As promised in my last entry, I’m going to do a bit of catch up and move forward at the same time…as best I can.
I know I’ve thrown around the enticing word “joust” at least once. And yes, I have been literal this whole time—Arezzo is host to a bi-annual jousting festival, which has historical roots as far back as the days of Dante. (see picture below)
The town is divided into 4 competing neighborhoods or “quarters” who all submit 2 horsemen to ride against a mannequin with a target. There is a points system, and a golden lance trophy that everyone makes a huge deal of. I have never seen such community togetherness as in the entire week of parties, parades, and banquets leading up to this tournament. Here is my album from the event, if you’re anxious for the flashy pictures and exciting stuff…and now for the boring (except I don’t find them boring at all) details!
Jousts pretty much went out of style after the 1600s, but in the 1930s when the Fascists were trying to get Italy all excited about being a united country, they went around arranging a bunch of events to unite the community under the banner of their rich history. One of these projects in Arezzo was to re-instate the joust. So, one thing I have learned since coming here…
I’ve always known that Italy was one of the Axis powers, however…I don’t think I had ever really processed the way that World War II affected individual communities here. You think about WWII and what are the topics that come to mind? Germany? Nazis? Jewish holocaust? Maybe Japan and the A-Bomb? Italy gets forgotten, but in the past few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed to think about these little things, like the joust being a fascist installation, or half of the city being newer than the rest because it was bombed to the ground seventy something years ago.
We watched the extremely poignant movie La Vita e Bella, which partially takes place in Arezzo, and this fact finally—and painfully—hit home.
I’ll let that thought stew, but I’m also going to switch gears now.
The other night, I started making a list of changes I have already noticed in myself, and at the time I intended to talk about them all at one time. They ranged from I’m more tidy to My definition of “the possible” has changed. Since there are so many I’m going to be selective, so here is one that has been especially relevant this week.
I love food.
After four incredibly busy years of high school (packed with competitive theatre and a load of AP classes), in which food staples consisted of drive-thru lunches and microwaved dinners, and then a year of living on meal plan with a case of freshman-fifteen-paranoia, food had become much more of a necessity than a joy in my pre-Arezzo months. More often than not, I scarfed down whatever I could throw together in minimal time—failing to even taste whatever it was—while I read and took notes for some class or worked on scheduling out every minute of my week.
That just….doesn’t work here.
I have tried writing papers while having breakfast at the café down the street, and received looks of astonishment and perplexity.
Coffee does not come in to-go cups. (And besides, you look like a lunatic if you try walking down the street eating or drinking anything).
I don’t even have a microwave, or Ramen noodles.
So some things have had to change.
They say that Italy is the one place in the world where you start talking at lunch about what you’re going to eat for dinner. Food culture is a seriously big deal here. And while I haven’t learned any ancient Italian pasta recipes (yet), I have taken to using food as a means of therapy, socialization, and passing time that my time-crunch self back home always resisted.
Our OUA group had a great bonding time over a potluck-style chili and cornbread night a week ago; I passed an afternoon looking up recipes to prepare a shopping list for my week (It’s a mile walk to the grocery store, so trips are not to be taken lightly); to celebrate the beginning of fall, Kaydee and I spent hours baking banana and pumpkin breads. I have spent a ton more time focused on food than ever before in my life—I even chew more slowly—but it has never yet felt like time wasted. It’s quality time, with friends or even alone with my thoughts, and the outcome is quality food. There’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from assembling a meal from scratch (and an added satisfaction of having translated the labels of each individual ingredient) that adding a cup of water to a box of instant pasta just doesn’t give.
Biggest Nerd Moment: I insisted on celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Hobbit by having a “Second Breakfast” with some very confused, but gracious friends. As I missed the 11A.M. designated time, we celebrated at 11P.M. A toast to J.R.R. Tolkein!
Italian Word of the Week: “lievito” – the Italian equivalent to baking powder, baking soda, yeast, etc. Forget what the recipe says, just use lievito. (Still not sure what exactly it is, but it hasn’t failed me yet!)
Food highlight: Such a hard one this week! After much deliberation, Ashley Corral’s homemade tiramisu takes the cake (pun intended) for this post.
Travel Quote of the Day: (an all-time favorite, in honor again of the Hobbit anniversary) “Not all those who wander are lost.” –J.R.R. Tolkein