Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Bitterest Olive

When you're trying to live in a foreign country and trying to blend with the locals, it's usually the little tells that give you away. You may have the accent of the language down, and the cadence, and you may have bought all of your clothing from the local stores, but there are still little moments like this:

I walked into a coffee shop in Asti and ordered a cappuccino. It was before 10am, so I knew the coffee order itself wouldn't automatically mark me as a foreigner. I had a little chat with the barista. We were joking, giggling as we Italians tend to, when I noticed some little pizzas, sandwiches, and--my favorite--green olives sitting on a corner of the bar.

"What are these for?" I asked.

"Ah, little snacks. A buffet," said the barista.

"Ooh yum," I said. "How much?"

"It's free," he said, "when you buy a drink."

"Great," I said. I speared an olive on a toothpick, popped it in my mouth and was suddenly aware that the entire bar was staring at me. The barista left me and went over to the espresso machine, where a female employee was looking at me scornfully.

"She drinks a cappuccino and eats an olive? What a weirdo," she said.

"Shhh!" He said. "She's American, she doesn't know.

Of course I don't know! We don't have any kind of food culture in my home country! As long as you're not on any particular diet, you can shovel in food indiscrimiately and at any hour you would like. Well, I like coffee, I like olives, as far as I know, those are two great tastes that taste great together.

And I would like to point out that the Italians regularly eat lard. Just plain old lard! On breadsticks! It's a delicacy! But an olive and coffee together? It was like the entire country had simultaneously barfed in its mouth.

I paid and wandered out of the bar sadly, wondering how soon it would be until I would shame myself again.

I walked to the end of the block, to a gelato store, where the nice lady inside let me mix whatever flavors I wanted all together in one cup. When I walked out, everyone who saw me smiled at me. Dogs ran up to me and wagged their tails. Mine was, once more, la dolce vita.


Archimedes Principle said...

Andrea, you write perfectly. This is one of the most elegantly written blogs I've ever read. Keep going Girl....

Grace said...

Hey Andrea,

I'm leaving for France and Italy tomorrow. I'll try to remember not to eat the olives :)