Two Culture Notes

Since it's the weekend, I decided to make some rice and beans. My mom brought me dried Goya black beans when she came to visit since you cannot find them here. (Kidney beans, incidentally, are in the small "ethnic foods section" of the grocery store and cost about 2 euro a can!) So I soaked half a pound overnight and cooked them up today. My roommates were fascinated:

Sveva: What are you making?
Me: Black beans.
Simona: But it smells like tomatoes.
Me: Yes, there are tomatoes in it.
Simona [incredulous]: Beans and tomatoes and rice?
Me: Yes.
Sveva: How do you make the sauce?
Me: Well, I used Uncle Ben's in a jar, but you can make it fresh from tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers.
Simona: Oh, it's Indian food.
Me: No, it's Mexican. There are a lot of Mexicans in the South of the U.S. where I live.
Sveva: And now you are putting butter on top?
Me: No, it's cheese. In general, I use cheddar but I cannot find cheddar in Rome, so I am using romano.
Sveva: Oh, I know cheddar. It is a British cheese and yellow.
Me: Yes, exactly. Would you like a taste?
Both: Oh, no, hot peppers make my stomach upset.

I felt like a cross between Julia Child and some raving cannibal, fascinating and repulsing my roommates at the same time. Italians are very unadventurous when it comes to food, but they are quite good at whipping up tasty dishes without recipes or measuring cups or spoons.


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