Thursday, April 5, 2007
A few years ago, I read an article by a woman writing about her travels in Italy. She mentioned, of course, the excellence of the food, but then added that even Italians will agree that when it comes to desserts, the country sadly falls short.
Had I read the article in the first year or so after I arrived, I would have been nodding in agreement with her. But by the time I read this article I had recognized the error of my taste buds. So instead I laughed. No, I thought, you're wrong. And the Italians who agreed with you were only being polite, as they often are with strangers with strange ideas.
The first time I was served panettone, I ate it without enthusiasm. A poor excuse for a cake, I thought. Where was the moist layer cake with thick frosting that I was accustomed to and loved. (And still do!) What was this airy thing in front of me – not angel food, not normal cake – dusted with powdered sugar? I watched in puzzlement as others devoured the sliced layers.
Without interest, during Christmas season in supermarkets, I strolled by the stacked-halfway-to-the-ceiling tiers of various brands of panettone, ranging in price from less than two euro to as much as twelve or fourteen. And then the same scenario as Easter approached, only this time the cake was the colomba.
It took me a couple of years, I am embarrassed to say, but I did finally realize what I had been missing. Now, when the panettone and the colomba are served during their respective seasons, I ask for seconds, along with all the Italians. And they just smile, as they always do, at yet another awakening of yet another visiting barbarian.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
Copyright © Rebecca Helm-Ropelato