As much as I love the simplicity of Italian cuisine, I really missed eating avant-garde food. Going to school in one of the food capitals of the nation (Durham, North Carolina), I eat off-campus almost every weekend, trying everything from Whole Foods to Nana’s Tacos to Sushi Love. The options are endless, and so, I would be lying if I did not say I was a little disappointed by restaurants in Rome. The food is great, but it is always the same thing: pasta, bruschetta, pizza, gnocchi, risotto, etc. From my sociology class with Professor Smith and from talking with my Italian friends, I have come to terms with the food culture—though not too happily. Only about 8 percent of the population in Rome is of foreign ethnicity. Of the remaining 92 percent, most Italians enjoy cooking and eating at home. If it were not for the hordes of tourists that come to Rome, the Eternal City would probably be devoid of restaurants. Thus, it is quite understandable then that when fall break started, I decided to go on a cuisine adventure.
I had the best meal of my 20-year life in Barcelona. My friend (who is studying abroad in Barcelona) and I were walking around the dark, narrow pedestrian alleyways of the gothic district when we stumbled upon Gilda. Famous for exotic appetizers and unusual tapas, the restaurant’s menu features Mediterranean cuisine with a Belgian twist. Fortunately, my friend is as much a foodie as I am, and so we decided to split three starters. We ordered hot pea soup with a scoop of shrimp ice cream, crispy prawns mounted on curry ice cream with fresh spinach coulis, and salmon on a nest of mesclun greens with walnuts and Dijon mustard sorbet. Every bite was tantalizingly delicious, most likely accentuated by the fact that I had been eating my poor cooking and invariable Italian food for the past month and a half. The food we ordered may sound weird, but it is one of those things that because the dish sounds so weird, it had to be ethereally delectable. I love that Gilda’s chef is not afraid to experiment with ingredients, and wish that more for Italy, a country so rooted in tradition. Not just limited to food, but for all things, tradition is just as important as innovation, and given Italy’s current state of economic affairs, the country could use a little resourcefulness.
Before returning to Rome, I met up with several students from Temple Rome in Nice, France…and we went scuba diving. I have only ever been snorkeling, so scuba diving was a wholly new experience! I am absolutely fascinated by the underwater world and take any opportunity to see it. Thus, while I did see more variety of fish and coral when I went snorkeling off the coast of Zanzibar, being consciously aware that I was swimming among—not on top—of all the wildlife was thrilling. Essentially, I was a mermaid for an afternoon! Furthermore, I rather like the neoprene wetsuits. Not only are they adept at providing thermal insulation, abrasion resistance, and buoyancy, but also, aesthetically, the fabric hugs and smooths one’s curves. It is no wonder then that fashion designers (Calvin Klein, Fendi, Burberry, and Balenciaga, just to name a few) have started experimenting with neoprene. For me, I am especially loving Balenciaga’s neoprene sweaters for F/W 2012.