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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Monday, March 21, 2005


I am reading a book call the Tummy Trilogies. My sister Sara bought it along with three others as Christmas gifts this past year. They were on my wish list at Amazon.com. Actually I thought wish lists were personal reminders; I was going to buy the books for myself later, I didn’t know that other people could look at them and purchase items for you. So it not surprising that by the time that I received the books, I had already read two of them. In the books, the author writes about his culinary travels and mentions some really great things. Upon reading his reminiscences, I began to think of all the great things I’ve eaten and love to eat. My favorite cuisine is Chinese/Vietnamese food. Since my parents are Chinese and were both brought up in Vietnam, where my sister Judy and I were born, I think of this food often and this week has led to a bit of homesickness.

This weekend is when the feelings of general homesickness first started. I began by missing my friends, family and all of Seattle basically. The weather in the Northwest has been great, I thought of Greenlake, Alki and the Pike Place Market. I thought of taking walks with little Laura in the morning and taking Erik to his play dates at outdoor parks, I thought of walking Molly/Ruffy with Daniel/Charlie, playing baseball with Sophie and Jamie and canoeing that one magical summer in the Arboretum. The children being a part of my life for the past 12 years fills me with such happiness and keeps alive in me the spirit of youth. I care about picking dandelions (even though I know they are invasive weeds); I care about gathering leaves in the fall and looking for empty bird nests.

Thinking about the children made me think my sister, Tia. When she was first born, I flew to Guam for six weeks to help care for her. She was so tiny and fragile but strong-willed even at two months old! Almost 2 summers ago, all my sisters and I got together in Seattle and spent two weeks together. Tia is going to be 8 or 9 in May and I keep thinking I have to get over to Guam to see my family. Deme and I plan to travel this summer so he can meet his new in-law’s. Things in the city are so formal; I miss the lax and relaxed environment of the island. I miss my parents. Family is very important to me, how could I let the years fly by?

Thinking about my family led me to think about all the great food I’m used to eating with them and in Seattle (everything eventually leads back to food, always.) As a child, I used to ask my mom what was for dinner; if I did not figure it out by the aromas, the only time I was disappointed was when mom went on a peanut butter soup binge. All through my childhood, my mother had the irrefutable reputation as being the best Chinese cook amongst all my parents’ family and friends. What a reputation! I embrace Italian food thoroughly but have been longing for my dad’s salt and pepper shrimp, special dressed-up tofu (with seaweed, ginger, dried shrimp, green onion and spices, ox-tail soup with old carrots and daikon, my mom’s black bean spare ribs, phó , tomato and seafood stew with an egg mousse on top, fried lumpia and BBQ pork. I feel a bit panicky every time I think that I may have to fly to London or back to Seattle before I can get my hands on this fare again.

There are many Chinese in Italy but the food they produce is notoriously bad. There are many combination, “ristorante cinese” and “pizzerias” here. We ate at a Chinese restaurant in Rome and after we were seated, I asked our waitress (in Italian) if she spoke Chinese, she said “yes”. I asked her if spoke Cantonese and she said “yes”. I then proceeded to ask her for a pair of chop sticks and a pot of tea.
“Huh?” “Huh?” she mumbled.
She did not understand me. She looked at me strangely and said a few lines in Italian to Demetrio, Stefania (D’s mom) and Mario (D’s step-dad). The menus followed and the rest of the meal goes into the annals of disappointing cuisine. (Even the white rice was sketchy.)
I have found a few other Chinese places in Turin but like Pavlov’s dogs, I salivate but know I may be just experiencing a conditioned response with no real reward. Next to the Vespa store on the outskirts of town, I bought some great rice from Thailand, almost like the kind I use at home but without the jasmine fragrance. The shopkeeper almost smacked me on the head, when I plunged my hands into the large barrels filled with rice in order to get a big whiff, another let down. They did have black forbidden rice, now I need to find some good coconut milk. It delighted me to see mung bean thread, which was labeled, pasta di soya, soybean pasta, and Chinese vermicelli, which was labeled, pasta di riso, rice pasta. The delight turned into frustration when I realized I had no way of getting my hands on Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce to make nuoc nam, for lumpia or lemon grass grilled beef salad.

All weekend long I have been thinking about dim sum, crispy yet fatty roasted duck and BBQ pork from Kau Kau in Chinatown, long sushi rolls from the Korean store, Filipino pancit, bubble tea, mochi ice cream, Vietnamese abodo cooked with hard boiled whole eggs, basically all the food I grew up on. It has been a long time since I’ve eaten good Guamanian/Chamorro food and its taste is slowly fading out of my memory. I can’t recall the last time I made chicken kelaguen, red rice or finandene short ribs. I refrained from making the dishes while I was in Seattle, because I was afraid not many of my American friends would enjoy them. I have not tried them on my Italian husband yet but if I get homesick enough I might just have to dig out the old cookbooks and recipe cards. Plus, I know when I make a good risotto because he compliments me but how does he know how red rice is supposed to taste? Will he even like it? When my wok arrives and I can set up our kitchen, I’ll have to make up for lost time with some authentic Chinese/Vietnamese/Guamanian dishes. I might have to send a few e-mails out and ask for hard-to-come-by ingredients. Check your in-boxes sissy’s.


At 2:56 PM, Blogger Sara said...

That's what the internet is for! Do a search online for "asian food store" and you'll find lots of places that sell what you're looking for.


At 9:07 PM, Blogger Gia said...

Great post! I have been so busy I had forgotten to check your blog! What a great read! I am quite envious of your new surroundings but I think I will have a big problem with wardrobe too! I wanted to tell you to check out Corso Monte Cucco(living arrangements)...but if the prices you quoted are right...it may be way out of your league. I wonder how difficult it would be to find other asians living in Turin...maybe you can start something going. I'll definitely keep checking your blog daily.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous PuriCristos said...

I was doing some recipe searches on kelaguen when I found your blog. I was raised Air Force and my parents were stationed in Guam 2xs. I absolutely love all the local fair and I have been getting the urge to make some foods to remind me of living somewhere that isn't landlocked.

I think your hubby would love beef or chicken kelaguen. I can't believe you didn't make it for your American friends. Just don'r tell them it isn't cooked with heat (it is chemicaly cooked after all) until they eat it. mmmmm, I can just about taste it now.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Rhiannon said...

I have learned chamorru cooking from my husband, and everyone who has tried it (and it has been many) have all loved it. In fact, we are creating a cook book for them all, because we are constantly being asked for recipes or being asked to cater parties. Don't be afraid people in the Pacific Northwest won't like it. At least in Kitsap County they love it.


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