Tuesday, November 6, 2012


When I moved to Italy I spoke only English, Spanish, and some raunchy Hungarian. My dad  tried to provide solace (bless him) by (lying) saying I would be able to get my point across if I just added a vowel to the derrière of every word.


Now, I have a confession to make.

Last week when I told you about Dolce dei Santi and posted those photos of the chocolatey thingamajigs, well... I didn't actually buy them at the pasticceria as one is supposed to do. I bought them (discounted, even worse) at the grocery store. Unfortunately this photo evidences an Italian gold standard exception:

In case you can't figure it out, there are three major things wrong with this photo:

1. Enormous hangnail (since manicured).
3. partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

While I am bored at best but more reasonably scornful of those with overly rigid eating habits, one thing I will absolutely not budge on is hydrogenated vegetable oil. It's chemically engineered to extend shelf life- a property that doesn't stop at the level of your body where it sits on the shelves of your arteries for more years than you will be alive to appreciate.

Anyway, I more or less stopped reading ingredients lists when I moved to Italy because food is faithfully fresh and standardized to house minimal constituents. On this unfortunate occasion however, I ate the dolce dei santi and only realized after the fact that I had ingested those hateful hydrogenated oils of death. Giorno dei morti in sooth.  

There was only one feasible solution to being exonerated of this heinous act: I would have to go to Siena, allegedly famous for REAL dolce dei santi, and find something of the authentic variety.

So we got in the car and drove to Tuscany.

Landscapes tried (and failed) to distract me from the nature of my mission.

So when we got to Siena, I ignored every beautiful edifice or rolling hill in favor of staying focused on the task at hand. I dragged Giulio in and out of every pasticceria we passed but NOBODY, not even one stupid bakery, had any flippin' pane dei santi.

Just as I had surrendered hope and was beginning to formulate my temper tantrum, I saw these:


and as I continued my survey of the display case, I also saw these:

This HAD to be what I was looking for, it looked near identical to what I had eaten the week prior. I ran inside and interrupted the baker, panting, and with a tone that conveyed obvious desperation:

Me: "Mi scusi. Questi sono dolce dei santi?"  ["Excuse me, are these dolce dei santi?"] (avidly tapping on the display glass).

Baker: "No. QUESTO è pan co' santi". [No. THIS is pan co' santi"] (pointing at something entirely different, boring, comprising only fruit and nuts)


[my thoughts: you must be joking/mistaken]
Me: "E queste?" ["And these?"] (pointing to original heroic chocolate/powdered-sugar thingies)

Baker: "Questi sono Ricciarelli"

Me: "Prendo tutti i due." [I'll take both]. 

In sum, the REAL pan co' santi bored me out of my mind. On the other hand, the Ricciarelli far exceeded both my expectations and my experience with the dolce the week prior. (Now I'm really not sure what that stuff was, but I do know that somebody got very confused). Ricciarelli and Pan co' Santi are indeed both Tuscan specialties; the latter is specific to Ognissanti, the former, to Christmas. Per my research, Ricciarelli is almond-based and was popularized in the 14th century by Ricciardetto della Gheradesca upon his return from the Crusades. 

Nevermind all that because, then THIS happened:

Let me introduce you to THE Fiorentina, more affectionately known to my fellow Americans as the T-Bone Steak. That slab of meat weighed almost one full kilogram, and Giulio ate every morsel down to the bone. The photo below was not staged to exaggerate either the degree of demolition cast unto that steak or the concomitant expression on Giulio's face.

Though there wasn't costume, trick-or-treating, or pumpkin carving, roadtripping through Tuscany on Halloweena could eventually prove a new, equally nostalgic tradition. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Driving to Siena... for a cake.