Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The most expensive treats I've ever made...

Today I made some treats for my daughter's class, per her request. She chose this recipe because it's quick, and my family loves these. However, one of the main ingredients is a rarity here in Italy.

And expensive.

No, I didn't make Caviar truffles. I made...Special K Crispy Bars. And that rare, expensive ingredient?

Peanut butter.

That's right--most Italians have never even tasted peanut butter. And for those who have....are you sitting down?.....most of them don't like the taste.

I know...how can they function as a society without peanut butter? It's a mystery.

If you can find peanut butter in Italy, it's often in the foreign foods section of the supermarket--right next to the soy sauce and taco shells. In one store, it was actually in the refrigerated foods section--Italians obviously don't know that peanut butter has (at least) a 57-year-shelf life.

When you do find peanut butter, it only comes in tiny jars, like this:


And since demand (and supply) is so low, p.b. prices are high. This miniscule jar my daughter is holding set me back 4 Euros and 4 cents. That equates to--count 'em--
.
FIVE.
.
DOLLARS.
.
AND.
.
SEVENTY-FIVE.
.
CENTS.
.
For anyone who's interested, here's the crispy bar recipe. (Note: Not recommended for denture-wearers. Highly recommended for anyone who has at least 2 or 3 pairs of pants with spandex/Lycra--anything that stretches. You'll need these pants immediately after polishing off half the pan.)
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Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2TBS. butter
2 cups Karo light corn syrup (If you live in Italy, get someone from the U.S. to send you a bottle. Not my mom, though--she's my American baking ingredients supplier, so she's got her hands full)
6 cups Special K cereal, crushed
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 package chocolate chips
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Melt butter in a large pot and then add sugar and Karo syrup. Stir constantly. Bring to a full boil and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and stir until creamy. Add Special K and stir until well-mixed. Press mixture onto cookie sheet. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave and spread over mixture. Let cool until top has hardened. Cut into squares. Eat. And if your Italian friends don't like them, this just means there's more for you.
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Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Water Fountain Drinking 101

During our visit to the States this past summer, I realized my daughters weren't up to speed on American kid culture--when their cousins talked about things like Hannah Montana and American Girl dolls, my girls had no idea what they were talking about. I could have predicted that--after all, we don't get American television stations and commercials here.

But there were other things they didn't know that I never would have predicted.

One day, my 8-year-old daughter stopped to get a drink from a water fountain while we were shopping at the mall. She finished, and I saw that her shirt was wet. Not just damp, mind you--she had water splashed all down the front.

Me: Honey, what happened to your shirt?
Daughter: Nothing. I was just getting a drink.
Me: Is the fountain broken? Did the water squirt out too fast?
Daugher, eyebrow raised: Noooo. Why?
Me (wondering how in the world she got her shirt that wet from a water fountain): Can you show me how you took that drink?

So my daughter pressed the button, and up came the stream of water. She stuck out her tongue and started lapping up the water, getting her shirt even wetter.

Me: Honey, what are you doing?
Daughter (now exasperated): Getting a drink! (The "What does it look like I'm doing??" was implied).

And then I remembered, and I had to laugh.

When Americans go to Italy, one of the things they notice is the lack of drinking fountains. But Italy has water fountains, they're just disguised. Here's one in the photo below:

It look more like a bird bath, or a place where the village washerwoman rinses out the clothes, doesn't it? Not many people drink from these fountains--mostly joggers and kids. When you do, the water comes rushing out in a turbo gush, and you have no choice but to try and lap it up as best you can. So that was my daughter's drinking fountain point of reference. When I did an American drinking fountain demo for her, she laughed, tried it again, and drank like a pro.

When in America...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Boats, boats, and more boats

Yesterday was the annual Barcolana, a regatta held just off the coast of Trieste. It attracts sailing enthusiasts from all over the world, transforming little 'ol Trieste into a bona fide tourist attraction.

The day was gorgeous but wildly windy, and many smaller sailboats had to bow out of the race. Here are a few shots:

The leaning sail on the left side of the photo is the Alpha Romeo, which won the race in a record 55 minutes. The speck in the sky is a helicopter carrying people who make sure everyone follows the rules. Not an easy task, if Italians drive their boats the way they drive their cars.


Here are some spectators on the boulders that line the coast, with the Castello Miramare off in the distance. Many of them were sipping wine. I don't know about you, but I'd say wine just doesn't mix with jagged boulders surrounded by a swirling, frigid sea. Go ahead--call me prudent.


Here's a view of the 1800 boats as seen over the terracotta rooftops of Trieste.


And here is my first attempt at embedding my own video. I wasn't actually tryng to capture the scenery as much as the sounds...the church bells tolling, the sea and the wind. As it turns out, the sun was so bright that I couldn't see a darn thing I was filming. If you take that into account, it's not that bad. But even if you do take the blinding sun into account, you'll see that I won't likely be nominated for any film awards this year. Enjoy!
video

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A little Italian opera...

Listen to what this man does with a few Italian words. If this doesn't make your day, I don't know what will.



Thanks to children's author Mary Hershey for the link.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The best part about having a blog...

A woman named Barbara emailed me a few weeks ago saying she had found my blog when she googled laundromat and Trieste. Why would someone google those two words? Good question. Her husband had been invited to a conference at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics here in Trieste, and she was coming along to see the sights (of Italy, not the Physics Centre). She wanted to know where she could get her laundry done. More specifically, she wondered if she would have access to a clothes dryer. Ah, Barbara.

So I said I'd check into the landromat situation for her, and if she'd like to meet for coffee, I'd be happy to treat her. When she arrived, she said that she'd passed the link to my blog along to some of the other wives, and wondered if they could come for coffee, too. Certo! I said, and that's just what we did.

Here's a photo of the group, from left to right: Pat, Bea, Barbara, Phyllis, and me*.

* Hair disclaimer: It rained off and on that day, so in this photo, my hair appears to be straight on one side, and then there's some sort of frizz action going on with the other side. My hair does not normally do this...only for photos that I want to post on the world wide web. Sigh.


Anyway, all four women are wives of physicists who were attending the conference on Accelerators Operations (thankfully, none of them really knew what this entailed, so I didn't feel left out). After leading them astray a few times, I finally found the historic Caffè Tommaseo, and we had one of the best cups of coffee I've had in Italy. Ever. Granted, coffee at the Caffè Tommaseo costs three times the normal price, but it was worth it.

We chatted about traveling and Trieste and their families and mine, and they were all lovely, warm people. I wished I could have spent the whole morning with them and show them around the city, but my babysitting fairy godmother (a.k.a. husband) had to go back to work, leaving me with our 21-month-old son and an illegally-parked car.

In the end, the ladies ended up treating me (Grazie!), and I realized I never did give Barbara the address of a laundromat, so I hope she made it to Venice in a freshly-laundered state.

The next time there's a conference on particle accelerators, Barbara, I'll have the laundromat address ready. And the coffee's on me!