Prior to arriving in Italy my best cooking tool was my Visa card. Embarrassing, as it is to admit, I hadn’t the least interest in cooking. I have always viewed cooking as a chore rather than an enjoyment. Why cook when you can eat! I figured when I get married, he can cook. Unless he can settle for take out and instant macaroni and cheese for the rest of his life, then I guess we could work out. This is an unrealistic expectation to ask of anyone, including myself. I better learn to cook not just because I should, but I want to be able to cook for others, and quite honestly my Visa card has had enough mileage from restaurants.
While in Rome I wasn’t inspired to cook. The main reason being is I had to light the pilot light on the gas stove. Anyone who knows me understands my fear of fire. I don’t mess with it, and it doesn’t mess with me. The idea of letting the gas run and then light it never appealed to me, and by watching my roommates do it and nearly singing their eyebrows off, I wasn’t going to risk it. Needless to say I had to rely on my roommates when I wanted to use the stove and after a while they got tired of doing it. So I would eat out!
Once I moved to Florence I realized that if I wanted to travel on the weekends, I would have to cut my food budget in half. What to make? That was the question. I could make cereal, all I had to do is add milk, but after a few days of that I got bored. Then I tried making eggs for breakfast and even dinner. You can’t really screw up eggs, but after a while I realized it wasn’t going to be healthy to eat that many eggs. I didn’t like the idea of making pasta and sauce because I am already consuming enough carbs for myself and everyone back home. My final answer came to me! Back in Rome when I stayed with my (Roman) family one night, we had stir fry vegetables. It didn’t seem too hard to make. Get vegetables, cut them up, a little olive oil and some seasonings and it’s done.
When I tried it for the first time on my own I was really impressed. Not only is it healthy, but I could do it. Each time I cook, I use a different variety of vegetables. To my surprise, I enjoy cooking now. I found by playing my favorite music in the kitchen, I wind down and it is no longer a chore. So each night I have a date with Jack Johnson and I cook to his music.
For me, it started with finding a local farmer’s market. The one thing I do know is quality of taste and buying at the grocery stores didn’t cut it for me. The vegetables looked pretty old and the flavor wasn’t fresh and seeing fruit flies in the produce department gave me nightmares. In Florence there is the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale. It is an eight minute walk away from my apartment and minutes away from the Duomo. I had no idea what to expect. Outside is the produce and inside are poultry and cheeses along with bakeries and other assorted shops. What I love the most is getting cheese. Before making my purchase the man cut off a piece of the cheese and gave it to me and then waited for my approval. Small things like that inspire me to return. The biggest mistake I made at first was getting too much and making too much. I am cooking for one not for five and the way to learn is by repetition.
|So simple and yet so good!|
After washing the vegetables, I begin to cut them in small pieces and then it is time to cook. First a little bit of olive oil and then garlic. After that I add the onions, I always open the window for fresh air because if I don’t, I cry. Then I put in a red bell pepper, carrots, sometimes potatoes and lastly the mushrooms. Pretty simple and delicious!!! After it is all done I usually sprinkle a little bit of parmesan cheese for extra flavor. When I want to change it up, I cook pasta—not a lot just a little. Lately though I’ve been experimenting with raviolis. Each time I use only a fourth of the packet and cut the raviolis in half so I feel like I have double than there actually is.
Clean up is pretty easy too, which is always nice. So for the past week I’ve been eating my vegetable stir fry and loving it. I know I will need to branch out more and in good time, it will happen. At least my future husband will have the choice between take out, macaroni n’ cheese and now stir fry.