tomato = pomodoro
Today, my roommate and I cleared off our kitchen table and put our skills from the cooking class to test. We made gnocchi di patate, or potato gnocchi. Our gnocchi had only two simple ingredients: flour and potato. Juli and I discussed how these simple and cheap ingredients have likely made gnocchi a staple for poorer communities in Italy. Gnocchi can also be made with sweet potato (something I want to try), pumpkin, carrot, or beet and goat cheese... a flavorful, upscale version of the original.
Our experience making gnocchi at home went well: the result was tasty. However, the process of boiling, grating, mixing (with flour), rolling and cutting the potatoes certainly made us gain a greater appreciation for the chefs who make gnocchi in-house at nice restaurants. We did not shape the gnocchi, as that would have added another 30 minutes to the process.
We covered our gnocchi in pomodoro sauce and Parmesan cheese. Gustare (enjoy!)
Refugee = il profugo
Immigration has been a hot topic in the States in recent months, but even more so in Europe with what has been dubbed “the refugee crisis.” It does indeed appear like a “crisis,” with hundreds of thousands, and in some cases up to a million migrants (in the case of Germany) entering the various European nations seeking asylum. On the right, there has been some disagreement as to whether all of these migrants originate from Syria. Indeed, many of them come from North and Central Africa, fleeing or leaving for a plethora of legitimate reasons. Nonetheless, it seems the governments of Europe are having a difficult time processing the flux of applications they have received.
We visited a refugee center today, which appeared privately funded and which housed eight migrant women from Africa. The two we met, Blessing and Owen, were from Nigeria. Blessing, who was 20-years-old, told us about her journey across Libya, where war lords fight to control the sex trafficking ring. Blessing was extremely lucky to have made it to Italy, I thought, and I wondered if she’d been harmed on the way here.
The workers at the center and Owen mentioned that since the assassination of Gaddafi, Libya has fallen to inhuman conditions. This made me reflect: while it’s easy for us in the United States and the liberal West to view dictators like Gaddafi, Assad, and even strong-arm leaders like Vladimir Putin as “bad,” have we considered the conditions and the regional challenges they must deal with? In the case of Gaddafi, as evidenced by what has materialized in his absence, was he not brutal in order to maintain peace in the face of legitimate, persistent terrorist activity? I truly don’t think the U.S. or Western European nations can draw any comparisons between the threats we face in this era, and those that are present in the Middle East and the lesser developed East-European (former Soviet), Middle Eastern, and African nations.
My biggest takeaway from the refugee center was frustration at how the media, and governments have dealt with this situation. I believe people who are seeking asylum from war and terrorism (Christians, and minority Muslims are often targeted) should be accommodated as best as possible in Europe. Women and children should be the priority.
However, it seems that war refugees don’t make up a large proportion of the recent migrant influx. Many of them are “economic migrants,” or people looking to escape the poor economic conditions in Africa. Many of these people are young men. I think many of the Europeans who support the right-wing populist parties wonder, what are they doing here? Are they working? Are they sending money home or just hanging out? I think the answers to these questions are not exactly clear, and that is what is causing the tension. If I were in charge, I would be sure to differentiate economic migrants from those fleeing war and violence, and prioritize the latter. Knowing how women are treated in North African nations, I would prioritize rescuing women and children. The problem is, the journey across Libya and the Mediterranean is often too treacherous for women and children to make.
Christmas = Natale
Today, my roommate Juli and I took it easy and made a trip downtown to Aldi and the little café we visited when we first arrived in Verona: Loacker. We ordered the waffles which were surprisingly room temperature, but heart-shaped and delicious nonetheless.
On the way to the café, we passed Piazza Erbe which was lit up with icicle lights zig-zagging over the piazza “square.” It was quite a beautiful scene, so I didn’t mind dropping my “local” schtick to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and snap a picture. Something I’ve noticed in Italy is that Christmas lights and décor remain for much longer than in the States, almost as if trees and ornaments are for Christmas, but lights are indiscriminate season-long Winter decorations. I am not opposed to this in the slightest, my favorite part of Athens at Christmas is the lights that circle around the tree branches and tops, lining Clayton St. downtown. I’ve always thought they should just leave them up all winter!