Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Lake at Avigliana

I turned 30 and the world didn’t even end*

*yet. (Remember when the most outrageous thing to happen in the world was that some famous food blog posted a bizarre article about fairy bread? Yeah, those were the days.)

A few weeks ago, it was my 30th birthday, and I fully intended to write something wise… well ok, something thoughtful… at least something not stupid about leaving my 20s. And then I was busy, and then I couldn’t be bothered, and now it’s Thanksgiving in America so I’m going to steal their holiday idea and write a list-post of things I’m grateful for about my birthday.

  • I was too busy to write, because my family came to visit. They are total weirdos (where do you think I get it from?) and I love them.
  • My sister is as lazy as I am, which makes her easy to entertain. Case in point: before she arrived, we talked about maybe going to Sicily for a few days while she was here. “Ehh, it’s kinda far,” we said. “Let’s go somewhere we can get to by train. How about Rome?” And then we said, “Yeah, but Rome we’d really have to make a long weekend of, how about somewhere in Liguria? We could even just go on Saturday morning and come back Sunday night.” And then, “The coast is nice and all, but the mountains are closer and we don’t have those in Australia.” At which point, we looked at the weather forecast, decided that up in the mountains would be too cold, and said, “How about a day trip to Sacra di San Michele? At least we’ll get a good view to the mountains there.” And then we overslept that morning, and went to Avigliana for the afternoon, and took a stroll along the lake (pictured above).
  • I also had a fantastic birthday brunch — I think the last time I organized a birthday party was my 18th, because frankly everything about planning a party makes me want to hide under a blanket and never come out, but in this case I had the best time. We had pancakes and shakshuka and fruit salad and an amazing coconut cake made by my friend A who was very gracous about me getting dessicated coconut all over her carpet when I blew out the candles.
  • I decided to do pancakes at least partly because I knew that at some point I’d appreciate the excuse to take a break in the kitchen, facing a wall and not talking to anyone while flipping pancakes. (Introverrrrrrt.) I am so grateful that I am so much better than I used to be at working out how to do things in a way that works for me.
  • Also, while I hate planning parties, I am grateful for the warm fuzzy feeling of seeing people talking and laughing together and knowing that I’d contributed to making that possible.
  • Finally — since this has already taken a turn for the corny and there’s no retreating now — I am so so grateful for everyone who celebrated my birthday with me. (Awwwww.) You guys made my 20s way less terrible than they would otherwise have been (seriously: whose stupid idea was it to have a whole decade where you’re still insecure like a teenager but have to deal with responsibilities like you’re an adult??) and I’m pretty sure my 30s will owe a lot to you, too.

Apparently I do nothing with my free time but eat. I see nothing wrong with that.

My clothing choices the past couple of days have been determined entirely by “what options do I have that involve elastic waistbands”. Probably because since Thursday, I’ve done nothing but eat…

  • Thanksgiving. In this case, a Friendsgiving, or more accurately, a Bring-A-Friendsgiving, which ended up being 30 people. I have no idea how anyone puts on dinner for 30 people. I say this even after being a last-minute rope-in kitchen hand and seeing the process in person. In fact, I think I have even less of an idea now than I did before. As far as I can tell, it involves some awe-inspiring advance preparation, a great deal of teamwork on the night, and probably some miracles. (And, let’s face it, a good bit of running around like a headless chook.)
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    So. Much. Apple pie.

    Somehow in between all the running around, I managed to eat a vast quantity of turkey and stuffing and green bean casserole (green bean casserole 4EVA) and sweet potato casserole and apple pie and pumpkin pie. And then took leftovers home for Friday. Yessssss.

  • Bicerin for Saturday lunch. Bicerin is a traditional Torinese hot drink that borders on a dessert: a layer of espresso under a layer of thick drinking chocolate under a layer of cream. Traditionally, you don’t stir these layers together and the drink evolves as you go along, going from the milky top layer to the slightly sweet chocolate layer to the final kick of the espresso. It’s rich and warming and perfect for late November, but there’s probably a reason most people wouldn’t consider it to be a lunch in itself. I REGRET NOTHING.
  • Bagna Cauda. The Piedmontese dish you either love or you hate — the divisiveness coming from the fact that it’s a sauce made of garlic and anchovies, served with raw vegetables. I’m on team “love it”. 

    It’s a very traditional dish, so much so that the regional government of Piedmont has an info sheet about it (in Italian). The vegetable choices are also dictated by tradition, and it turns out that if you’re in a vegetable market holding a bag of celery and a bag of cardi and you’re buying a bag of jerusalem artichokes, the stallholder will chuckle and say, “I see you’re making bagna cauda.”

    In case you’re thinking Garlic and raw vegetables sounds healthy, I will also point out that we had five different desserts, which is my favourite side-effect of going to a group dinner with people who all feel they ought to bring something to share.

    (This weekend I learned the English for cardi is “cardoons”, but I refuse to believe that’s a real word and will continue borrowing the Italian. I know I have rolled my eyes in the past at people who insist on borrowing words when English ones exist, but come on. “Cardoon”?)

Giardini Reali, Turin, in autumn

Our weird cultural notions, or: Why does Zoe have a cold?

Autumn is slipping past and winter is rolling in; the cover photo of this post is from only a couple of weeks ago and already the trees have lost almost all those leaves.

Late autumn brings good things, like excuses for hot chocolate, and — for my American friends — Thanksgiving, the one American cultural tradition that doesn’t seem to have been imported by the rest of the world. Seriously — why not?? It’s a holiday where you eat yourself stupid and don’t have to go shopping for presents for everyone! ie: The best idea ever. To be fair, by definition I’ve only ever been to “friendsgiving”, which you do with people you choose, rather than as a rellie-bash, so that is probably giving me a rosy perspective on the whole thing.

Also, I didn’t really intend for this to be a post about Thanksgiving, but I feel I should put this on the record: Green bean casserole. Sounds like it would be gross, is actually delicious.

Back on the topic of autum — it also brings the dreaded cold and flu season, and I’ve spent a good chunk of the weekend moping around at home with a cough (which seems to be getting better, thankfully!). How did I catch a cold? Well, the culture I grew up in in Australia tells me it’s from being close to other people who had the virus already. But I’m in Italy now, and if I really want to culturally assimilate, I’m going to have to consider some other possibilities. Like — and these are all things I’ve heard, from people from around Europe:

  1. It was cold and/or wet outside.
  2. I went out with wet hair.
  3. I went to bed with wet hair.
  4. I wasn’t wearing a scarf.
  5. I wasn’t wearing a warm enough jacket.
  6. I was cycling and ended up getting too hot, and my sweat gave me a chill.
  7. I didn’t change out of wet clothes quickly enough after being caught in rain.
  8. Only relevant in summer, but possibly I was exposed to too much airconditioning.
  9. Or any airconditioning, really. Can’t be too careful.
  10. Maybe I sat on a cold surface too long.

Yes, I have been known to say to people, “have you heard of the germ theory of disease? It’s been quite fashionable since, oh, the 17th century.”

This is absolutely not to say “haha, those crazy Europeans with their weird cultural notions”. Partly because I have become a total convert to the scarf theory of cold and flu prevention. I am wearing a scarf right now and I swear it will make my cough go away faster, do not ask me how.

And partly because I have odd cultural notions of my own: alternating too much between hot and cold air will make you sick; drinking a slightly nasty concoction of lemon, garlic, honey and hot water will cure your cold; sugar in any form (except, somehow, the aforementioned honey) will make a sore throat worse; sitting on that cold floor will give you piles, for sure.

So I will wrap my scarf a bit tighter and make another cup of lemon-garlic-honey tea. And maybe not wash my hair until I have a chance to dry it properly — you never know…