Imagine… walking in Rome, the waft of delicious aromas
There are people all over the place. Plenty of food, coffee and ice-cream galore to….. wait a minute, ice cream is on the food pyramid I’m sure… let’s start again. Ok, food, coffee and sights galore all around. Walking from the Trevi Fountain, to the Spanish Steps, to Piazza Navona, gives you cafes, restaurants and mysteriously grand buildings to enjoy. An abundance of natural, flavoursome snack choices that express the culinary delights and business acumen of this city & country.
Choose from several – the 5 star, fine dining of Imago at The Hassler at the Spanish Steps? (blog in process!) Perhaps delectable cuisine for that romantic night out or intimate celebration at Cybo restaurant near Piazza Navona? Why not one of the many everyday, relaxed and mouth watering venues you’ll walk past with pizza, pasta and traditional dishes. The look of the dishes as you walk past is tantalizing. Take your pick, variety-a-plenty.
It does make choosing what to eat a difficult task.
Alas, here starts the really hard task (note sarcastic voice here) of taste testing various places, simply to discover the restaurant with THAT special touch. Where the home-style fresh food makes it YOUR favourite, over the place just next door. Maybe you could just have ice cream for dinner! The Top 10 Off-the beaten-Track (download here) spot number 1 uses natural ingredients in theirs! Not that I’d know (much) about ice cream for dinner. Moving on.
Food aside (for a moment!), while you explore the city, there’s an array of sights to overwhelm you, endear you and amaze you. It’s clearly an antique city soaked in history. So I was experiencing as I strolled between Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona one night. Just strolling and being a part of it all.
Someone asked me a question that floored me
“Do you know where the nearest (insert western, take away, processed food chain) is?”
WHAT? I beg your pardon? Are you seriously asking me that? Here, where food choices, even cheap food choices are within a few
minutes? Even cheap, Italian TAKE AWAY food choices are within your grasp. My instantaneous blood boil alerted me of the need to reflect on what got me so angry, this was obviously something important to me.
At that moment though, I mumbled an “I don’t know”, which was true. Despite being soooo angry at the question, I just slipped into my “be productive, shut your mouth for the next half hour” strategy, so that I didn’t say something I’d regret, let alone say something rude. Like “You’re in Rome! Did you just hear yourself? You have fresh food choices galore….BETTER tasting unprocessed food, REAL food….not plastic food, to choose from?!! What are you doing here if you want (insert processed food chain)… you can find that at home every day if that’s what you want”. Yes, breathe, I kept on walking. Genuine question from them. That’s where they’re at, let it be, I don’t know their life.
My blood boiling for the next few hours though.
Wow, seriously Elizabeth, you can get over this. Alas, I had to look at what triggered me off to stay in a pseudo-hyperthermia for longer than normal. What was this about for me? Besides the fresh, unprocessed Italian food, with flavor that explodes in your mouth and keeps you satiated? As I reflected, it was about the cultural appreciation. I didn’t think I’d be SO passionate about it.
We can travel places to get a taste (pardon the pun) of their culture, character and diversity. Then move on to another place to visit and do the same. We know we’re only scratching the surface because we have legitimate time constraints and a taste is better than not experiencing it at all, no doubt. For some who travel longer, more frequently or with a local, discovering more helps to see more beauty as well as the day to day uglies of a place. TRUE cultural appreciation!
So, underneath the anger of being asked THAT question, I felt a sadness that the culture surrounding them had been overlooked. To have someone overlook the efforts of the local entrepreneurs in cafes and restaurants fitted out with creativity, in preference for a cookie cutter western processed food locale, triggered off my cultural appreciation nerve.
So what of that “western, take away, processed food chain” situation in Rome.
I noticed from then on that I actually couldn’t find any. I since spoke to a local friend here in Rome who informed me that there used to be two others in the historical centre, but they didn’t last and eventually shut down. I guess local forces also want to preserve the culture and commercial element of their food culture in Roma! Interestingly, another western take away chain I’d seen, (not sure how long it was already opened by the time I arrived), but two months later, it’s now closed.
Many of these restaurants make a point of supporting local producers, small businesses in sourcing menu items. Two of them are on the Top 10 Off-the-beaten-track download, No.au and dall.Ante bakery. My green grocer is open late into the night as an emergency, “quick I need some zucchini”, for the surrounding restaurants when they had a dish sell faster than expected. It’s an eco-system and it seems Italians here, for agricultural, traditional & commercial reasons, are keen to preserve it.
What do you think about cultural diversity and cultural appreciation?
Agree, disagree, other factors I haven’t considered? Happy to hear your comments.
One thing though, when you come visit Rome and if we happen to meet, please don’t EVER ask me THAT question! I’m happy to point out some local café bars and restaurants definitely worth a visit. They service the local community and are a little off the beaten track. Plus, they love new faces to share their loving Italian welcome.