…and by leave I really mean start my four day saga of going home. There will be overnight stays in Bologna, Paris, DC and then I finally get to Portland! It’ll be a marathon but I am ready. I have spent my last days being lazy all over town, eating all the classics in excess (lots of panini, kebabs, and gelato) and enjoying the sun after last week’s rain. The great news is that if you look really closely at the back of my left shoulder there is what may or may not be a tan line from my tank top, SUCCESS.
I’ll miss Florence (aka the riso flavored gelato), but for now I am looking forward to putting on my Chacos and drinking a whole gallon of skim milk. Or diving into a swimming pool of oatmeal. Either one. (Hint to Morgan: please have these ready for me upon my arrival).
We had the final art show last week and it was just chock full of the most conceptual stuff you could imagine. Which is really just how the semester should have ended, with as many esoteric art references and extraordinarily vague themes as we started with. Here’s the roomie Q and I at the show:
Such artists we’ve become!
In closing: PEACE OUT FLORENCE. It’s been real. Seen you in a very long time from now. Not because I don’t love you, just because I need a chance to loose all this gelato weight and you need some time to restock your pistachio flavor.
(and in case you were interested, Italy, “ho due piscine” is still my favorite phrase, and a toddler could still speak better Italian)
HEY LOOK I’VE ALMOST MADE IT! I have one week left of classes before I set (figurative) sail for the homeland. You might want to be hearing some sort of personal reflection on how my semester has been. No. I don’t want to talk about that right now. I just want to tell you about my troubles with goat cheese.
I would say that I spend at least one hour each week in Italy in active pursuit of goat cheese. I cannot find it. I buy lots of cheese thinking it is goat cheese only to get home and realize it is definitely not (I have had a lot of strange cheeses as a result). There was a brief glimmer of hope when my sister and mom came into town and we found goat cheese surrounded by brie at the market. GOAT CHEESE AND BRIE IN ONE, I’M NOT LYING. I couldn’t even believe it. I ate it right up. And apparently experiencing the pinnacle of goat cheese means I will never be able to find it again and my life must go back to being a very barren, goat-cheese lacking place. There are one million types of cheese here AND I NEVER FIND GOAT CHEESE. Ugh. Whatever. Sometimes I have to use feta. I get over it.
Now that we’ve spoken about that, we can also touch on the delicious six meals of steak Quinlan and I enjoyed a couple weeks ago. We went to Borgo Antico (the restaurant of hallowed hamburger fame) and shared a giant, bloody T-bone steak. It was sooooooo good. Could you tell by how many o’s I used? It was that good. So good and huge in fact that Quin and I both ate two more meals each from that steak. That’s a total of six meals. I am very good with numbers when it concerns food. GOD IT WAS GOOD. So here is a picture of the steak sandwich I made the night after.
I’ve also had a recent re-discovery of pesto. Something about having only one week left to stuff my face made me realize I have absolutely not been eating enough pesto. So now I make up for that by eating it with every meal. Snack time, lunch time, dinner time. All the time. I love it. It’s good on everything. Here are the roasted brussel sprouts, potatoes, and broccoli I made as a vehicle for my pesto.
So no one told me that squash season is not spring. Maybe they didn’t tell me because that is a pretty common knowledge kind of fact. However, I was undeterred by the seasons because I HAD to make a squash and farro and spinach recipe I found online (all my number one fave ingredients). I was on a mission. I took myself, mission in mind, to the central market only to realize that there was really, really, seriously no squash to be found anywhere because it is not, in fact, October.
BUT I DID FIND A PUMPKIN. A really weird, not bright orange pumpkin. But I thought to myself, “Aren’t squash and pumpkins like cousins? They are like best friends in the food kingdom. I gotta get it.” So I bought myself a pumpkin, and I walked through the streets back to my house with a pumpkin. And I proceeded to spend 45 minutes chopping up this pumpkin. But you know what? It was totally worth it because it was delicious AND I got multiple meals out of this baby. This was not just some one meal pumpkin. This was pumpkin and farro, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin cream sauce pasta. It was a great week, seeing as pumpkin is probably my third favorite flavor of food (after coconut and coffee, duh).
Here are the before and after shots. I’m practically a magician. (Shame on me for taking the picture before I added the balsamic reduction, just like my sister taught me.)
So the rumors are true, my mom and sister did visit me. Either they love me enough to take a hectic overseas flight or they were just really craving some lasagna, I’m not sure which. Regardless, we had a wonderful time! For over a week I completely disregarded my homework and forgot that I knew how to cook so that I could only eat out. It was GREAT. We visited Venice for my birthday weekend and ate some killer seafood at the restaurant across from the apartment where we were staying. I also managed to only go in to one museum (the Guggenheim in case you were interested) and if I had told this to my professors they would have been appalled. It was a really proud moment.
No self-respecting Lundquist ever likes to celebrate their birthday for just one day. We draw those kind of parties out, so it was important that we have not just one pre-birthday dinner in Venice, but another dinner on my actual day of birth in Florence. I like to think of this as celebrating Italian-style one night, and American-style the next because you want to know what I ate on the twentieth anniversary of my birth? A HUGE DELICIOUS HAMBUGER. My first since being abroad. THAT’S FOUR MONTHS WITH NO BURGER ACTION, EVERYONE! It was life changing. I’ve never had a burger so good. I can’t stop talking about it. I bring it up in conversation like everyday. This is serious. I like to think of me ordering this burger at a very delicious Italian restaurant as a way of saying to the world, “YES, I AM TWENTY NOW AND I WILL EAT THIS VERY AMERICAN MEAL IN THE HEART OF ITALY, LAND OF PASTA, AND I WILL NOT BE ASHAMED ABOUT IT BECAUSE I AM AN ADULT.” Of course I didn’t actually say that out loud because I was inhaling my food so fast I almost blacked out from lack of oxygen (which would have been a terrible waste of a stupendous burger).
Anyways, back to the mom and sis: I was definitely sad to see them go, real life means cleaning up after I make a meal and spending time in studio doing work. LAME. WHATEVER. Morgan made it back to the U.S. safely (as elaborated in a very long and hilarious email) and mom is still roaming around the south of France with a friend (JEALOUS). Fortunately for me, the semester is winding down and I will be home soon enough. Some of the things I am looking forward to most back home:
Gallons of skim milk, none of this 2% that only comes in liters. You don’t understand how much I have had to cut back my milk consumption.
Bananas not costing the earth.
Chocolate chip cookies. No more of this crunchy biscotto stuff. I’m talking the real deal chewy melty classic.
Not paying for water. Hence why everyone drinks so much wine.
So I realize now that my entire list is food related. Well. I don’t know what to say. You guys already know about me and food. I just spent more time describing a burger than talking about what my mom and sister and I did while they were here (shopped. ate. slept. ate). What else do you expect?
I’ve returned from spring break fresh-faced (not really) and ready to buckle down for the last part of the semester (definitely not true). Quin and Georgia and I went through Vienna, Prague and Budapest by train for nine days and it rocked!
Highlights include staying in some sweet digs courtesy of Georgia’s neighbor back home. Her family has an apartment in Vienna that was one million times better than I could have hoped. From our home base right next to the Naschmarkt (where I ate an awesome almond brioche, fyi) we museum hopped, saw a ballet at the State Opera house, frequented the sausage/hot dog stands daily, and generally did all those things that good tourists do: EAT AND WANDER AROUND. Also to be noted was our visit to the National Library. BOY DO I LOVE A GOOD LIBRARY and this one was unbelievable. Though they probably didn’t have Harry Potter available to check out (as all good libraries should) I think the two-story, sculpture-filled, one-gillion leather bound book collection kind of made up for it.
On our last day, Georgia’s neighbor’s mom and sister (just try keeping track of that) gave us a tour of a monastery just outside of town in the Vienna woods because they are both travel guides. SCORE. Not only was is beautiful, but it was really nice to spend some time outside of a city and get to hear some interesting stories about the design of the monastery (an unusual mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture if you were wondering). For our last dinner I ate wiener schnitzel so I felt complete and could say I did it all in true Austrian style.
In Prague we stayed in an awesome hostel called the Mosaic house, which is supposedly one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the Czech Republic (so much so that the lights will automatically turn off in your room if you sit still for long enough). In Prague we saw the Lennon Wall, the astronomical clock in the town square, were serenaded by an a cappella group from University of North Carolina on the Charles Bridge, heard the Prague symphony, and ate at a seriously delicious vegetarian restaurant. Did you know that polenta gnocchi was a thing? Because it probably actually isn’t but I will tell you it’s wonderful. We were also certain not to leave the city without trying the 8 beer sampler at a local microbrewery. The verdict: nettle beer is awful (not to mention acid green). Coffee beer is the best (and colored normally).
By the time we got to Budapest I was touristed out, but we managed to hit most of the highlights in our one full day. During our first night for dinner I ate a meal that I’m positive was made for me. Wild mushroom risotto baked in a pumpkin with goat cheese. ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS COMBINED ON A PLATE. I couldn’t believe it. It was unreal. I even took a picture at the table, which is probably pretty rude but I felt like it had to happen. After recovering from my serious food baby the next day, we hit up the synagogue (the 2nd largest in the world!), the chain bridge, the castle, the baths, and the ruin pub. Budapest is known for their ruin pubs (I first pictured an outdoor bar in the Roman forum, which was really not at all what they look like) which are bars that started out as kind of unadvertised underground hangouts in abandoned buildings from the Communist era. Now they are a lot more popular but definitely just as cool. They take up whole apartment buildings so there are a million different winding rooms basically decorated with junk and graffiti (but really in the most charming and funky way). And don’t worry because I totally had some goulash and fried bread before I left town. I will check it off my gastronomical check list. Because I actually have one of those.
Even though our train didn’t depart until three p.m. on the last day, I think it was probably an indicator of our tiredness levels that we ended up just sitting at a fountain in a skate park for the couple of hours before we departed. We wandered and wandered and once we sat down, we couldn’t move or bring ourselves to look at anymore landmarks/museums/scenic vistas. That is until a wedding photo shoot moved in and told us we needed to get out of the background of their photos. What are you doing taking pictures in a skate park? For your wedding? That’s weird! I would really advise against that! Oh, the Hungarians.
One overnight train later and we were back in Florence. Spring break complete.
I would like it to be known that we managed to use at least one mode of public transportation in every city. I say this mainly as a shout out to my mother, who doesn’t feel like a visit to Portland is complete unless we have taken the Max train at least once. I was also sure to eat my fill of all foods that were not Italian and open my eyes real wide to get in all the stuff that was not baroque/gothic/renaissance (ART NOUVEAU EVERYWHERE I WAS IN HEAVEN). I love Italy, but a girl does grow to miss her Chinese food (Vienna has great Chinese food, I will tell you).
That said, I’ve settled back into our apartment nicely, the central market has welcomed me with open arms and the weather is so sunny and fine I can hardly believe it. Life in Florence is good! The mom and sis will be here next Friday, and I can hardly wait. Mainly for my mom to take us to dinner at Acqua al Due, but I guess I’m excited to hang out with them too.
Hey, so maybe it’s been a while since my last post. I would blame that on the persistent lack of internet in the apartments right now, but if I was honest with you it would really be because of the artist funk that I seem to be wallowing in. What’s a semester in Florence trying to be a real fine art maker without spending a lot of time moping around not having any great ideas? AN UNAUTHENTIC TIME, that’s what. In actuality, I’ve have spent that past couple of weeks doing not a whole lot on the art front, panicking about my midterm critiques this week, and forgetting all about my art history test that is suddenly on Thursday. I’m a Florentine wreck! Wow! Get your act together!
Whatever. I’ve made a lot of stellar food to make up for it. I will leave Florence fifty pounds worth of gelato heavier and with an entire mental cookbook, and that is really enough for me. Who cares about art anyways? Not me! It’s not like I’m not here to study it or anything.
Here is the update:
Things have declined since the Chocolate Fair has left town. PLEASE SOMEONE GET ME A FRUIT STICK.
The weather has been great. I now wear my pants (stylishly?) cuffed (because 55 degrees means my ankles can easily overheat) since it’s practically spring and spend even less time in the studio than I already did. Which was the absolute minimum amount.
I went to the Boboli Gardens. Number one place to get really really lost. Don’t try and get out of there in under two hours because you won’t. You will be lost. Happily, contentedly lost, but definitely lost.
I spend a lot of quality time at the school’s main office and the British Institute of Florence (my current location) using up their internet. The latter is awfully close to La Carraia gelato, now in my top three gelato places. Who even knew lemon cookie was a flavor? I do now and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Quinlan found Barley Man (the man who sells barley in the market). There were three full days of horror when I went to the market and could not find barley man anywhere! I was out of barley and I needed more and he wasn’t there! Every day I would return and wander around aimlessly (the market has a layout that I just cannot grasp. I spend almost as much time lost in the market as I do in the Boboli Gardens). Thank god Q is around to handle these sort of situations when I am on the verge of a major barley meltdown, she went the next day and found him no problem. Why must you hide from me Barley Man?!
I ate my first kebab. This is a thing they love around Florence and now I love it, too. I could not tell you exactly where kebab’s come from, but they are a wonderful thing and the only not-weird ethnic food you will find around here. It is meat (that you don’t want to look at while they cut it off the giant rotisserie conglomerate that it is cooking on) and lettuce and onions and tomatoes and garlic and spice and French fries (I skipped that part) all put into a tortilla. Now I realize while writing this that that sounds really abysmal, but it’s not. Somehow putting five strange ingredients together makes one delicious thing. I wouldn’t try that formula too often, but Italy has its kebabs on lock.
Quin and I went crazy for butternut squash, leading to some serious culinary successes. First was the baked squash and spinach casserole, and then it was the classic butternut risotto. We had dinner with our neighbor friends and I made a huge pan of roasted rosemary potatoes, apples, and sausage. HUGE SUCCESS.
The great news is that I am about to forget all about art for one week (do not tell my professors) and head off to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest! THE FOOD! THE SIGHTS! THE POSSIBILITY OF NOT ALWAYS BEING SO EASILY IDENTIFIED AS AMERICAN! That last part might be a long shot, but I am really hoping. We leave on an overnight train in a couple of days and I am getting fully pumped for some schnitzel. I had to Google what it is exactly, but I was going to eat it regardless. I also bought the three of us (Georgia, Quin, and I) tickets to the ballet at the Viennese opera house on Saturday so we can do it up real classy.
TALK TO YOU GUYS IN A LITTLE BIT! MAYBE GET SOME PHOTOS GOING ON? NO ONE KNOWS! IT’LL BE A SURPRISE!