Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doctor prescribed gelati

Man flu is a belittling term that refers to the idea that when many men have a cold, they exaggerate and claim they have the flu — the implication being that women do not do so.

So I am feeling a little guilty that after all of my "Ohhhhh, he has man flu" jokes aimed at my husband have come back and sneezed in my face. My loving husband returned from the doctors yesterday to inform me that he now has the week off work, as well as a severe case of tonsillitis, (which I guess explains the raging temperatures, body aches and fact he has not been able to swallow for the last week). I have now accepted that men do not 'moan' when they have Man-Flu, they just emit involuntary groans of agony that are entirely in proportion to the unbearable pain they are in, ("sorry for doubting the severity of your pain sweety"). My dairy intolerant husband has also been advised by his doctor, ('apparently'; notice my fingers doing the bunny rabbit sign above my head as I speak?), to have a diet of soothing cold gelati, yogurt or cold mashed potato over the next few days until antibiotics kick in. Now my husband is able to smile at me with sweet retribution in his eyes, (Oh dairy intolerant man shall have his day of revenge, haaaa haaa haaa haaa haa ha!)

So I waltz into the kitchen ten minutes after my dairy intolerant, dairy consuming husband, to be greeted by a waft of his revenge. It is now that I decide this apartment is not big enough for all our noses and floating germs; time to spread our wings; hope for a quick recovery; and book our next holiday with the windows down!!! I spend 2 hours on the Internet sourcing a long weekend away. I am thinking 2 nights in Biot in southeastern France, (on the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, situated between Canne and Nice and 40 minutes drive out of Monaco). Then a third night stay in San Remo on the Italian Riviera, (2 1/2 hour drive back to Milan from here). Monday is a public holiday, so I have sourced (not booked) some great and cheap accommodation on last and I go to bed tired, but feeling very proud of myself. As I climb into bed, I remember telling my husband earlier to sleep facing away from me as I did not want him breathing his germs on me... revenge again... instead I get the dairy intolerant after affects keeping me warm all evening. I promise never to tease a man about illness again!!

I wake ready to surprise my family with my master holiday plans; but I am greeted in the morning by a daughter who is coughing like she has just smoked a pack of Marlboro red cigarettes; a husband who looks like he is performing some sort of body wave break dance move every time he tries to swallow; and a son who has yellow secretions oozing from his nose, eyes and out of his left ear. After the morning nappy change, (son definately has all of the orifices covered today), perhaps now is not the time for a holiday?

After a trip to the doctors, over 100€ later, and a dose of antibiotics for his middle ear infection, we walk home slowly via the boutiques, patisseries and cobblestone streets. I am still in amazement that this is where we live now. We are extremely lucky to be able to live this lifestyle and our only sadness is that the children will not remember these beautiful things and experiences that are surrounding us. No official holiday this weekend; we will get to know our local streets of Milan and holiday at home. There is nothing more heart breaking than seeing your loved ones ill. I am hoping for a quick recovery for my family, and I am hoping to not confuse the pharmacy and medication distribution centre that has now become my kitchen bench. Maybe the spirit of Halloween will brighten their moods, sweets always create cheer amongst the Gonzalez clan, and we may even try our hand at a pumpkin lantern?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking with the colours of the flag

Hi my name is Cathy, and I am a food addict... For those that do not know me personally, I love a lot of things in life; food is abnormally high on my list. Since the move to Italy I have experienced a reborn love of fresh flavours; pizza, bread, pasta, bread, oils, vinegars, bread, cheese, gelati and bread.

So adjusting to my new diet, I joined a sweat less gym and told myself it would all be ok; provided I must exercise off what I put in, in order to not be confused with a snow man when winter comes around. (The last thing I need is Italian children throwing carrots and raisins at me in -5 degrees!) I have now curved my love of bread, pizza is a treat, I always share my gelati with my son and I attempt to monitor my cheese intake. There is however, one dish that must reach our dinner table at least once a week; Insalata Caprese. Not many ingredients, and it is more preparing then cooking.

Follow these easy steps to feel as though you are part of the Gonzalez ritual...

  • Open the wine, pour a glass and sip, (or gulp, depending on your day). Now you are ready.
  • Slice the tomatoes into medium sized slices. We have been buying ours from the fresh markets at Viale Papiniano every Saturday.
  • Slice the Mozzarella in the same way. I was lucky enough to be able to try fresh Buffalo Mozzarella from Naples last week, and I much prefer it to normal Mozzarella, (our usual supermarket buy 65c). But normal Mozzarella will be just fine. Treated ourselves with a 3€ purchase for one ball of Salernitana (from Salerno south of Naples) Buffalo cheese this morning.
  • I also like to use virgin, cold pressed olive oil, (but the same applies, any olive oil will do, but because the flavors are so mild, delicate and balanced, a poor olive oil will affect the taste of the salad).
  • I also grow my own basil. I live in an apartment, so it’s not hard to grow your own basil, and it tastes 100% better than the force-grown stuff in most stores. Next, chop the basil coarsely.
  • Place the cheese and tomato slices on a plate alternately and sprinkle with the basil. Next, drizzle olive oil over and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • It is not part of the original recipe, but I quite like to spread some torn basil on the plate initially and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the top.
  • I like a fair amount of salt with this salad, but not too much pepper. My husband prefers a fair amount of pepper, but not too much salt. (See how your mood is??) Serve cold.
  • I like to serve this as a side, my husband says he can eat just the salad alone!

Buon Apetito !

Ne voglio ancora: (neh voh-lio an-ko-rah) Is there any seconds?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend...

Something I have definitely noticed about Italy, (and most European countries), is the love and emphasis on family time. Parks are always bustling, cafes filled with children and adults grabbing a quick brioche before school and work, and child, parent and grandparent outings are daily occurrences. This family value is also extended to the family members with four legs. Living in Milan, a busy city that offers mainly apartment living, I was surprised by the amount of dogs. Big, small, skinny, tall, hairy, bald, any dog at all! Most parks have a dog park attached, and any available spot of grass near a kerb is utilised for doggy relief.

So who is the master? It is not uncommon to be eating in a restaurant and have a pooch eyeing off your pizza from the table next door; I have spotted a dog doing the grocery shop with Nonna; they almost always get to finish off the gelati cone; and usually get to go on holidays with the family as about 1/3 hotels in Italy and Europe are dog friendly., (as well as gay friendly; isn't it funny what they advertise now days... should be a given fact in todays society). The dog is part of the family! They say couples start to dress the same and look like each other the longer they live together; does this apply with family pets? With the colder weather fast approaching, Milan doggy fashion is already prevailing with knitted and leather vests. Dog parks are filled with strutting mutts on cat walks (or dog walks)! And owners in collars?

The local business provide opportunity for social existence for those that can not possibly leave the house without their furry babies. Ikea provides a trolley with a pet box attached so they may help while shopping in their pooch pampering home wares section, (after all, what if you got home and the pooch did not like your purchase, it saves on the return trip). If they do not wish to stay in the cage they must wear a muzzle, (did not see any patches of grass or dog toilets in my loop of home exhibition, what happens there?) Pity the store cleaner... We have been past many petrol stations with a 'Fido Park', just pop in a coin, put your dog in a large cage, and you can still shop and eat inside without worrying about the safety of your critter. While visiting the Genova Aquarium, we noticed 'Dog sitting' was offered, similar to a kids play centre, ahhhhh, the life of a dog!!

The Italians just have so much love to give and food to share, why shouldn't the cane benefit?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Yum, a hint of naturale"

"I gusti nulla" (I taste nothing); this is what I wanted to say. Perhaps "I taste a hint of naturale, and a scent of waterfall" would be more appropriate? So my local supermarket were unfortunately not offering taste tests of soft cheese or cured meats, but instead bottled water! I have always been a tap water girl back in Australia, this would even be my request in a restaurant, but in Italy I think perhaps it would be seen as inappropriate? All the parks have water taps with water constantly running for people to drink from, and water fountains for playing. Milans water supply, (and that of most of Northern Italy for that matter), is supposed to be very drinkable; so why all the bottled water? Are we just gullible for the marketing and so show lack of judgement? Do we prefer the taste of bottled water? After all Evian is just naive backwards!

Italians consume more bottled water than anywhere else in Europe. The average Italian uses 215 litres of water everyday for washing and drinking, but this figure becomes 30 times higher if you consider the virtual water we use to make the food we eat and wash the clothes we wear. In this way, every Italian consumes 6500 litres of water per day. This is the highest figure in the world, (excluding the USA). Suprisingly, 70% of the bottled water comes from abroad, as Italy is the 5th largest importer in the world. (Ref, WWF: World water week 2008.)

In Italy, 'water' is not just 'water'. I am not saying it is a secret miracle youth worker (well it partly is), I am saying that my simple "from the tap please" days are gone. When requesting water in a restaurant it may be acqua naturale, acqua minerale, (which can be acqua gassata; also called acqua frizzante); or acqua liscia which is non carbonated water. It appears to me that there may be more choice of differing water than wine; what is this world coming to?

On average a 2L bottle of water will cost anywhere between 20 and 50 cents when purchased in a supermarket and 5 times more when purchased at a restaurant. Being so cheap I must admit that we have given way to the superior force of bottled water. After all, it does keep us fit with the weight carrying them from the shops and the constant trips back and forth to the recycle bin. Trying to make the most of the bottles they also double for bath toys, a ten pin bowling set, music shakers and whacking sticks (do not worry mum, used on me not by me)! I will try to make the most of my self-inflicted bad situation, by reusing plastics where possible, always recycling and using the opportunity to teach my children about recycling.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Castle and Vegetable art

Daylight is shrinking and I am only just becoming aware. When I arrived in Milan in July, mornings started at 5am and finished at 10.30pm; the days were filled with sunshine and there was a 2 hour time limit to dry wet clothes. Now 7 is dawn and 7 is dusk, and there is serious talk of purchasing a clothes drying implement. Panic is starting to set in... maybe it does get cold and the day light will be a blink of the eye. We are hoping to make the most of the season changes; already discussing leaves changing colour and falling from trees, and princess asks most days "is there snow yet?" Australia, (Brisbane especially), generally only offers summer and winter, with a little growth and death of plants thrown inbetween. Our buildings central heating gets turned on today, perhaps a definate sign of what is on the way? Will we be warm enough? Do the wall mounts get too hot to touch? Will they burn the children? Will I burn myself on the one next to the toilet? Can I use them to dry the clothes? Is it possible to start a fire with them? All these things I am sure I will soon discover.

To make the most of the sunshine days (and bearable temperature), we planned for a train trip into town and a visit to the Sforza Castle. The Sforza Castle served as a defensive structure and ducal residence in the 14th and 15th century, before losing its role as a lordly residence and becoming an army barrack. It was taken due to foreign domination of Milan by the Spanish (1535-1706), the Austrians (1706-1796), the French (1796-1814) and the Austrians again (1814-1859); it was only at the end of the 19th century that it was given back to a united Italy, to be restored and transformed into a museum centre and recreational centre. It houses seven museums, a few libraries and some archives; all of which the children can not enter. They hold works by such artists as Michelangelo, (and perhaps some of the other ninja turtles), and to be honest I think I would feel a little nervous with the Gonzalez 'bull in a china shop' children exploring the world of art just yet. "Opps, smashed a 14th Century vase; do I have to pay for that now? Do you take Visa?"

As always daughter just ran around castle and there was a lot of speculation as to who was the queen, the princess and the king and where we all lived in the castle. Mini male Gonzalez just wobbles behind trying his hardest to keep up with the the royalty of Princess Gonzalez before him.

Day continues with a nice lunch and a walk up the shopping street; we listen to some buskers and are amazed by a mans flower and animal carvings out of beetroot and turnips. As the children fall asleep in the pram, my soul mate and I sneak a gelati, (think it was the first one I have not had to share,) and cut through the cities main park to walk home, going via the swings and slides. The walk from city centre to home is under half an hour stroll, and those famous words leave our lips; "We should really do this more often."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Na na na na na Inspector Gadget"

I left the house before 8am this morning to go to an appointment; it had been raining all night so I put on my jeans, boots, scarf and jacket to walk the streets. I am usually not in the world of the living this time of morning to see all of the communters heading off to work and I must say, I realised that I am constantly being shocked by Milan fashion. Apparently there is a fancy dress party on today and the theme is 'Inspector Gadget' because everyman and his dog, (and I literally mean dogs, they are treated like humans here), are wearing trenchcoats and rain hats. Rain hats!!! Have you ever seen such a thing?? Only on inspector Gadget, not in Australia anyway... I do not mean to disrespect another culture, I am just adjusting...

Milan fashion week (unsure why they call it week, it is really 4 days long), was celebrated last weekend. It happens twice a year, and the end of September shows the Autumn /fall / Winter collection. The streets of Milan were filled with media, locals, tourists, celebrities, fashion do's and don'ts, and rain. 'Apparently' what is in; high boots over the knee, maxi dresses with see through bottom half, the poncho, some floral, 'female dandy' (females wearing sharp tailoring of mens clothes), 'preppy masculine', and fog chains and heavy brooches to accessorise. These are purely guesses on my behalf, but this is what seemed to be on the catwalk on the television reviews. You know what, come to think of it, did not spot one rain hat?!?

Fashion has done nothing but confuse me since I have been here. Moving to Milan, I presumed that I was moving to the most fashion forward place in the world. Don't get me wrong, the shops and clothes are amazing, ladies are generally very stylish, and the men always dress as though they are on there way out to a nice restaurant. But please explain to me why men must wear coloured slacks and man bags, and why the women like to show their bras in summer, and in winter wear all one colour?? Ok, so you are going to wear brown today... brown shoe,brown skirt, brown shirt, brown scarf and brown jacket! I would say mix it up a bit, but this morning I saw a lady in boots, striped stockings, spotted skirt and floral top! All beautiful pieces of clothing seperately, but all together!! Am I expecting fashion perfection from every resident because of the 'Milan reputation'? Damn right I am!

Fasion is what you feel comfortable in, but also what makes you feel nice, (in a presentable sort of way). I had planned to try and bring back the 'Ug Boot', but I have been beaten as I saw them in a shop window last weekend, (along with the most amazing collection of fashionable gumboots). The 'flanny' (flanelette shirt) also already seems to be making a star appearance! So my goal is to bring back the 'tracky dack' (tracksuit pant for those non slang Aussies). Do not like my chances!! If or when I come home, my fashion style will be judged by you all I am sure, either way, good or bad, I will just reply, "It is what they wear in fashion savy Milan darling!"