Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Eats: Italy - 1, U.S. - 0

My husband's first American banquet dining experience was at our wedding and although he loved the food, he was a little dismayed that there wasn't more. We actually did the traditional amount of servings and I didn't really understand what was missing. We had the cocktail hour with a wide range of h'ordeurves, salad, first entree, second entree, two sides to go with the entrees, bread, and two desserts. Sounds sufficient, right?

Wrong.... I just attended our niece's First Communion and we had a party afterwards at a restaurant. Needless to say, I quickly realized what my husband meant and how Italians have put us to shame when it comes to true dining. First of all, we started eating around 2 pm and finished around 7 pm. Five hours of eating! And apparently, weddings go on for longer and there is more food! They normally go from 2 pm to 10 pm... can you imagine 8 hours of eating? Italians definitely know how to celebrate with good food, good drinks and good company.

Here is a total rundown of the menu and click on the pic above for visuals:

APERITIVI (Appetizers before main Appetizers)
- Spumante (Sparkling Dessert Wine)
- Aperitivo misto (A mixed plate of snacks - chips, topped bread slices, and pretzels)

ANTIPASTI (Appetizers)
- Antipasto Mare e Monti (A "sea and mountain" appetizer plate consisting of salame, prosciutto, sausage, and seafood salad)
- Bruschetta
- Fritelle (fritters)

PRIMI PIATTI (First Plates - Pasta)
- Scialiatelli ai Frutti di Mare (A thick hand-made pasta with seafood in tomato sauce)
- Trofie alla Norcina (Pasta with ground beef tomato sauce and mushrooms)

SECONDI PIATTI (Second Plates - Meat)
- Grigliata di Pesce (A mixed plate of grilled fish)
- Bistecca con patate fritte (Steak and fries)
* Sorbetto (sorbet) was served in between the fish and steak to clean our palates

CONTORNI (Side Dishes)
- Verdure Grigliate (Grilled vegetables)
- Insalata (salad)
- Mozzarella Tricolore (Fresh mozzarella with cherry tomatoes and arugula)

DOLCI (Dessert)
- Compose di Frutta (A mixed plate of fruits topped with ice-cream)
- Torta Pan di Spagna (Chocolate sponge cake)
- Spumante (Sparkling Dessert Wine)

BEVANDE (Drinks)
- Water
- Sparkling Water
- White Wine
- Red Wine
- Coca-Cola
- Coffee
- Amaro (Hard liquor like grappa to digest)

Aren't you full just reading it all? Can you believe it? And to top it off, every plate was a full serving, not just a small tasting. And, it was all buonissimo!!!! I still can't believe how much food there was and how weddings can have even more. Apparently, at weddings, there is an even larger variety of antipasti. You can get full off the appetizers alone! The biggest difference and how Italians can brave through all this food are the pauses in between them. They don't come out one immediately after the other. There is a good amount of time broken in between for smoking, bathroom and mingling breaks. Hence, a great mixture of good food and good company.

Now, I know exactly what my husband meant. =) Gotta love the Italians. If there is one thing they are good at, it's cuisine. Okay, three things... cuisine, drinking, and knowing how to relax. =)

MmmmMMmmm.... oh how good food makes for a happy gal. =)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Piccolo Grande Preggars in Italy

One of the biggest concerns expats have when moving to another country is the healthcare. I have talked about healthcare in past blogs but now I wanted to focus more on my experiences with the Italian healthcare as a pregnant woman. I don't know how many times I got the question from friends and family, "Are you having your baby in Italy or the States?" And it always seemed like it was more of a concern than a curiosity, not knowing how the healthcare was here and that the US is much more advanced when it comes to healthcare. Well, there was no doubt we were having the baby in Italy because I didn't want to do major traveling during my pregnancy, and above all, I don't have insurance any more in the States.

Anyways, I have already mentioned in an earlier blog that I was fortunate enough to find an OBGYN that I love in my town. He was the OBGYN to all three of my husband's sisters and his father was my mother-in-law's OBGYN and gave birth to Lino and his three sisters. Doesn't get more tight knit than that. Luckily, my worries and woes of inadequate healthcare during my pregnancy subsided the moment we had our first visit.

Now that I am in my third trimester and have two more months to go, I can expand more on the differences between prenatal healthcare here compared to the U.S. This is my first baby, but after reading American baby books and what to expect and seeing what my sisters have gone through, I can make an accurate comparison of the two for those women who may be in my shoes.

In regards to monthly visits, unlike the U.S. my OBGYN did an ultrasound at every single visit every month. I know that in the U.S. they don't do them at every visit after a certain amount of months. My blood pressure and weight is measured at every visit, but, I did not do a urine test at every visit like the U.S. I believe I have done four blood and urine tests to date.

As for screening tests, the nuchal translucency screening test (NT), or as it is called here - "plica nucale", was also done here between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy like in the U.S. The anatomy scan, or as it is called here - "strutturale", was also done here between 18 and 22 weeks like in the U.S. These two screenings are sooooo important so I was beyond relieved when it was provided here as well. The only difference was that I did not have a blood test that was done right before the NT which is the norm in the U.S. Although I can only speak for my OBGYN and who knows how other Italian doctors are, make sure these two screenings are done for your peace of mind that baby is healthy.

Moreover, the glucose screening test normally given between 24 and 26 weeks in the U.S. was not administered to me. Instead, I only did a routine blood test. This worried me a little, but since my sugar levels have always been lower than normal and my sisters didn't have a problem with gestational diabetes, I tried to ease my worries on this factor.

And that brings us to today! =) Two more months to go and who knows how going into labor will differ from the States. I will just have to wait and find out! It has been such a whirlwind of an experience and my husband and I are enjoying every minute of it. We love feeling our baby inside of me, growing and moving around and can't wait to start our family. Whether we are in Italy or America, the emotions and sentiments we have right now would be the same any where in the world.

One of the traditions here is that when baby arrives and you take baby home, you put a stork outside of your balcony to let everyone know that baby has arrived like the picture I have included of my neighbor's. How cute is that? That does mean you will be having many guests coming to visit and congratulate you which I hope I can handle as my life gets turned upside down, but it also reminds me of the unity that comes with living in a small town and the warmth of the Italian culture. It truly is a celebration.