Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vegan in Italia

... It is possible!

In case you are confused, I am referring to the title of this blog post: that is, it is indeed possible to be vegan in Italy.

Hello everyone!

I am in Italy right now! And I just figured out how to type an apostrophe. Sweet! '''''' heh heh

I am staying in a slightly crusty student residence in the town of Cassino, in the region of Lazio. It is bloody hot, the locals are amusing and very friendly, and the older men like to yell "compliments" that are devoid of meaning in English at the girls: yesterday's gem was "Ve-rri ve-rri compleement!", yelled to my cousin Laurie and me. (In Italian, the expression would be "tanti tanti complimenti" but it loses virtually all meaning in English, literally. Amazing!)

As this trip is paid for entirely by La Federazione delle associazioni laziali, even our meals are paid for. As such, we receive three vouchers every day, one for each meal. The first one is redeemed at this one bar (a bar in Italy is a place where various snacks and drinks [as far as I can tell, none serve alcohol] such as juices, water, and coffee are served, whereas a pub would serve alcohol); the voucher is worth £1.50, I believe, so it includes a cornetto (croissant) or some pastry equivalent, as well as an espresso or cappuccino or macchiato. As a vegan, I can't eat croissants, so I get my money's worth by giving my pastry away and having an espresso with a bowl of boiling water--for the oatmeal I brought from home! Yippee! The waitresses are very kind and accomodating at this place. So, breakfast is possible for the vegan if the vegan is prepared. Also, at the grocery store near our residence (it's called Conads--ha! So many things hear have such absurd names that are too funny in English; I saw a dress that had "Hoochie coochie" as its brand name), they sell vegan croissants, plus quite the assortment of vegan cookies--healthy ones, too!

For lunch and dinner, we go to this place called Pepper's (see? That totally wouldn't fly in Quebec). We have this one waitress named Silvia and she's accomodating and ever so patient: we're 42 students on any given night, and she's usually the only waitress working. So far, we have tipped her a few euros every couple of nights because she truly merits it. Anyway, it's only four nights into the trip and people are already starting to tire of the menu there. In fact, we barely get a choice of meals at all, for they have a daily menu, each meal consisting of two piatti (I'm not sure how to say that in English) and a dessert (gelato or fruit salad. The fruit salad here is actually good, the fruit being fresh, juicy, and probably free of GMOs). It has happened on some days that the meal choices each consisted of meaty or cheesy dishes, but the chef/waitresses have accomodated us greatly. Oh! Did I mention that there are three vegetarians who are part of the group? Pretty cool, eh! What a relief. Anyway, so people were starting to tire of the menu because it was always pasta and pizza, pasta and pizza, pasta and pizza. The food is so tasty but holy moly--we're gonna end up rolling home! Ha!

As a side note, I went for a jog yesterday morning. The air was wonderfully chilly and my legs are sore today. Good. As another side note, it is a good thing that our university course is located in a building a decent walk away, not to mention that the lunch and dinner place is a good 15 minutes from our residence. Even if I jog just once a week, I should be just fine.

Anyway, the food is splendid, but it is carb-tastic. Oh, and I even had a gross moment: I was served a portion of cold veggies (there were only meaty and cheesy options that day at the restaurant), and on top were two small hunks of meat. I scraped off about half the plate that had meat on it and attempted to swallow the rest of it. Ha ha. And the other night, after explaining at a different restaurant (one to which we were supposed to go tonight, but the owner or the owner's father passed away. How sad) that I didn't eat milk products, eggs, meat, or fish, though I did eat pasta, I was brought a dish made of egg noodles. Cazzo! So, unfortunately, I had to send it back, but I got a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce instead. That night was crazy, though; so many dishes were floating about, and it was almost all pizza! There was so much food that one entire pizza remained at our table, untouched, though it looked like the tastiest one, because everyone was full. One last tidbit about the food: I requested a salad without cheese (insalatone mista [mixed big salad] was one of the meals offered today. Score!), and when it arrived, I saw mozzarella on top. I was like, "ah, ma c'è formaggio" (ahh, but there's cheese!) and the waitress replied that it wasn't cheese but rather it was mozzarella. I proceeded to explain to her that I don't eat any dairy products. I gave it to someone else, and she gave me a new salad. Once again, Silvia was very understanding. Aww. Oh, and one of the best things I've eaten there so far is their grilled veggies. So good!

Already I have acquired the nerd reputation. Sono una secchiona--lo so! I got a perfect grade on my placement test for the Italian course; I even added the correct answer to the three (wrong) possible answers in a multiple choice question. I'm a loser. But last night I did hang out with everyone outside, just till about 1 am, and I had a great time without even drinking. I am a happy camper... though that doesn't mean I don't miss home and all you loved ones. I MISS YOU!!!!!!!!!

We have a lovely group of people here, though. Forty-two people from Montreal, Toronto, New York (we affectionately call them "The Americans"), and Australia (whom we affectionately call "The Australian") have gotten close over the space of four days. My cousin Laurie was saying how difficult it will be to say goodbye at the end of the month.

I am craving chocolate, actually; good thing I brought a bar of it from home (and it hasn't even melted!). Hmm...

Today we went to visit Monte Cassino. What a beautiful building. Go look it up on Wikipedia, for it has a very interesting history. What I most appreciated about visiting the abbey is that we learned about its founder, San Benedetto di Norcia, in my Italian Civ class. Talk about putting faces and places to the names. I took many photos but my camera died right before I was able to take a photo of the inscription "Ora et labora" in the wall (pray and work); it's something we learned it class, something upon which San Benedetto insisted with his monks.

This weekend we're being taken to Rome! We're going just for the day, on Saturday, though Laurie and I will indeed be staying behind to visit Prossedi, the town where my paternal nonni are from. I'm pretty excited.

Finally, when our Italian prof here, Bernardino, saw how freaky I was with remembering certain grammatical rules, he asked me whether I would one day like to teach Italian. I said maybe, and he invited me to attend the beginner classes he teaches each morning, to see how Italian is taught to foreigners. I am debating attending.

Please forgive any crappy English!

Missing and loving you all,

Vegan (out) of Suburbia

No comments: