Monday, April 23, 2012

A Foodies First Overseas Adventure

Italy, Venice 

A photographic gondola tour through the streets of Venice on my first Trans-European culinary endeavour.

Venice is a city of contrast; on the one hand it is a lovers paradise with quaint cafes and dribbling ice cream cones which calls to even those bellies filled to the brim. On the other, it is a city jammed backed with tourists which has more hustle and bustle than Times Square or Oxford Street combined. Our adventure saw us travel back and forth down the Grand Canal on a water bus; these were student days and the thought of forking out 30 euros for a Gondola ride was far too galling. Venice is an eternal maze, and therefore we spent many a day trying to cross one of Venice’s islands in a straight line and ending up exactly where we started.

In contrast to our mode of transport, our culinary journey was one of pure decadence. This was the city where I met my first true love; Coffee. Even the grimiest and unappealing cafes in Italy could produce the finest and most splendid coffee. We would spend hours watching the world go by as we indulged in the best grounds that the Italians had to offer. The food too was an eye-opening experience. Pure sun-ripened tomatoes and gleaming fish that winked at you with the mutual understanding that it had been freshly plucked out of sea that very morning. Perhaps my memories are clouded with a golden haze but the experience of food in Italy was certainly extra-ordinary. Secret recipes passed down from family's great-grandmothers leads to pizza recipes that have their own style and personality. This is a type of culture that us British have never really caught on to. Some of us hold recipes for a mothers perfect recipe for cheese on toast and a the ideal country sponge cake, but we don't have that passion for food that many European cultures take great pride in. Food is an integral part of their lives and as a result means that they can produce some truly magnificent delicacies. Perhaps organic food is a gateway for us British to get back in contact with the real great food that we are capable of creating.

As an aside, one encounter we all remember vividly whilst we were in Rome was an incident at Trevi Fountain. As like all tourist destination throughout the world, the fountain was surrounded by over-fed waddling pigeons, over-fed waddling tourists, and that common whiff of a McDonald's within arm's reach of even the laziest of expeditionists. There was a significant crowd and ruckus of camera flashes and incongruent cries as people wandered thorough each others photos. This was coupled by small children tossing two cents coins in to the fountain and planting all their hopes and dreams of being an an astronaut on the flick of their wrists. As this activity ensued, a lady of perhaps fifty entered the arena in shawl and carrying what was soon to be a weapon that would ensure mass outcry. The women was clearly a vagrant, a lost soul in the city of lovers. She stood next to the fountain and produced a long cylindrical rod. With this staff she began to fish out the young children's hopes and dreams of being a policemen or doctor. She continued for a good five minutes until a significant number of people spotted her activity and a mass protest began. During this time we had been gently licking our gelatos as the world passed us by, we were not quite ready for the reaction that this homeless lady was to receive. Soon the crowd began to boo and jeer as she continued to fill her pockets with either; the future of the next generation of kids, or worthless coins that people had attached no value until they had tossed them in the fountain. Either way the tourist of Venice were outraged by this activity, and it was called upon a gallant knight to resolve the situation. Dressed in the finest armour of a football shirt and flip-flops the man seized upon the lady and vanquished her rod. Upon seizing this rod of contempt he broke the stick in half to the jubilant cries of the crowd. Admitting her defeat the women retired to the backstreets of Venice while the prosperous tourist stood in the centre of the fountain to the delight of the crowd. We had witnessed a truly breath-taking event.

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