How could I have written all these posts without having mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love? So here it is…… an excerpt describing her first moment of recognized contentment in Italy after a good meal. Note: I said good satisfying meal, not overindulgent-stuffing-our-disappointments-down-with-candy-ice-cream and chips. One must be careful about gastronomic self-soothing. I’m sure many of us can relate. Enough said.
The first meal I ate in Rome was nothing much. Just some homemade pasta (spaghetti alla carbonara) with a side order of sauteéd spinach and garlic. (The great romantic poet Shelley once wrote a horrified letter to a friend in England about cuisine in Italy: “Young women of rank actually eat– you will never guess it — GARLIC!”) Also, I had one artichoke, just to try it; the Romans are awfully proud of their artichokes. Then there was a pop-surprise bonus side order brought over by the waitress for me for free — a serving of fried zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese in the middle (prepared so delicately that the blossoms probably didn’t even notice they weren’t on the vine anymore). After the spaghetti, I tried the veal. Oh and also I drank a bottle of house red, just for me. And ate some warm bread, with olive oil and salt. Tiramisu for dessert.
Walking home after the meal, around 11:00 PM, I could hear noise coming from one of the buildings on my street, something that sounded like a convention of seven-year-olds — a birthday party, maybe? Laughter and screaming and running around. I climbed the stairs to my apartment, lay down in my bed and turned off the light. I waited to start crying or worrying, since that’s what usually happened to me with the lights off, but I actually felt OK. I felt fine. I felt the symptoms of contentment.