Tre pezzetti culturali

Today I have for you three things that happened to me today that reminded me that, although this is Western Europe, I'm definitely far from home.

1. Warning labels on Q-Tips. The Italian for Q-Tip is bastoncini cotonati, or little cotton rods. I was reading the container today because there is a surprising amount of text for something so basic. These include warnings like "Don't let kids have these," "The cotton is cleaner because it is treated with antibacterial (stuff)," and "Don't throw these in the toilet." But my favorite is the 2 by 3 graphic of "correct use" and "incorrect use." The last one on the right on the first row makes me smile every time I see it. She just looks so darned happy to be shoving a Q-Tip in her nose:

2. Lunch conversation. As noted earlier, lunch conversation at work is generally about food. Italians love to talk about food all the time, but particularly when they're eating. There are other topics as well, but here's a list of the questions people asked me at lunch today:
  • What I ate for dinner last night and whether that's what I normally eat for dinner.
  • Whether I prefer hamburgers or cheeseburgers. (When I reminded them I'm a vegetarian...)
  • What I eat in place of meat for protein.
  • If I want to adopt a dog.
  • How to translate “a posto di” and “invece” into English.
  • Whether or not Orso should use shampoo on his shaved head.
  • If I have an American coffeemaker at my house and, if so, could I bring in some American coffee to work.

3. Pollo con mole y empanadas. After work, in spite of the fact that it was 33 degrees outside, I took the tram to Piazza Vittorio, where there is an international grocery store. I wandered around for a while, happy to see all the bulk Indian spices, corn nuts, dried fruit, and - yes - even a box of Betty Crocker blueberry muffin mix and Aunt Jemima pancake mix. I decided to buy masa (about 2 pounds of it), mole sauce, some Indian spice mixes, quinoa, Thai red curry, coconut milk, and ginger paste. All told, it was 15E, which is a far cry from the grocery store in Colli Aniene that charged 4.60E for a normal-sized can of refried beans (I shit you not). So I decided to make chicken with mole sauce over rice and empanadas (with gouda, which surprisingly is not a bad substitute for queso fresco) for dinner. My roommates were fascinated. I explained to Marco that mole sauce had tomatoes, peppers, and chocolate in it, and he wanted to taste, saying he's never had Mexican food before. The look on his face was priceless - I said that mole was an acquired taste. When I started the empanadas, Ivan got interested and asked what I was doing. So I attempted to explain in Italian that it was corn flour and water, and I was putting cheese in it and frying it. At least these roommates are more curious and willing to taste things than the last ones. I'll have to make them burritoes one night.


SS said…
Why did you make chicken?
Oh yeah, so it's bad for my health to be a complete vegetarian in Europe. I discovered that the summer of Crete when I had to eat omelettes to get enough protein and gained 10 pounds in 8 weeks. So this time I'm opting for lean white meats (chicken and tuna) to replace the protein I'm not getting from black beans, kidney beans, and soy, which are hard to find here. Besides that, chicken and tuna are the only meats I've ever actually liked.

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