How I Learned To Cook Pasta Like A True Italian

My first taste of Italy was the best. I’d just moved into a small room in an apartment in Florence when my padrona — or landlady — requested I join her for dinner. The meal was simple — salad, fruit, pasta with some vegetables — but I remember biting into it and thinking it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. So this is what Italian food really tastes like, I thought. I had no idea.

I was lucky to have a padrona that treated me like family. She invited me for dinner nearly every night, and for over two months, every meal she made was unique — every pasta dish was made just a little differently, every meat cooked a unique way, and every bite was just as good as the last. Once she served nothing but cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, a combination that made me wary. I was pleasantly surprised.

“It’s all about the ingredients,” my padrona told me in her thick Italian. “Quality food is good food.”

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VIAJIYU Instagram Accounts

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As VIAJIYU’s web managing editor, I was often asked to oversee social media and the interns in charge of running it. When others fell through, I  created new posts for the VIAJIYU Young #TRAILBLAZERS and VIAJIYU #TRAILBLAZERS  Instagram accounts. This often included researching and interviewing the subjects and sometimes required original photography.

Measuring a Year

Published on my personal blog.

I always struggle to come to terms with endings, even when they’re welcome. I don’t think anyone would argue that 2016 was a perfect year. When we look back, we will remember Turkey and Nice and Syria. We will remember Brexit and the U.S. election that cultivated tension all across the country. We will remember Keith Lamont Scott and Prince and the countless others whose high profile deaths left millions shell-shocked. Twenty-sixteen was nothing if not eventful, and many people will have felt the aftershocks of a draining year that left them counting down the hours until 2017. Even still, we are left with prevailing hope for the future.

It was a big year for me, too. Even without the experiences I shared with the rest of the world, I went through so many life changes within twelve months that I still have trouble recounting everything that happened. Last January feels eons away, and the girl who maneuvered those early days of 2016 feels like a stranger, someone I once knew but haven’t spoken to in years. It’s hard for me to eloquently describe the ways my world changed in 366 days (thanks a lot, leap year), but I found myself looking for ways to commemorate perhaps the craziest times of my life.

Perhaps I’ll measure the year with too many tickets. For busses and trains and metros and planes. For a palace opera, for a Beyoncé concert, for a Yom Kippur service, for a graduation ceremony, for art and history museums. I keep them tucked inside books so that someday I will stumble upon them again and the memories will come rushing back. I’ll remember the excitement that bubbled in my stomach as I stared down from airplane windows and how I lost myself in the high-pitched vibrato of La Traviata. I’ll remember wondering, time and time again, if I was living in a dream. I’ll remember waking up in new places and feeling like a new person, how foreign streets became familiar with each passing day. I’ll remember how I kept my suitcase permanently packed and ready, how I lived a life untethered, uncertain of the future but happy with it all the same.

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Five Tuscan takeaways

Published by The Florentine.

After staying in Florence for a while, it’s natural to inadvertently return home with a set of new customs that don’t quite fit into your home culture — perhaps answering the phone with a curt “pronto!” or greeting confused friends with kisses on the cheek. And then there are the customs that don’t come quite as naturally but that you still try to integrate into your everyday life, if not for any other reason than because you simply like doing them. I happened to do a lot of the latter, because living in Italy made me realize how stressful, fast-paced and altogether unhealthy my American lifestyle could be. Here are some of my top takeaways from Florentine culture that made me feel healthier, happier, and just a little more Italian that I was before.

Turning everyday moments into experiences

On one of my first days in Florence, my friend and I were walking out of a local alimentari when she asked if we could sit down. As we settled into a bench alongside the street, I looked over at her expectantly. Instead of readjusting her shoes or searching in her bag for something, she simply gazed out at the street, smiling as she watched the passersby.

When I asked her if everything was okay, she smiled at me. “Of course,” she said with a shrug. “I just wanted to take a moment.” When she noticed my surprise, she added, “Americans never take the time to soak everything in.”

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