Back in Italy, I was in a Book Club. BN (Before Nora), I diligently read my books, although I didn't contribute much to the discussion and more often than not, I was the one bringing wine or a boxed dessert as my food offering, but nevertheless, I loved having a night out with the ladies, a lively discussion about our book, and almost always, the conversation somehow returning to Mad Men, a show I'd not yet watched (but have now started because clearly, I need to be able to intelligently discuss this show). Fast forward to America. We received delivery of our household goods on Friday. It was a long, tiring day. Our arrival time window was 8-9am, so at the hotel, we woke up the baby (naturally, the one morning we have to actually be somewhere, she decided to sleep in) and rushed over to the house. The movers showed up at 10:10. And the first load came off the truck somewhere around 11:30. They left our house at 7pm, and we promptly headed downtown to "treat ourselves." This is a phrase you should all learn, totally stolen from my friend who doesn't like to mentioned by name on the internet. "Treat yourself." It's my new favorite phrase, and I have used it daily since our return. As moving day wore on and on, I began preparing Nathan: "Tonight, we are going out to dinner. And we are treating ourselves. Big time." But by 7pm, we were tired, the baby was tired, and we didn't care where we landed as long as (A) we were sitting, and (B) someone was bringing us food. Somehow, we landed at the local fish shack. For my closest friends and family, you will know that this is the last place to find me "treating myself." Oddly, though, I was the one who suggested stopping when we walked past. In the last few months, I've had too many instances to count when I had an instinct, didn't follow it, and within hours or days learned why I should have listened to my instinct. I'm trying to do better. J.J's Fish Shack dinner was just such a time. We sat, and before we even ordered our food, Nathan saw a man leaving the restaurant and calmly commented, "Look, there's Dr. M-----. I used to have to go see him all the time in Naples for my Africa travel." Imagine a record scratching in my head. I loudly exclaimed, "Dr. M-----!!! Are you kidding! I was in Book Club with his wife. Call him. Call out to him right now!" Sure enough, somehow I completely missed the fact that one of my fellow Book Club members who'd moved just a few months prior had also moved to this area. She walked up shortly thereafter - how wonderful to see a familiar face from Italy!
In other Italian news on the home front, we broke down tonight and went to one of the two, local, Italian restaurants. One is super fancy and is right along the line of "treating yourself." The other has red and white checked tablecloths. We decided tonight was only a normal night, so we went to the less fancy of the two. And now I am completely certain that I do indeed love the American version of Italian food. Which resembles Italian food not at all. For example, we had as an appetizer a melted cheese concoction of gorgonzola and garlic with almonds throughout and served with small toasts. While this was so delicious, it in no way resembled any food I ate in any region of Italy. For our meal, we both had pastas in very heavy, cream sauces, which mostly just reminded us of something one of the local Neapolitans said to us shortly after our arrival in Italy, when we were discussing Italian food. "Who is this Alfredo all you Americans talk about?" And sure enough, an alfredo sauce is virtually non-existent. A cream sauce is sometimes possible, but a cream sauce in Italy is wildly different (much lighter - not nearly as much butter and the cream available is quite different) than what we find in Italian restaurants in the U.S. Regardless, I LOVE the American version of Italian food. I'm just not sure I can ever call these types of restaurants "Italian" with a straight face. Which really makes me wonder about the other ethnic restaurants I love. But in the end, I don't actually care how much or how little a restaurant's food resembles the nationality it claims. As long as the food is good and the experience is enjoyable...and I don't have to wash any dishes at the end...I'm happy.