DISCLAIMER- blog: standard student behaviour. woops. please humour me, by forgiving me for occasionally projecting the (generally inane/mundane) ponderings from my brain into a pretty font. it's just that blogging's quite relaxing. like sudoku, but with letters.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What's the hold-up with the chowdown?

(This article is currently in my University paper, but for those of you that can't see it, I thought I'd pop it up here...)
One of many...Carbonara pizza in Sicily

How can a nation be famous for both indulgent food and world-class catwalks? Pizza, pasta, pastry and ice-cream- they’re the kind of tasty treats that the fashion industry doesn’t always appreciate as much as the rest of us. I know the Mediterranean lifestyle is meant to keep you spritely and bafflingly energetic well into retirement, but with that much dough involved, I simply couldn’t see the logic. So when I arrived in Padova, Italy, for my year abroad, I was suspicious of how the local ladies managed to live in streets lined with bakeries and still look slinky in their skinny jeans. But after a few weeks of careful observation, I discovered their secret.

I admit I arrived in the sunny boot of Europe with plenty of pre-conceptions of our European neighbours- I was sure there would be lots of passionate hand gesturing (true), impassioned accordion players providing the soundtrack to bustling street cafĂ©’s (true), and was on my guard for slick-haired Casanova’s prowling the piazzas (pleasingly not true). What took me by surprise was one particular mentality, woven as deftly and naturally through the culture as a Vespa through cobbled side-streets: moderation.

Just one won't hurt...Cream and Raspberry Tart, Sicily
Alright, so it isn’t the most dramatic revelation, but it’s a concept that sets the bar classily high for many other countries- particularly for Britain, often depicted as a country of excess. As many statistics remind us, we love a good takeaway (recent surveys show that 45% of Brits enjoy indulging in fast food too much to give it up, followed closely by 44% of Americans), we love a drink, or three, even more and, when it comes to letting off steam, it goes without saying that Saturday night indulgence shouldn’t end until it’s well into Sunday morning- in the UK, binge drinking accounts for 40% of all drinking occasions by men, and 22% for women. When it comes to food and drink, we can’t seem to get enough of a good thing.

All the while, it seems Italians are almost supernaturally resistant to the chocolate-to-face-shovelling and wine swigging that some of us (or, at least, me and a few of my friends) are powerless to resist. For example, whilst in Italy one of my two housemates carefully cut a doughnut into four pieces, kindly offered me a segment, and when each girl had savoured her piece, the last quarter was wrapped in foil and left in the fridge. For three days. This, apparently, was normal. Alien as this concept of...wait, what's it called again..."saving chocolate for later" was to me, I have to say I respected it. I’m quite sure that even if I tried adopting such a sensible attitude towards confectionary, it’s likely that I would end up cheating outrageously by finding loopholes, such as alleged "sleep eating", or similar excuses.

Sugar-coated... Treats at the Chocolate Market, Padova
The Italian powers of self-control also apply into alcohol- it’s one of the few places where people claim they’re just going out for one drink, and actually mean it. That’s not to say Italians don’t know how to enjoy themselves- they throw a mean carnival, and their food markets never fail to excite and delight. Perhaps it’s just that “fun” doesn’t translate directly between our two nations- each with our different ways of using eating and drinking to make ourselves feel good.

Has the Italian influence affected me? Well, next time I find myself with a family-size bag of Maltesers and some spare time on my hands, I suppose I’ll find out…

Goodies- Out for hot chocolate with Tiger in Padova
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  1. I find it so encouraging that there are still cultures in which moderation is the norm. Yes, there are plenty of people who force themselves to consume in moderation, with strict diets that are entwined with self hatred and disgust, but for it to be effortless - that is how it should be. Although those images really aren't helping me achieve that...

  2. Really nice post, I got so much to learn from you!
    Followin each other right? :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! Lovely pics, insightful as well as humorous. Do you go to bham uni? I found yr blog through Victoria's procrastination project. I graduated from there last year :)


  4. hey kirsty! yup, i'm in my final year of uni, Vicky is a good friend of mine :) congrats on graduating, this whole final-malarky is turning out to be hard work...glad you like the blog :) xxx

  5. Ah I love the way you write!And it's so true too, have you ever read 'French Women Don't Get Fat'? It's basically about how they eat really small amounts of everything.



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