People always ask me why I wanted to study abroad in Florence—was it because of the Renaissance art, the beautiful architecture, the city’s ancient history, or my family roots? To be honest, it wasn’t really for any of those things. The reason I’m here is for the food. You can’t argue that Italian food beats everything, and I just couldn’t say ‘no’ to coming to Italy and tasting something completely authentic. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Florence, I made it my mission to find the best pizza, the best gelato, and the best panini. But before I got here, I didn’t even consider cooking my own meals here in Italy. Heck, I’ve never considered cooking my own meals at home!
After the first couple days in Florence, my roommates and I finally moved into our tiny apartment nestled right next to the Santa Croce. We were already burned out on gelato and pizza, especially since we had eaten either or both for every meal since we had arrived. After a long day of unpacking and sight-seeing, we came home hungry and decided it would be a great idea to cook our first ‘family dinner’ to christen our new home. The only problem was that even though we had all gone grocery shopping, no one had thought too hard about the foods we had bought and no one had enough of anything to make a real meal. So we had to get creative—everyone threw in an ingredient or two, and we just kind of winged it.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Somehow, we managed to make the most delicious meal any of us have had since being in Florence. After an hour of falling over each other in our tiny kitchen, we gathered around our living room table with every dish we had prepared—a crisp salad of baby greens, chopped tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and basil drizzled with real Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar; a sizzling pan of caramelized onions and red bell peppers tossed with the tiny bit of chicken we had leftover in the fridge; and steaming baked potatoes we couldn’t help but drown in balsamic vinegar.
Squeals of excitement filled the room, but as soon as our plates were piled with food, there was complete silence except for the smacking of lips and the tinker of forks against plates. Everything was perfect—the chicken was flavorful from the onions; the peppers were hot, but still crisp; the mozzarella was mouthwateringly juicy; and the balsamic vinegar gave the potatoes just the right kick. We couldn’t help but devour our wonderful meals, and warmth spread through our new home as we filled our bellies with delicious food made from the random ingredients we each had lying around. Once every plate was scraped clean, the silence became laughter as we delighted in the food we had cooked with hard work and creativity.