Salone del Gusto. Part II.

We had just finished sampling some chocolate in the last post, right? Let’s move onto some of the more unusual stands.

How about some oysters?

Mutant lemons soaked in booze?Waffles.Oh please, more cheese! (Inserted here to demonstrate the overwhelming variety of cheeses showcased at the Salone)Fish fries:This photo is a little blurry, but these cakes are rounds of cheese. The one in front is covered with porcini mushrooms, the small one to the right is covered with salmon, the cakes behind offer grapes and strawberries.Speaking of mushrooms, there were lots.My favorite part of the entire show were conceptual portable food holders.

Behold the “snack holster”:

And do not overlook the utility of the “beer walk”:

I suppose the “beer walk” would be great if you were sporting a full right-angled arm cast. But regardless, how are you supposed to drink your beer without flinging your nuts and chips all over the front of you?

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Salone del Gusto. I Went. Part I.

Every two years, the former Fiat factory in Torino becomes a giant salon of food at the Salone del Gusto. This is a Slow Food Foundation event geared toward protecting food biodiversity more than it is a hoity toity meeting of foodies (of which I am decidedly not. I think I burned the majority of my taste buds off through year of eating fiery hot sauce and ultra spicy dishes.)

Anyway, we went because it was something to do on a Sunday, as GP lives 35 minutes away.

The first interesting thing encountered was spiraling ceiling in the Lingotto building. This was used as car storage when it was a factory. (You might also know about the test track – on the roof of the building!)

After resolving to return when we can view the track on the roof, we entered this food fair.

Since this event is in Italy, the majority of the focus is on regional Italian foods (there were International salons as well, mostly European and South American). We sampled plenty of  Italian cheeses, like giant wheels of hard cheese covered with the post wine grape corpses(called “vinaccia”) :

Delicious cheese covered in dead grapes.

And stinky French cheese, made by mountain people in Northern France, aged by burying in the dirt or grass for various lengths of time.

Incidentally, the regional inhabitants looked like mountain people as well.

Other interesting  things cheese is buried in includes grass and animal poop. Animal poop cheese is called “fossa” in Italy. In case you were wondering.

I tried the grass cheese, and given that it tasted reminiscent of tangy grass, I skipped the poo-cheese.

Would you like some grass cheese?

In truth, there was so many cheeses from all over Italy and Europe, that after sampling a Polish cooked cheese, I was cheesed out.And ready for some wine.

We found many samples in the regional salons, though the samples were small.

Me, wondering if the wine pourer will pony up some more wine.

You could purchase another entrance to a wine tasting salon for another 6 Euros, but we passed. A glass for purchase or wine tasting/wine pairing discussions were all over the place.

And wine stewards, tired of standing in their funny uniforms all day, that could be coaxed out of a glass or two for some diverting conversation.

I also came across a cigar/booze pairing discussion. I guess Italian farmed tobacco is protected just like regional cuisine.

Come here to learn what to drink with which stogies.

And beer, including Abba beer (no relation to the band, unfortunately).After booze and cheese, it was time for something a little more substantial, of which there was a lot of at this fair: Meat!

I’m generally not a meat eater and never have been (I remember spitting steak into napkins as a child every time I was served it and flushing sausages down the toilet), but animals for consumption in Europe, especially regional specialties (with the exception of France) have natural diets, are humanely raised and slaughtered, are not treated with any antibiotics, hormones, etc that they taste entirely different and I will occasionally eat meat here. And nothing is better than a sandwich of a couple slabs of simple organic meat and bread!

Tartar that GP drooled over.

After our little snack, we sampled probably 50 different olive oils and breads. GPs favorite oil was from Puglia, which is a region full of ancient olive orchards and oil production. Some breads had branding marks on them, or no salt, or were rubbery or chewy. But all were seriously delicious.Of course, we sampled tomatoes and tomato sauces, the best in my opinion coming from Sicily.

The Sicilians have a very distinctive interpersonal manner. They are engaging and can remain stony faced while being humorous trades people, and therefore very charming to my American sensibilities. These guys were wrangling customers and no doubt were killing it with the Americans who were visiting the Salone del Gusto (I heard a few here and there).And then there was my favorite part.

Endless jams, cookies, biscuits, crackers…And don’t forget …chocolate!

“Woo” chocolate with vanilla from South America was pretty good.

I’m not sure why the racist images of blacks are ever present in Europe and associated with chocolate, but there they still are.

I have more photos to share, so this post is to be continued.

Eat Pray Love Hate

Eat, Pray, Love, Hype.

(I realize I am late in writing this by US standards, but the movie has just released here in Spain and I finally had to write something about this.)

A friend gave me this book shortly after my husband died. I remember thinking at the the time that the story in general was interesting, although a bit self indulgent,  too wordy, a little naive and sometimes even dull. I read it, then probably left it on an airplane somewhere.

But then there was a movie. And the hype that surrounded that movie made it suddenly the best thing ever written. I tried to ignore it because I was in another country and the hype just didn’t exist. But then I went to the US for two months and was totally bombarded with posters of Julia Roberts face on every corner and constant trailers for the movie on every channel. Eat Pray Love style in magazines! Eat Pray Love home decor! Eat Pray Love music from the movie! I could not get away from this book that by this time, I really wanted to forget.

I returned to Spain. And the movie was released here. Dear God, Julia’s face with the gelato spoon in her mouth all over the damn city. Please, please let me get away from this…

By this time, I heard there was a lot of criticism going around regarding this book. Oh goody, I thought, I am going to go indulge myself on the negative comments surrounding this book, because by now the hype and praise were calling Eat Pray Love “a brave, inspirational journey of recovery and self discovery” which floored me. I can draw some parallels in my life to this mediocre story and in every one, my life is so much more interesting! My challenges greater, my risks much higher and my adventures far, far more exciting than say, spending four months in Italy eating and taking a few language classes. So I really needed to fuel my fire of rage against something so successful that I could have done so much better – but did not, have not.

But to my dismay, I found in the critical reviews, people were critical of the author, not of the book. They complained that Elizabeth Gilbert got paid to travel around for a year because of the book advance. And that they would do the same thing if they also got paid to do it, but they couldn’t just take off because they have responsibilities. That her journey is supposed to be inspiring but it isn’t because normal people aren’t able to just, just up and leave.

I want to respond to every one of these idiots with this: You could never do the same because you have responsibilities? Like what? Car and house payments? Turn in that fucking leased SUV. Downsize from your McMansion if the payments are too high. Stop living beyond your means. You have choices, nothing is stopping you. Oh what, you have children? Well in that case you cannot complain because your life is no longer yours. You realized you were giving up your freedom forever when you decided to make babies, didn’t you?

Others criticized her for running away from her problems. For not staying and facing her shit, but running off, away from “real life”.

To those I shall respond: Real life is whatever you create, not what is handed to you. Ms. Gilbert found a way to deal with her problems, figure herself out and change her life. She stopped bitching and moaning and took steps to make a change instead of sitting home, stuffing herself with Oreos and watching reality TV. And it worked. What are you doing to better yourself? What risks are you taking?

So while I cannot wait until I no longer have to look at Julia Roberts face with a spoon in it on every corner, and am still critical of the book for every reason I listed before, I am not critical of the author for having this experience and sharing it.

And if I think I could write a better, more interesting story along the same theme, then maybe I should listen to my own advice.

Yoga Pisses Me Off

Yoga is tedious.  Nearly every pose is an uncomfortable, muscle straining embarrassment that I want to be over with. And don’t even get me started on the weird, dirty hippy culture surrounding yoga in Western civilization. Yet I attend every Saturday in the Parc de la Ciudadella. The sessions are run by a lovely friend of mine from Bulgaria, whose simple Spanish is well pronounced and clear, unlike the locals who speak as if they had a mouthful of food. When I find myself squeezing my eyes shut tight, trying to force my center of gravity lower so as not to topple over, I can shift my focus outside myself and listen to the sounds of morning in the Parc – the company of little green Monk parrots chattering and squawking in the trees, people jogging, dogs trotting by. This all makes the session bearable and go by faster. But I still hate almost every second of it.

Near the end of the session, when we go into my favorite pose, the corpse pose (which is basically laying there on your back), I can look at the sky through the trees and wait my turn for my yoga teacher friend to get to me and gently touch my forehead with her thumbs and hold them there a minute. I think these last 30 seconds are the real reason I withstand an hour and half of sweating uncomfortably while not visibly exerting oneself. Something about her two thumbs pressing into my head centers and relaxes me so completely it makes my mind go completely blank for just a moment. It’s like, total tranquility and clarity, for just a second. I need this. Then all at once, a flurry of thoughts erupt in my head and the moment is over. And this is what pisses me off.

I wish I had some more moments like this, need more moments like this. My head is an absolute whirlwind of ideas and unfocused energy, now that I am not working. And it’s only been a week. And it’s not like I am doing nothing, either. I don’t want a vacation. I hate being idle. I am taking 3 hours of Spanish a day, plus another I study another 2 hours at least per day. I am going to networking meetings and events, arranging visits with friends and acquaintances old and new (mostly because I’m lonely), bicycling every day, researching business ideas, and, even though I said I wouldn’t do it for a couple of months, doing some job hunting.

I wanted this to be a break where I could study Spanish and consider some new directions in my life, maybe even write something, in a relaxed but focused manner. But I am so distracted and, I don’t know, anxious? that this post required a stack of chocolate chip cookies just to get me through. And every attempted post between the last published and this one has required some sort of chocolate flavored distraction to keep me in my chair. (Note: Cookies of the choco chip variety are not easy to find here in Spain. These particularly delicious cookies, in fact, were purchased from an international market, were made in Germany, and are aptly named “American cookies”. I must admit, while most German foods mimicking our culinary American delights are a far cry from the real McCoy, these are a pretty decent attempt.)

I hate not having a purpose, even a shitty one like contributing to a job that I don’t necessarily love. Having time and endless possibilities makes my hands sweat and heart pound and makes need sugar. I am overwhelmed with how big a life everyone has the potential to create, and I am consumed with dread that although given every opportunity, I may never achieve greatness. I am not embarrassed to want greatness, but I am scared to admit that I want it, because of the possibility I may fail to attain it.

Therefore, I will do the only thing that gives me relief from the self doubt and anxiety swimming around in my head these days, the only thing that relieves me of the noise in my head. I will flounder my way through ridiculous yoga sessions in the park. And I will hate almost every second.