Friday, November 5, 2010

(Surprisingly) In Praise of American Cookery

These past few posts Trofie Wife has boasted of the wonders of Italian seasonal cuisine. But I need to take a moment to actually scold the Italian kitchen for what it did to me when I was trying to make myself a nice birthday treat last year (surprised that I prefer to dwell on last year's birthday??).

I really, really wanted some cupcakes. I had, of course, made them here several times before, but they just didn’t have the right oomph. Probably because some key ingredients—baking powder and baking soda—were missing from my arsenal. So, I finally decided, upon embarking on vanilla bean cupcakes with salted caramel frosting(!!) that I should buy some proper leavening tools.

Baking soda and baking powder were nowhere to be found. I tried both grocery stores in Arenzano, as well as the one in Voltri, which usually has more “exotic” ingredients. Finally, I settled on some “ammonium bicarbonate.” Yes, as one would surmise, this is a product that by no means sounds appetizing and is not the sort of thing that anyone wants anywhere near her birthday cupcakes (apparently nowadays in the United States it's usually procured at the pharmacy). Instead of having a yummy cupcake smell, my oven spewed forth a plume of aroma that seemed like a mix of clean hospital floors and a stinkbomb. My cupcakes were fluffy, but I had to both air out my kitchen as well as my cupcakes! When they did finally air out, they tasted just fine…[However, Martello was certain to lay on the guilt concerning my carbon footprint, souring the taste a wee bit...]

Thankfully, I was finally able to pick up American baking powder at the annual American bazaar in Genova later that November.  Life has been much better tasting (not to mention smelling), ever since!

Trofie Wife contemplating olives (shocker).
I spent the rest of that birthday weekend on a mini sweater shopping spree (thank you i genitori!) and then exploring Imperia, another one of Liguria’s regional capitals, this one west of us, in the direction of France. Imperia is a major center of the olive oil industry, and boy does it show in the food and available products. We enjoyed a lovely lunch by the water, and although it was no longer beach season, the water was blue and the weather pretty pleasant.

Old passageways leading to the sea.
We ventured to the old centro and walked around the ruins, stopping to scoop up as many bottles of local oil and wine as we could carry. All in all, a nice celebration.

Baci e gelato,
Martello e Trofie Wife

No comments: