In the Spring of 2017, while studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was given the opportunity to embark on a culinary tour of Italy. My Enrichment Grant made it possible for me to see both Rome and Florence, Italy, while experiencing incredible Mediterranean cuisine every step of the way. I originally applied for such a grant because Italy is a cultural and culinary epicenter, and I didn’t feel my time abroad would be complete without experiencing it! Further, I knew the food of Italy would be vastly different from that of Copenhagen, Denmark, and therefore would provide an incredible opportunity to compare the foods of Southern Europe with those of Scandinavia in the north.
While my time in Italy was filled with endless highlights, some of my favorite foods included buffalo mozzarella, which is produced in the Campania region of Italy; “brutti ma buoni,” or “ugly but cookies,” a cookie made of chopped hazelnuts suspended in a light meringue; “suppli,” the classic Italian street food consisting of rice, Bolognese sauce and mozzarella fried into a ball; and fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with oxtail, an Italian specialty. Each of these foods represented a wealth of Italian heritage, much of which I would have never been able to experience without the support of St. Lawrence. As I come from Italian ancestry myself, eating these foods in Italy surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city made my experience more authentic than I ever could have dreamed. I am also quite passionate about local agriculture and food systems, so the opportunity to try these foods, almost all of which were locally sourced, allowed me to see a centuries-old agricultural system in place.
In contrast, the quintessential foods of Denmark include pickled herring, rye bread, and various pork dishes, which reflect upon their northernmost climate. While I tried each of these dishes, and loved many of the traditional Danish dishes cooked by my host family, my trip to Italy is what ultimately provided me with the insight to draw comparisons between the two. Food is always reflective of a culture overall: The Danes are generally quite reserved, and for the most part, their food is too. Italians, on the other hand, are a bright and boisterous bunch, and the food I tried reflected this—ripe tomatoes, fresh fish, and crusty loaves of warm bread are the backbone of their meals. My Enrichment grant provided the opportunity to compare these two cultures through firsthand encounters and personal insight, and without it, such an experience would have never been possible. I am endlessly grateful to St. Lawrence and its alumni for this trip, and as a result, look forward to returning to Italy one day.