Christmas Italian Style

The incredible delay in my blog posting is just becoming unacceptable. But it has certainly put into perspective how blogging can be a serious full time job or hobby if you're dedicated to it. So, let's back track about nine months to my solo trip to Italy over the Christmas holiday and then maybe I can start to commit to timely posts!? Chissa!?

After a couple of days spent in Bologna, I was off to spend Christmas with the family next best to my own.  Although I was incredibly bummed about missing my favorite Christmas holiday up in Schenectady, NY with my lovely whacky relatives, being away from that annual routine was providing me with an opportunity to experience Christmas in a different way, with a different family who also loved me.

It had been six years since I was a guest in Claudia's home during my home stay with Union's term abroad in Florence. But in those six years, Claudia and Gabri had been to Boston to visit with us, I had returned to Florence numerous times to visit and we kept in frequent contact by way of whatsapp and Facebook.  It only seemed normal to spend Christmas with this family in my home away from home.

For fun let's look at my Natale italiano by the numbers!

  • 52 Carciofi bought at the market (artichokes)
  • 52 Carciofi consumed 3 different ways over 2 days between 7 adults and 3 kids
  • 246 Tortelli fatti a mano filled with mascarpone, Parmesan and speck (hand made)
  • 1 pound of handmand tagliatelle
  • 1 Whole chicken garnished with orange
  • 4 Fish
  • 2 Tiramisu consumed
  • 1 Torta di mela
  • 1 Roasted pineapple
  • 1 Presepe di Natale (Nativity Scene), assembled with 20+ pieces hand made by Chiara and her father
  • 1 Dish of Puntarelle
  • 2 Jars of jam to pack for home
  • 2 Bags of beans to pack for home
  • 1 Jar of homemade dadi (bouillion cubes) to pack for home
My favorite part of my time spent in Florence was accompanying Claudia to the open air vegetable market down the road to do the grocery shopping. She went up to her usual vegetable guy and asked him what was good today. She obviously shopped there quite frequently as he was delighted to see La Claudia and help her get some good quality vegetables. This is where the carciofi come in. Knowing I'm obsessed with Carciofi and being in the midst of prime carciofo season, first thing on Claudia's list, CARCIOFI! Anzi, tantissimi carciofi. She started off asking for 10 for about 6 or 7 euros, then the vendor suggested she get some more, giving her a deal of about 20 for a mere 10 euro, then he realized he had so many good little carciofi that he said, to heck with it, for 20 euro, I'll give you another 20, and then he just topped off the bag for good measure, so we got about 50 carciofi for 20 euro total. Residents of the US know that an artichoke can cost $3.50 for one, so this was a real deal. It was so entertaining watching that transaction go down, that is a precise example of the simple things that draw me to Italian culture. Rounding out her shopping, Claudia added some tangerines and some greens to the shopping list, and with 23 euro spent, we were ready to prep some food!

That weekend:

  • I learned how to clean and cut artichokes, also learning that it's a lot of work and it turns your hands black. 
  • I helped Gabri and his girlfriend set up a beautiful nativity scene that had been crafted by his father, truly beautiful.
  • I learned what a Bimby is (magical cooking robot that Chiara sells).
  • Attended midnight mass at Santa Maria del Fiore
  • Watched Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in Italian without subtitles and had no problem understanding.
  • Walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo and back in record time with Claudia
  • Spent quality time with really truly wonderful people :)
So thankful to have spent 3 days of cooking and sharing Italian stories with Claudia and all in Florence over Christmas :)