stand is probably my favorite pose. I got started reading food blogs during my sophomore year in college (KERF and Eat Live Run hold a special place in my cyber-heart), and was completely hooked. I love traveling (I not-so-secretly want to be a travel-food writer…I can dream, right?) – not so much the airport/taxi/getting there part, but the being there part.

That sums it up for the moment. I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from my favorite places!

 

I ❤ my major.

The chocolate festival in Florence. Yes. Chocolate. Festival.

At the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

My favorite Tuscan dish, ribollita, at my favorite restaurant in Florence, Sergio's.

Fresh fruit stand at Mercato Centrale, the huge historic open-air produce market in - can you guess? - Florence.

Greve in Chianti, Italia. Italian wine country.

Hiking Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italia

Losing my umbrella in San Gimignano

Riding (if you can call it that) a camel in the Thar Desert, India

At the top of the Amber Fort in Rajasthan, India

and the elephant who brought me there!

View behind the Taj Mahal. So prettyyyyy!

Our garden, at home. And when I say 'our', I mean mom's.

Don’t worry. The food pics are on their way.

Okay.

It is SO good to be back. And by back, I mean back online. The language that I have been using in the recent past is far too adult to be published, but let’s just say…I didn’t have internet and I was NOT happy.
But absence makes the heart grow fonder, no? I have been in desperate need of an outlet to babble about food on. Don’t get me wrong, I love discussing the Gothic elements in the works of Washington Irving and the Middle English dialect of Chaucer…but I need to write about food.
Classes are back in full swing, and it is increasingly more apparent that I overbooked myself this semester. Now, pre-Florence Gillian would have multiple panic attacks and drop a class faster than a baking pan of cookies without an oven mitt, but something about me has definitely changed. I am shocked, quite frankly, at how much more relaxed I am about everything. As much as I talked about “adopting the Italian lifestyle”, there was always a little voice in my head that said, “oh please, you know you will just go back and turn into that crazy control freak perfectionist you always are.” And yes, that is still very much a part of who I am, but I feel just a little more clear-headed about all the work I have to do. I may not get everything done perfectly, but that’s okay. It’s a ridiculously liberating thing to know that not being perfect about everything all the time is okay.

So, food? I’m still going to write my senior thesis (someone please explain to me HOW I am a senior in college??) on my hero (heroine?) M. F. K. Fisher. If you haven’t read any of her works, you must! Her writing is so pleasurable to read, even after hours of poring over literature anthologies with font size 0.2, I open up one of her books and immediately feel relaxed.

In less than 24 hours, I will be in my professor’s office with 3 topic ideas for a paper and I have to “sell” them to her. Y’all, I’m shakin in my Rainbows! So I am going to enlist your fabulous opinions, if you don’t mind 😉

Why do you think food writing is important? What do you get out of reading about food – be it a blog, a cookbook, or an anthropological text (that last one applies to….um, me?)?

I will post pics of my roommate’s & my AWESOME hippetastic room soon!

Oh yes, it’s good to be back.

~Namaste~

[I apologize for the photoless post – Herman (my big laptop) was not moving all too swiftly tonight. He just got internet back, so maybe he’s feeling a little overwhelmed.]

When In _______, Eat Like the _______-ans.

Due to my impending trip to my study abroad program’s offices to be trained in all things Peer Mentor-y, I’ve had my time in Florence on the brain quite a bit lately.
Ok, that’s a lie, I think about my 3.5 months on the greatest city on earth on a hourly daily basis. But roll with me on this one.
I thought I would compile a definitive list – according to me, at least – of the absolute must-dos while abroad…and the other stuff that if you somehow fail to fit in to your packed, globe-trekking schedule, you won’t be in tears about once you’re home. And then I started typing the first item on my list….and it became a post in and of itself. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s about food.
You had to have seen that one coming. Yes, number one for me is *drum roll*…food. I know you’re sitting there saying “well duh, this coming from the food writer wannabe/culinary-school-student-to-be.” But hear me out.
Well, wipe that drool off the keyboard and then hear me out.
Food is a pretty important part of experiencing a culture. And by pretty important, I’m talking in the Top 3.
It usually goes by unnoticed, and perhaps that’s as it should be, but the way one goes about eating has a lot to do with his/her culture. Why, for example, are there millions of take-out & delivery services available from restaurants in the U.S.? Because we the people keep up a go-go-go lifestyle, and convenience is often a top priority. We may enjoy a PB&J sandwich, but it’s probably while also replying to 50 emails, holding a conference call, and/or making plans with friends concerning what to play during recess in a couple minutes. Further more, the ubiquitous PB&J – arguably a truly ‘American’ recipe – is ideal because it’s cheap & quick to prepare.
On the other hand, we have bella Italia, where places to dine specifically and exclusively for lunch abound. Their hours are usually somewhere between 11 & 2, give or take, but this is not to cater to a wide variety of schedules – it is so for people to enjoy a 2 hour lunch. Unlike the U.S.of A., where food accompanies conversation – and the quicker, the better –  the conversation accompanies the food in Italy, which is afforded several reverent hours. The pace of life is slower, the meal times truly appreciated. Yes, sandwich shops exist where you can drop in and get a quick bite to go – but you will usually find such establishments double as a wine bar, where as early as 11 AM little old men are enjoying a deep red glass of Chianti and chatting with the owner behind the counter. Merely by stepping into such a place, you are observing – and partaking in! – the culture. And I haven’t even started on the food itself yet. 
This part is somewhat obvious – what people eat is, of course, part of who they are. And their culture is also [duh] an important part of who they are, so it’s a double dose of cultural immersion. But, let’s face it, the real fun is on the menu. While back home, your younger brother is chowing down on turkey & swiss on rye, you are about to dig your fork in to a hearty plate of fresh pasta, doused artfully with homemade tomato sauce and crowned with real parmeggiano-reggiano
And don’t forget the bread on the side! Or maybe it’s a big steaming bowl of my very favorite ribollita (the presence of bread goes without saying). 
Either way, a far cry from that little Wonderbread-clad sandwich on the other side of the Atlantic.
Call it a bunch of rambling, but all of this is to prove a point. Yes, eating in a new place can be scary. (Cacciucco, anyone?) But it’s an important part of getting to know that new place so everything else in it can be, well, less new & scary! I learned a lot more than just what the best kind of cheese is when I ate in Italy. (It’s fresh pecorino, by the way. At least I think so.) So please, before you throw up your hands and spend whatever precious little time you have abroad consuming a steady diet of ham & cheese sandwiches (don’t get me wrong, they have their place – just not 24/7!) – try something new. Even if you have no idea what you just ordered. Even if the waiter tries to translate and you think it might be something with a a beak, 3 legs and a dorsal fin. You might discover a new favorite I-must-eat-this-every-day food! You might also discover a new I-will-never-touch-that-foodlike-thing-ever-again food, but that’s okay too. What I can guarantee is that you won’t regret your choice of going out on a limb and trying something brand new. I do recommend bringing a friend – for fun photo ops and, if that second scenario turns out to be the case, to share her inevitably delicious plate of whatever-it-is. 
Now, I’ve given a great deal of time to explaining all this. And yes, it is because I love nothing more than talking about food and Florence, but it is also because I’ve been there, too afraid of new food to enjoy the whole cultural experience of dining. The regret I had about my first trip to Italy – spent hungry – was tangibly painful, and this time around, I was not depriving myself of that again. I learned a lot the second time around, but I’m lucky I got a second time! Heed these words, and you won’t regret a single minute of your trip. You’ll just live each and every one.

Buon Appetito.

~Namaste~

P.S. – See you in Austin!!!

One Month Back[iversary]

Coming home after 3.5 months in Italy is easier said than done. It’s been exactly one month today that I have been home, and I will level with yall – it hasn’t been getting easier. With the exception of the constant cloud of cigarette smoke around every corner, I miss everything about Florence. Daily trips to Mercato Centrale, aperitivo at Kitsch, gelato at Percho No, the Duomo. And don’t get wrong, I LOVE my car, but I miss walking everywhere. It’s been harder than I think I’ve let on, and not in ways I expected. Though I of course miss the food that I will always consider the best in the world, it’s so different here that I knew what was coming and it hasn’t been as hard on me (though my waistline may disagree – SO much processed food!) What has surprised me is my newfound passion about the importance of natural foods and supporting locals; it’s never been so important to me before. I also feel the frequent urge to tell people here to chill out!! The slower way of life there only became more evident when I got back and had a new view of how absolutely manic life here can be. I feel…restless. I’m glad to be home and have the chance to recuperate from an insane [and insanely amazing] semester and rest before the upcoming one kicks me in the butt, but at the same time, I miss the challenges there, especially speaking Italian. Man, do I miss having to struggle to think in a different language! I know some people who are going there soon. My one piece of advice: live it up, every single moment, and don’t be afraid. It’s just such an incredible place – Italy can change a person. I can’t wait to go back.

In honor of my one-month-backiversary, I thought I would change it up and show you my absolute favorite pictures taken in and around Florence. 

Heavenly doesn’t even begin to cover it.
~Namaste~

Recap

I’m slowly resurfacing from my death flu – I can sit up for longer than 5 minutes, good sign!! I knew I was sick when all I wanted to eat yesterday was white bread and mint chip ice cream, because the thought of spinach made me want to gag. Something is definitely wrong with that picture.
All semester long, I was trying to brainstorm how to solidify Gillianasana as a food blog – not just a short-term study abroad blog. It’s too much fun to give up!!! But, of course, the best way to do that is to…uh, keep writing it? Doh! So yes, here I am–to stay.
But before I really step back into reality, let’s recap my last day in Firenze!
Sunset from our kitchen. Aka, Florence telling us it loves us 😉
Last trip to Casa del Vino…
Tried a new gelato place, Gelateria dei Neri. Passion fruit and soy hazelnut. SO good! The passion fruit was creamy, not sorbetto, but the flavor was really strong. The hazelnut almost tasted cocoa-y?! Loved it.
Ciao ciao, Duomo!
For our arrivederci dinner, the 4 of us went across the street to our favorite place for aperitivo – 8 euro for a drink and buffet with really decent food. Not amazing, but really good (again, Italy = hard to eat badly). I normally get prosecco, but it was our last night, so I branched out–
My first cosmopolitan!
It was alright. I’m less of a liquor fan, I guess. But give me sparkling wine with my Italian buffet any day!
And then, the time had come. The air was filled with a mixture of sadness, anticipation, nostalgia. 
Our last gelato.
Perche No – the best of the best. Soy chocolate and coffee crunch. It was…bittersweet.
It’s hard to gauge how I’m dealing with being home so far because this evil flu attacked me and threw me way off, but so far: the strawberries don’t taste as good, the toilet seats are lower, and the people have funny accents. I’ll keep you updated; I know you’re on the edge of your seat.
I have some product reviews coming up, and will get to work on that restaurant page pronto!
~Namaste~

The Eve of Our Leave

Twas the night before leaving Florence, and all through the house,

There was plenty astirring; it was time to move out!
Clothing was flung into suitcases without care,
Praying that all of our stuff would just fit in there!
It took weeks to get the idea of leaving stuck in our heads;
Oh, how we will MISS our lives here that we led!
Taking blankets to Indipendenza, where in the sun we would nap,
Chasing mosquitoes around the apartment with many a “SLAP”!
We ate pasta and pizza, platter after platter,
But with all of the walking, none of us were much fatter 🙂
From Grom to Vivoli and of course Perche No,
And don’t forget Vestri – oh, so much gelato!

Shopping in Florence is truly without peer —
Just make sure you’ve got exact change for the cashier!
The vendors in San Lorenzo often think they’re quite slick,
But after 3 months, you know it’s the same old boring shtick.
We bought watercolor prints, scarves, and jewelry galore –
How odd it will be to have to shop only inside stores!
Restaurant critics we quickly became,
That we couldn’t go to them all is truly a shame.
Even though my face swelled up when by bugs I was bitten,
And I’ve been in closets bigger in size than that of our kitchen,
Aperitivo, wine tastings, Fiorentina “football’,
The Duomo and the David made up for it all.
What will my Tuesdays be without a trip to Casa del Vino!
How will I survive without my prosciutto and pecorino?!

And of course the two men who toyed with our hearts,
Beloved Mario and Sergio, who made soup a real art!

Perhaps I won’t miss the cigarette-smoke-filled air,
But dear Mercato Centrale – I could have lived there!

And API excursions – how could we forget those?
Venice, Rome, and Tuscany–although that first one drove us a tad psycho 😉

And our own adventures were always a blast,
Verona, Bologna, and Barcelona (we saved the best for last!)

Livorno, San Gimignano and Lucca all twice,

What can I say? I found Italy quite nice 😉

I learned so much about history and food and wine

(But try to take me into one more church and you will surely hear me whine!)

We were never in lieu of more sights to be seen,

From the Arno to Boboli, and everything in between.

My favorite sight, you ask, in this city to see?
Giotto’s Bell Tower, unique, graceful, and lofty.

But time has come to bid Florence “ciao, ciao” with a kiss,
With no doubt in my mind that it truly will be missed.
I’ve started to feel like an experience sponge –
It’s time to wring me out, I’m done!
Reverse culture shock is nervously anticipated,
Although to see my family, friends and dog I will be so elated!
I’ll remember the pasta and gelato with glee,
And every other crazy time I had with the roomies.
It goes without saying that I will be back,
For Italy is just not something my future can lack.
So before I board my plane to leave this incredible place,
And perhaps with a small tear but a smile on my face,
Io dico “ti amo Firenze, la mia cara citta – 
Per sempre tu rimarrai nella mia anima!”



~Namaste~

The Case of “The Lasts”

Ugh, I hate this part. You know, the one where everything you do is “the last.” Last load of laundry in our crazy machine [it secretly wishes it were a rocket ship – you should hear it on spin cycle). Last shopping trip in the market. Last time I have to climb the never-ending stairs to Italian class…ok, maybe I don’t hate every part. Those stairs at 8 in the morning were not exactly a treat.
After I got my grade on my Italian final – all good 🙂 – I came home for some overnight oats!
Before you go to bed, put oats in a bowl and pour an equal amount of liquid (I’m a fan of almond milk) over them, and maybe add a dash of cinnamon. Let them sleep in the refigerator and when you are both awake, the oats will have absorbed the liquid and be soft – voila, no-cook oatmeal!

(There are different ways of preparing them; some people add more stuff to it the night before. That’s why they’re so fun – lots of different ways to experiment!)
Before…
After: all mixed up with some vanilla yogurt.
This was exceptionally good today – it tasted like snickerdoodle cookie dough! The perfect way to prepare for my cooking practical, the second half of my final for that class where we actually have to cook for and be judged by our professor.
We set his table up all pretty:
We were split up into teams to tackle 3 courses of 4 dishes.
Course 1: BREAD
Not just bread – stuffed focaccia and pizza.
This was the focaccia we made a couple weeks ago for our “green class.” It’s amazing, and this time it was even better. The spinach is sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic to add flavor and it worked – the spinach-garlic combo sang through the bread. The mozzarella (use fresh buffala mozzarella – it’s a little fattier but you can use less to get a powerful punch of flavor) was perfectly stretchy, and the dough was juuuust dense enough to hold up it’s filling but fluffy enough to be like eating yummy, doughy, pillows. 
Another team made pizza margherita – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. This was very probably the.best.pizza. I’ve ever had. The flavors was perfectly balanced and so fresh. The crust was the right thickness – not cracker like but not like you were getting more crust than ingredients in your mouth at once either. The sauteed the tomatoes in garlic and olive before topping the dough to bake – this is essential for non-soggy pizza, because if you just throw the raw ingredients on the top, the water (that makes up most of the veggie) will release and make your pizza WAY to heavy to eat. The cheese was golden but not gummy or too crispy and with the basil was SO good. Yup, will be making this when I come home.
Next course: Pear-filled ravioli in a walnut-herb sauce with pecorino.
PEAR!
This was very tasty. The pasta was a little undercooked, but I actually like overly-al dente pasta (yes, I’m odd). I wish the pear had been blended with the pecorino and then filled, the ravioli with just chopped pear felt a little sparse to me. But the walnut sauce was SO good – walnuts, parsley, and basil. You couldn’t really taste the walnuts, at least not unless you looked for it, but that is actually kind of the goal. Like pesto – it’s not ALL about the pine nuts that you add to it, but if you took them out you would know. It really did work well the sweetness of the pears. As my professor commented – “amazing”.
Dessert: MY TEAM!
[Thanks again blogger for the sideways picture. It’s not funny anymore.] 
Crema di amaretti – I also made it here.
Gosh, I love pretty food.
The filling is very similar to tiramisu – we used the double boiler method to kill any salmonella ickiness in the eggs as we beat the. Here’s what we did: Separate the whites from the yolks of your eggs (it’s one egg for every 2 people you are serving). Get your double -boiler going; when the water is simmering (NOT full-on boiling!), use a hand-mixer (or one of those fancy-schmancy Kitchen Aid mixers that I can only dream about owning) beat the yolks with cane sugar (tablespoons=number of eggs used) until it’s nice and creamy. Set it aside to cool. Get your water a-simmerin’ again, and repeat the process with egg whites (no sugar) until they form stiff peaks. Not sure what that means? I didn’t either. Get them to the point where if you turn the bowl upside down, the egg whites don’t move (and please use a second bowl underneath when testing this…). Let those cool as well. Fold in marscapone cheese with yolk-sugar mixture gently. Then add the egg whites. 
This is where I added a couple teaspoons of cinnamon. I remember thinking it would be good the first time we made it, and I wanted to do it for the final. My teacher loved it! Yay! Nothing like feeling innovative in the kitchen to make me smile:)
Now, look at the consistency you have. You want something tiramisu-filling-like, very light and creamy. We made the call to add a liiiiittle bit of whipping cream (whipped with a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt to get it fluffy!), and that really made a huge difference. We used about 125 grams of cream, and we were making for 14 people – so you really don’t need much.
To plate, dip two amaretti cookies (they’re like little almond biscuits, I will have to consciously search for them in the States when I come home – I’ll keep you updated!) in strong coffee mixed with just a few drops of milk and sugar. Sprinkle the top with coffee (instant here is fine), chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Voila! better-than-tiramisu goodness.
Our professor’s comment? “Delizioso!”
He gave me a big hug when I left and that was when this whole “I’m actually leaving” business hit me. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! DON’T MAKE ME GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ahem.
SO, after class I wandered over to the Ponte Vecchio to do some window shopping. I have been searching for a necklace with the Florentine fleur-de-lis crest, and I knew if I would find it anywhere, that’s where it would be. The Ponte Vecchio is known for its jewlery, specifically marble and gold. Honestly, I really can’t stand gold, but I was still hopeful. It was looking pretty dim at first; all I could find were charms the size of my pinky fingernail at the low, low price of 122 euro – which is, what, maybe 150 dollars? Ugh. I was feeling like giving up, when I crossed to the other side and found it.
Yay! 6 euro, and I already have a chain 🙂 Ain’t it perty?
For the first time this week, the sun was out! I have been planning on returning to Piazzale Michelangiolo to get some better pictures because a) the day we went it was cloudy, b) I have a new camera!!, and c) the combination of my carberrific lunch + the joy of finding my jewelry left me with some newfound energy to burn!
The walk there is lovely.
[Ponte Vecchio]
Remember the funky trees?
It’s quite a hike to get there…
And just when you think it’s over…
But it’s worth it.
Even though I’ve only been here for 4 teeny months, I still call it ‘mine.’ Not that it only belongs to me; more in the way that it has made such an impact on me. It’s home.
Dinner tonight was long-anticipated. We planned to go to Cibreino – “the poor man’s Cibreo.” Cibreo is one of the most important (and most expensive) restaurants in Florence. The chef is world-reknowned for his take on Italian food. Simply put, it’s a big deal.
Cibreino is a little trattoria around the corner from Cibreo that offers a limited menu for a MUCH smaller price. Same kitchen – fewer options.
I was excited.
We got there at 7, when it opens, and all breathed sighs of relief when there was a table for 4 ready and waiting. The trattoria is a very small room with only 8 or so tables, so we were a little worried. It was also mostly tourists – and we were treated as such, which was a little annoying but to be expected considering the fame of this place.
After much debate and some help from our very entertaining waiter, I ordered:
It was a veggie-fish soup. Very well spiced and I loved the fish that was in it – no idea what it was called, a kind of white fish that looked a little bit like tuna (different taste though). It was a little brothy for me, but it was so well-seasoned that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it. They also brought us a “surprise” bowl of the minestra di pane – bread soup – that is very similar to ribollita. That was awesome – tasted just like Thanksgiving stuffing! Ah, the wonders of sage.
At the end of our class today, my cooking professor was talking about going to restaurants. He said the best way to judge a restaurant is by its appetizers and dessert – how they start and end a meal. He emphasized the great importance of dessert and ending a meal on a sweet note, because there’s always room for sweet! (You understand now why I enjoyed this class so much?) I was feeling inspired and so Alaina and I split the flourless chocolate cake.
Best. Decision. Ever.
This was one of the best chocolate cakes EVER. Very thin but SO dense and moist. I could have eaten an entire cake’s worth of it. But, aside from the phenomenal flavor, I also appreciated the portion size – it was a perfect dessert. Wonderful taste but not overwhelmingly huge so as to make you waddle out of the restaurant. Well done, Cibreino. Well done.
What fabulous plans do we have on our last day in Firenze? Pack, pack, pack – print boarding passes – and then pack some more. Ah, the glamour of life abroad.
And I loved every second.
~Namaste~

Stomaching It

There is nothing like walking the streets of Florence with a gelato in one hand and new shoes in the other. Not even the rain can bring me down.
Dark Chocolate + William Pear from Vestri.
Vestri’s dark chocolate goes beyond just ‘gelato’…it’s like another dessert within itself, it’s so good. 
I haven’t posted in a while because, well, there hasn’t been much to post about! I had two finals on Monday which I think went pretty well overall, I was pretty well-prepared and knew what to expect. To be honest, my semester here is about so much more than studying, I’m not too stressed. Don’t get me wrong, I studied and read and took my classes seriously, but in the grand scheme of things, my classes were only an iota of my time here. SO MUCH has happened these past few months! It is sad that it’s the end, but I am ready to start reflecting on it I think. It’s a lot to take in, for sure.
Monday night I had a date (gasp!) and we went to Pepo, a place right by the market that was on the to-go-to list but we never made it.We’ve done pretty well getting through it, though!
I ordered:
Tagliatelle vegeteriane – just pasta and veggies. Keepin’ it simple – hard to go wrong with that!
It was yummmmy (although it could have used a little parmesan). The pasta was perfectly al dente – mushy pasta is one of my biggest pet peeves. The veggies held up their texture as well. A little oily but overall very tasty!
Tuesday was a bit of a rough day. I spent most of the night swatting at the mosquito buzzing in my ear, but unfortunately my efforts did not keep the nasty little thing from eating me alive. I must have at least 8 bites in various places right now. Ick. I came home from Italian and went back to bed. Got up to eat something…and went back to sleep again. Whoops! I think I must have needed it though; my throat had been a little sore for a few days and I needed a little more rest to fight it off. I spent the remainder of the day staring out the window at the torrential monsoon-like downpour outside and telling myself to start packing…and then doing crossword puzzles instead. Just one of those days, I suppose. 
3 of us went to the farewell aperitivo API held for us at a nearby restaurant/bar. I wasn’t expecting much, but…ouch. It was just sad. It really wasn’t aperitivo – we had to pay for drinks if we wanted an alcoholic one. Diet Coke is not what you drink at aperitivo!!! The food was some over-oily pizza, which actually didn’t totally suck, but it only came out every 10 minutes or so and the 50 students that were there jumped on them like hawks when they came out. There was a rice-veggie salad type thing that had what I swear was chopped up hot dog. Seriously, I understand cooking for a large group is hard…but it’s not that hard. Fail.
Came back and attempted to study for Italian…aka, listened to Michael Buble and caught up on blogs & email. The final really wasn’t bad, and I was right to not be concerned about it, we had basically done everything on the final at some point in class before. I only wish we had had more listening assignments; that’s really my weakest point. Just don’t have a big enough vocabulary yet. I’m going to keep working on it, though; it’s such a pretty language and I’d love to be fully fluent!
After coming home and passing out – had another bad night sleep-wise – I woke up and got to the day’s activity: shopping. I don’t do much shopping at home (aside from food, of course), so I like to take advantage of having a city full of great shops while I can. Especially since the prices are usually so good – I can get birthdays and Christmas covered in a snap!
For lunch, Alaina and I had plans. Scary plans. What could be scary about lunch in Italy, you ask? One word: stomach. Cow stomach, to be precise. It’s crazy popular in Florence; their “fast food” comes in the form of lampredotto, a sandwich of boiled stomach (not tripe – that’s the 3rd stomach; lampredotto contains the cow’s 4th stomach…you hungry yet?) and served with a green, herby sauce on a roll.
Looks totally and completely innocent, no?
Ok, here’s my opinion: taste-wise, it was actually pretty good. Very much like roast beef, but the difference is really hard to explain. The texture, on the other hand…hmm. Slimy. Slimy, slick, and not at all pleasant. We both took two bites before giving up. We just couldn’t stomach the stomach!
I was in desperate need of something to take the slimy-meat memory out of my mouth – and it just so happened that we were right by Casa del Vino! Considering I hadn’t gone this week (Monday is my usual sandwich day but I had my last Sergio’s date planned for then), it was perfect. I got the very first sandwich I ever tried, waaaaay back in February:
Anchovies in a parsley-olive oil-garlic mix with fresh pecorino. And the reason why I fell in love with this place came rushing back. It was gone too fast, but I enjoyed every last bite.
Packing is an overwhelming act. I think I’ll go pour myself a glass of wine.
~Namaste~

Spring Sprang Sprung

I know, I know, long time no post. Bad blogger, bad! But I come with pictures! LOTS.
I don’t know how or why, but on Wednesday I slept until 1. PM. I did NOT see that coming! It was literally like someone just hit me over the head with a hammer. It was sooo good though – I haven’t slept like that in months. After all, what would a real vacation be without some great sleep? After a little get-together with Minerva the yoga mat and some breakfast, my roomie and I decided to try our luck with the Uffizi.
Note to self: Do NOT expect to just saunter on in to the Uffizi Gallery at 3 in the afternoon. Ain’t gonna happen. In my defense, there is a reason I thought this was feasible: my study abroad program gave us each an “Amigli degli Uffizi” card that gives us free admission to all state museums in Florence. We were told that with these card, we had to enter the Uffizi at entrance #2 (yes, there are multiple), so I figured there was a special entrance reserved for people with the magic card. Well, the card may be great, but it is not a miracle-worker. There are 2 entrances to the Uffizi – the one for those with reservations, and the one for those ignorami without. So, you say (at least I did),”well why not make reservations for tomorrow?” Because you are reserving a ticket, not just an entrance time, and the magic card means we don’t pay for the ticket, and thus no reservation. I realize that this has not been the most enthralling story…sorry. I like to rant.
SO, Plan A up in smoke, we improvised and visited an old friend – Dante. As in, Alighieri. As in, the Divine Comedy and Inferno. As in, the brilliant poet who lived in Firenze for a good chunk of his life. His “house” is now a museum (read: tourist money suck), and we being the diligent English majors we are just had to see it! It was kinda blah, but this was pretty cool to see:
Firenze ca. 13th century.
Notice anything?
NO DUOMO! Not built until 1476. Thank goodness it was – that thing has saved me from getting completely lost many, many times.
All this tourism shtuff really works up my appetite…what better a reason for gelato?
Mango + strawberry mousse
The mousse had a little of that artificial “cool whip”-y taste to it, but the mango was deeeLISH. 
Dinner was a bit of a re-run:
My vegged-up bruschetta!
Toasted bread with spinach, basil, garlic and tomatoes baked along side the bread on the oven, spinkled with pecorino romano. Bruschetta rock my socks.
So do gorgeous sunsets from out apartment window.
Frida doesn’t like it when I turn the flash off. But the colors are perty!
Thursday was significantly more eventful. It was a gorgeous Spring day – perfect for my first trip to the Boboli Gardens!
But first, lunch at Sergio’s since I didn’t make it Wednesday:
Paste e fagioli! The real deal. 
I want to put this restaurant in a box and take it home with me. So. Good.
On to Boboli! It’s a huge park behind Palazza Pitti (Pitti Palace), where the Medici lived when they were in power. It was absolutely beautiful. I could totally get married here. You know, with my millions.
back of Palazzo Pitti
My favorite part. I. Love. Tuscany.
Do you see this house? It’s turquoise. I have no idea what it is/was…but it’s more important what it will be: my house.
Cutest little spot. Good for reading/napping, I’m thinking.
Old (serious understatement) vineyards
The stone work looked like melted candle wax…no idea how that happened.
Check OUT this bathtub. Maybe the horses used it.
No words.
On the trek back, I, being the bottomless pit that I often am, was feeling some gelato. A neighbor from home told me about this gelato place across the Arno, which is where the Gardens were, and this was the perfect opportunity!
After-eight (as in, the most amazing dark chocolate covered mint candy ever. If you haven’t tried them before and like the mint-choc combo, seek these out. They leave York patties in the dust.) and yogurt & nutella.
The yogurt-nutella was ok; I have discovered I don’t really like the “yogurt” flavor of gelato after 3 tries. It’s tangy in an odd way. But the After-eight….WHOA. Yum-my. I know that the green color means they added all kinds of artificial crap (nautral mint ice cream is white)….but I don’t really care. This was amazing.
BUT – I still think I like Perche No! better. I guess I will have to go back to confirm…;)
If you want to see the rest of my Boboli pictures (or the rest of my pictures in general), check out my photobucket @ http://s32.photobucket.com/home/NorbertsShiksa!
Stay tuned for my solo adventure…where in the world is Carmen Sandiego Gillianasana???

*Insert awesome quote from The Office here*

I have resurfaced from a massive Office marathon to say: I heart Spring Break! And also Jim and Pam.
Best couple since Ross & Rachel.
Yesterday was uneventful [hence the lack of post], but nevertheless satisfying. All days such as this begin with…OATS!
Remember my Candy Land addition? Here’s a new one – cinnamon oat shore + vanilla yogurt sea. Great for spoonboarding! (Get it?? surfboarding, spoonboarding….wow. Stop now Gillian. Just stop.)
Took my roomie to my Monday sandwich place – no photo, we had to walk-and-eat because we were busy shopping for…
The most beautiful handmade leather sandals ever.
And they’re all mine. Spring can start now – time to get these babies broken in!
Lunch, by the way, was as wonderful as usual – tuna with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and “salsa verde” (literally green sauce – very similar to pesto, different in different places – basically a blend of green herby goodness and olive oil). Lots of people were in there (all locals!), and most of the just ordered whatever they wanted on the sandwich (not off the menu), so maybe I will try that next week!
Dinner was my own random little creation:
Lentils, yellow bell pepper, parsley, spinach. Topped with pecorino that got all melty and yummy…mmm.
Today was just lovely. The sun was out [mostly] and the temperature was up. I had the windows to the kitchen wide open all day.
1st stop was to the market for some necessities! I thought you might like to see the goods:
Basil
The best almonds ever.
Semi-whole grain bread (funky shape!)
I’ve seen this several times and finally decided to try it today – it’s called “Procorn”. I don’t what exactly it is, but it is a thick brown bread filled with different seeds. Here’s a close-up:
It’s incredible! Kind of buttery on it’s own, with a really hearty flavor…I’m in love.
Yellow apples – my current fruit obsession.
Pecorino Romano
Spinach + arugula
Dried strawberries/white grapes – YUM!
This is more than I usually get; I only need the cheese and the dried fruits/almonds every 3 weeks or so. The market is just a fun place to wander around – great people-watching.  
Came back and sat on the little walkway that leads to another apartment. I haven’t been able to sit out here yet because it’s usually taken over by the girls across the hall who, um…well, let’s just say, we don’t “mesh” well. Interpret as you will. BUT everyone is off exploring Europe (or at least its bars), and this little spot is all mine! Took advantage of a new sandal break-in opportunity:
[Please disregard the mostly-chipped-off nail polish]
Frida the camera came out to sunbathe with me:
I eventually got hungry and came in to make…seitan burgers!
Seitan falls into a similar category as tofu and tempeh as a vegetarian protein – I think it’s fermented wheat, but please don’t quote me on it. I will look it up and get back to you. Whatever it is, I LOVED it! Maybe not quite as much as tempeh (but I reaaaalllly love tempeh), but it was delicious. Very much like Morningstar Farm veggie burgers, which I also adore. Can’t wait to find more and experiment with it when I go home!
It was definitely a day for a passeggiata in Firenze! I walked for a looong time. 
Oh how I will miss these streets!!
First I found the street of the apartment that my parents are renting for their week here in April:
(No idea what number their building is)
Then I crossed the Arno…
I took this because if you squint you can see the sun beams through the clouds…it looked better in person 🙂
I was searching for the Bracacci Chapel. My wonderful major advisor said it was a must-see, and that is what  my spring break is for! Funny story – I followed my directions and knew exactly where I was, but I couldn’t find it. I did find some church-like building that was getting restored in the front, but no chapel. I walked around in a BIG square and when I came back to where I started…I found the chapel. It is part of the church getting restored. Clearly, I was expecting the chapel to come to life and formally introduce itself. Nope. Slight setback done with, I went up to the door…and read the sign that said “Tuesday–Closed.” Figures. It was a great walk though!
I chilled for a while just soaking in the feeling of being in my apartment in Florence with the windows wide open, letting the breeze and sunlight in…it’s a nice feeling.
My poor roommate is sick! She just returned from Ireland and feels awful. Send her feel-better vibes! I considered going out to dinner alone, but kind of chickened-out. Lunch I have no problem with, but dinner is harder. However, I have a looooong list (Excel spreadsheet, actually – don’t hate!) of places I “need” to eat at, so I picked one of the other places rumored to have the “best sandwiches in town” and was off! On my way, I passed a gelateria that I have heard highly recommended, but whenever we try to go, it’s closed. We have seriously tried 3 different times. Quite frustrating. And I’ve always been a supporter of eating dessert first, so…
Almond gelato. MMM.
This place has “Sicilian-style” gelato – I honestly have no idea what that means/why it is different from the rest of gelato in Italy. It was good, but I didn’t find it anything more special than others – Perche No! still has my heart.
I found the sandwich place, “I Fratellini” (The Brothers) – it’s actually a teeny wine bar, a literal hole in the wall. I got the vegetariano:
There’s a hole in my bread! Actually, I really liked it, made it easier to eat I think.
Light on the vegetables – mostly just eggplant & olive oil.
It was good, but not amazing – I’m not sure anyone will beat my beloved Casa del Vino. I did love this roll though, nice and crunchy like french bread. Man I love bread.
–We interrupt this post for a random rant from the author–
Wanna hear something funny? I don’t gain a BIT of weight eating the “Italian way” – oats and fruit for breakfast, and either a light lunch if I’m going out for dinner, or vice versa – all washed down with some gelato and extra fruit here and there. It’s a fantastic way to eat – completely satisfying and no deprivation at all. It’s when I fall back into “bad habits” such as making my meals smaller to “reduce calories” – the funny thing is, making smaller meals sends a message to my brain that I “can” snack more, and it’s when I get into snack after mindless snack that my pants start feeling a little smaller. It’s a sick cycle, really. And I’ve been falling back into my snacking rut and feeling it, and I don’t like it (even though most of the pants I brought are STILL too big!) SO, all that to say with all you wonderful blog readers as my witness – I am going to become a more mindful eater. Gelato, wonderful bread, and amazing pasta will NOT be excluded, and this is NOT a “diet.” I am simply going to focus on eating what my body wants and needs – more paying attention to actual hunger, less snacking on crackers because “they’re there.” The other problem with snacking, for me, is that I enjoy the food so much less – I’m not eating it for fuel or flavor, just for something else to do. And that is taking all the fun out of food! Really, this rant is my way of holding myself accountable – if any would like to join me, feel free to comment and join the fun!
In case your eyes started to glaze over and drool got dangerously close to the keyboard when you started reading this, I will sum up: Eat real food mindfully and be happy.
Only an English major takes a huge paragraph to say 7 words.
–Now back to your regularly scheduled post–
I am planning on a trip to the Uffizi tomorrow…and other than that, who knows?
~Namaste~