One of the minor annoyances in my day-to-day life here in Italy, are Italians asking me what I think of Italy or of Italians. God, yeah, let me just give you an analysis of an entire country and its population in a couple of sentences, no biggie. The question is meaningless, because the answer that I can give you in the time provided is inevitably meaningless, too. “Nice. I like it/them.” Usually there’s no time for something more complex than that. But here, I can give it a shot.
Let’s start with something nice. Italy’s a beautiful place and the people who live here are generally friendly, cheerful and warm people. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like it and them, obviously.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let the bitching begin. Because Italians can also get on my nerves something awful at times. For instance, they get terrible, irrational road rage. They will fucking honk their horns at traffic that is quite clearly blocked from all sides and that cannot physically move out of the way. As if that’s going to help. At the same time, they will park their cars in the stupidest places, like on busy junctions or in narrow streets, which probably explains all the traffic getting stuck in the first place.
Then there’s the whole question of taxes. Tax evasion is a massive problem in this country. To me, that shows a lack of solidarity between people that kinda pisses me off. Italians on an individual level are generally kind, sharing and generous, but when it comes to collectively paying for keeping open schools, hospitals, maintaining roads and what not, in short, for keeping this place running, they will flat out refuse. The reasoning behind this? “Our public services are shit, I’m not paying for that crap.” It’s a vicious cycle with no way out. And people are apparently OK with it, too. Up North, if you don’t pay taxes, you might as well tell people you kill cats for a hobby, you’ll get more or less the same reaction. If you successfully manage to evade taxes here, you’re a pretty clever character who deserves a pat on the back.
Then again, they do have a point. The public services here are crap. Trying to get something done, anywhere? Prepare to be treated like shit by just about anyone who works in an office. Once you finally make it to the counter, that is, because before you do, 14 pensioners will have jumped the queue because “they only need to hand in this form” (and fill in another 4, but they never tell you that, if they even knew in the first place). Filled in your form in black ink instead of blue? Come back tomorrow. No, make that next week, tomorrow we’re only open from 08:30 to 08:32 and Friday we’re on strike.
So, you spoiled, moaning princess, if you hate it so much here, what are you still doing in Italy? Well, that’s the point. I don’t hate it here at all, not even a little. I get frustrated sometimes, because culture differences are difficult to deal with and being a foreigner can be tough at times. But I do love Italy, and I love Italians. I love being here and feeling part of a society that’s new to me. I love speaking Italian with Italians, learning new words and ways of expressing myself. I love the weather, the sunny days and the furious thunder storms that come with the current season here in Turin. I love how Italians keep their history alive, by littering the public space with historical figures in the shape of statues, street names and plaques. I love the fact that you can find amazing art in just about any pesky little church on random street corners.
Above all, as was to be expected, I guess I’m just a pig who loves the food. For once I’m not talking about the dishes, the recipes, the Italian way of cooking. No, I mean the quality of the food. Yes, the eating culture here is awesome, but right now I’m talking about how delicious everything is, even if you don’t do anything with it. And if you go to the right places, it doesn’t cost much. When I go get my vegetables at the market, I’ll walk away with more than I can carry for less than I imagine is a reasonable price, every single time. And it’s just so good. So you don’t need to cook complicated stuff, because the ingredients that you buy are fine as they are. And that’s something I really, really love about Italy.
Super simple pasta with basil and fresh tomato sauce, because sometimes the simplest things are actually the best.
You can use any type of pasta and it’ll be delicious, but I used ravioli because that’s another thing that you can get here and it’ll always be fantastic: fresh pasta (yeah alright, you can tell by the seams, these particular ravioli were from a factory, shush).
For two, use:
- six tomatoes
- a handful of fresh basil
- half a clove of garlic
- half a small dried chilli
- some olive oil
- enough salt
Boil water with enough salt for your pasta. Then start by chopping your herbs and stuff. Use half of the basil, crushed and/or chopped to bits, your garlic, crushed, and your chilli, sliced up. Fry them on low to medium heat in some olive oil until fragrant. In the meantime, wash and chop your tomatoes. You want to go for fine chunks here. Add them all to the pan and turn up the heat a little bit. If the whole mixture goes dry, add half an espresso cupful of pasta boiling water, which is the liquid of the kitchen gods. Add more whenever you need, but don’t exaggerate it.
When your pasta’s done, mix it with the sauce, then serve up with the rest of the basil, and if you really want, some parmesan (although it’ll probably be delicious even without).