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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Fin de Semaine Gras

I have noticed that for the past couple of years January never feels like a fresh start. It always seems to belong to the year before, as kind of the wrap up session. No one gets anything done in December; so January is finishing up those projects that got pushed aside by the holidays. Even New Year’s resolutions don’t really start in January. The resolutions for the year are made, but some prep time is needed to get these things going. January is the prep time.

This is especially true for me because my birthday falls at the end of the month. So it is hard to feel like I am beginning a new year when 27 days later, I am celebrating a new year all over again. So a new year that begins in February seems to work best for me. Luckily, this falls in line with the lunar calendar and the Chinese New Year. So this year, I decided to ring in the Chinese New Year (with a western twist), but in camaraderie with my friends around the globe.

This is the year of the Tiger in Chinese tradition. And not just any tiger, the white tiger! This is apparently a fairly rare occurrence as it has to fall on a metal year (years ending in -0) and a tiger year (every 12 years). I also thought this was cause for celebration because white tigers have always been my favorite animal. (Although, apparently there is thinking that white tigers are actually a sign of misfortune… I always did see things backwards).

Anyway, with all these holidays and with the upcoming lent season, this meant that gluttony was upon us this weekend. Most of my new things involved food, chocolate, drinks, parties or other indulgences.

Project 17: Trying a new recipe (and actually following it!)- Middle Eastern Shrimp

Not a great picture, but a fantastic dish. Pine nuts, mint leaves, feta cheese and shrimp! What a perfect combination. Not sure whose recipe it is, but it is genius. I’d be happy to share it with the curious of you out there.

Project 18: 3,2,1... Happy Chinese New Year!

Though I doubt this will be the last year that I celebrate Chinese New Year, it was certainly the first. I made noodles and bought tiger masks in honor of the year of the tiger. At midnight, we blew paper horns and popped champagne. I am not sure that we did justice to the Chinese tradition, but we certainly had fun making our own.

Project 19: Being a sap. Making pink heart-shaped pancakes for Valentine's Day breakfast.

Normally this type of thing would make me puke. I am not a Valentine’s Day enthusiast. In fact, I have been dubbed the Grinch of Valentine’s Day by at least one of my friends. But in the spirit of a new year, I worked against my gag reflex and decided to celebrate with the Whos in Whoville.

Project 20: Coffee Granita- homage to Caffe Eustachio in Rome.

I am most proud of this undertaking. I made coffee granita from scratch in my own home. It, of course, cannot touch the granita of Caffe Eustachio or even Tazza d’Oro in the Piazza della Rotonda (Pantheon area). However, it was pretty tasty regardless, certainly surpassing my expectations.

Project 21: Lots of chocolate and chocolate-type concoctions

I am giving up chocolate for lent. This is hard for me. I have done this in years past and I remember the agony, because as many girls know, when you have a craving for chocolate, nothing except chocolate quite satisfies it. I am also quite strict about the whole thing and I give up ALL chocolate- not just the bars or pieces, I give up chocolate flavored goodies too. No chocolate ice cream or ice cream with chocolate bits (which let’s face it are the only types worth eating). No hot chocolate or chocolate liquors. Not even chocolate shavings on a cappuccino.

So on the eve of this great loss, I had almost all of the chocolate type things listed above (demonstrating why Mardi Gras is so justly called such), and I tried a new chocolate product that we brought back from Nicaragua- Pinolillo. It is a cornmeal based drink, which is super popular among Nicaraguans- so much so that they apparently call themselves "pinoleros" (though I can't claim to have heard this firsthand). It comes in different flavors, but I bought the chocolate kind as, I read, foreigners do not tend to have a taste for it at first sip. This, it turns out, is true, and I realized that it is perhaps the one chocolate product I will not miss in the next 40 days.

Why am I doing this?