24 July 2010


Carpaccio is an Italian appetizer of raw meat or fish thinly sliced, sometimes pounded thin, and often served with rocket salad (arugula) and a vinaigrette of oil and vinegar.  There are two slightly varying stories as to the genesis of "carpaccio." Whether at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy, or at Savini Restaurant in Milan, Italy, in 1950 two women were told to by their doctors to eat only raw meat.  Apparently, it wasn't socially acceptable for women to eat raw meat; so the code name "carpaccio" was created.

In one story, it was named by the owner of the restaurant because the colors of the raw meat reminded the owner of the colors used in the paintings of artist Vittore Carpaccio.  In the other story, there was a painting on the wall by the same artist, and the waiter had to quickly think of a code name to call the appetizer so the woman could order the dish and be discreet.  Personally, I think, as the story was passed on, the details of the story became muddled, and that's the reason for the two versions of an almost identical story.

Regardless, my very dear friend came to visit me this week from another country.  We went to dinner at a place I enjoy that serves typical Florentine dishes.  Having read the menu and having made a decision, my friend exclaimed, "Oh, I love carpaccio.  I'm having that."  I asked her if she completely read and understoood the description as to what kind of carpaccio she was about to order.  She decided to be bold and try it even though it wasn't what most of us are accustomed to receiving when we order this dish, especially in the United States.

The photo clearly depicts the look of disgust on my friend's face when her dish arrived.

Instead of a vinaigrette, the carpaccio was served with salsa verde (a sauce made mostly from olive oil, vinegar, Italian parsley, anchovies, and capers -- mmm, delicious!!!).  But it was the carpaccio that had us in stitches.  Carpaccio di Lingua.  That's right.  Tongue!  Six slices of it.  From six cows?  One tongue for each language my friend speaks fluently?  Couldn't they have disguised it even a bit?  Throw some arugula on top so we didn't have to look at all those tongues?

Meanwhile, Mabel, my dog, was quite satisfied with the tongue carpaccio.  And where we were sitting was right next to the fiaschetteria (Work with me here.  A fiaschetteria is a wine shop where you can fill your own bottles of wine straight from the vats.  I don't know what you call the actual vats).  So we were at a table next to the vat from which patrons were served liters of house wine.  At the bottom of the vat, they had a large bowl to catch the wine drippings.  Mabel kept eyeing that bowl as if already drunk, wanting to take a drink.

We belly-laughed our way through dinner, but when I received a phone call, we had to abruptly leave for a meeting before completing our dinner or even having caffe macchiato (espresso with a splash of milk).  We're pretty certain the people working in the restaurant, aware of our giggling and laughing, believe we left because we were disgusted with her meal.

Etymology of fiasco bottle;  fare fiasco:  to make a bottle;  in English: a complete failure; a sudden collapse)

Our dinner ended up being a fiasco.

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Florence, Italy

17 July 2010

Taglio Estivo (Summer Haircut)

My sweet furry child approaches 12 years old next month, and she's never had a haircut. Born in Los Angeles, where it gets hot and stays dry, we both suffer from the heat and humidity in Florence. In the summer she sometimes develops hot spots as a result of her thick coat, the heat, and dry skin. Spending her first winter in colder than ever temperatures including a bit of snow, she developed an extra thick winter coat and hasn't yet lost it.

So yesterday, we went to buy an antehumectant for her skin.The pet store advised I take her to the vet; so off we went to a handsome Roman veterinarian named Alessandro.  In addition to an exam and some recommendations, he urged she get a taglio estivo (summer haircut). Her gorgeous tail, her puppy fur around the ears, her shaggy hairstyle -- all gone.

Here she is this morning (before the beauty salon) at the bar we enjoy our morning cappuccino:

During the cut:

And after:

She loves her balcony where she can look from the fourth floor down on the passersby:

Cool (now)!

Who goes there...?!

Were it not for the fact that I stayed with her at the beauty shop, I would be convinced they switched dogs on me. I don't recognize this little girl. She is half her size. I now need to readjust her collar and harness. Her long, straight black fur is now silvery-gray and a bit curly. She looks silly but still gets plenty of attention from people stopping to coo over her.

She eats a healthy diet, better than my own, of boiled chicken and puffed rice, but it was suggested that I give her less chicken and start boiling whitefish with carrots, finnochio (fennel), and zucchini because, though it is a great diet, it is too heavy for the summer heat and too many calories.

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

13 July 2010


From the age of two Los Angeles is where I was raised and lived, yet it never felt like my home. Until I began traveling abroad, I believed I had a midwesterner's heart because I desired a simpler, slower, and less transient lifestyle.  Not to say it doesn't exist in L.A., but what I sought didn't exist for me in L.A.  In fact, I've often thought I was born in the wrong era. Perhaps the Renaissance?  Lorenzo de' Medici is the person that comes to my mind when I think of that question that goes around the Internet: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would you choose?  However, lunch wouldn't be enough time to satisfy me. 

Don't get me wrong.  I love Los Angeles and California.  It's a gorgeous state, and both the city and state have much to offer.  Probably the best climate in the world can be found in various parts of California, and the state is like a country unto its own with the varying geologic and geographic terrain barely an hour away in any direction.

We are taught in the society within which we live what we are "supposed to" do, think, say, look like, dress like, feel, desire, achieve, and buy. Some of us (I) end up having internal conflicts over following our heart versus following what we were taught.  Operating more on emotion, spirit, and inspired action rather than rational, conventional thinking has been the result of my unorthodox life.  Depending on my perspective (it constantly vascilates), I can feel like I've missed out on so much, or I can feel gratitude for the freedom to take the risks I choose.  More often than I'd like to admit, my life feels lonely because the paths I take are less traveled.

Since a child, I have loved meeting people from other cultures and have had a ravenous appetite to learn about the people from other parts of the world.  In high school I used to watch the foreign exchange students in awe, desiring to be like one of them in a foreign land exploring and experiencing the differences and similarities of human beings, customs, and cultures.  Growing up in an unhappy household, there was a lack of guidance, direction, and support to branch out from mainstream conventionalism.

My brother used to tell me that at around the age of 18 to my early 20s is when I would figure out who I am and what I'm all about.  Am I retarded?  I'm still asking myself those questions and more.  For many years, I believed I wasn't even from this planet, that I'm some sort of alien.  Being painfully shy, socially inept, a misfit, clumsy, unloved by the ones I wanted to love me, I felt such deep solitude and loneliness.  (Only occasionally do I fall back into that state nowadays and not for long.  Not to worry.)  Everyone else in a group seemed to have a connection, but I wasn't connected.  I remember as a teenager, smoking dust and driving a car full of kids around, and my car and my body feeling like they were astroplaning (no, I don't mean hydroplaing), and parking and walking a few inches above the ground   I wasn't even connected to the earth.

Traveling Abroad:  It was a romance with a wonderful, special Dutchman that finally got me to Europe my first time in 1994. Before and after that first trip to Europe, trips were in the planning stages with friends.  They would flake for any number of reasons, excuses, and fears.  I quickly grew tired of waiting on others and not taking the trips I wanted and started taking responsibility for my own happiness and realizing my personal dreams.  It took only one trip abroad to learn how much I love traveling solo.  Sure, I enjoy having shared stories, memories, experiences, laughs, mishaps. And at the same time, traveling solo, the opportunity to meet the locals is so much greater.

Once I felt the earth under my feet in Europe, I realized I was honing in my home, and it's not the Midwest of the U.S. Before Italy, I didn't like to travel to the same place twice because there is so much to see in the world and wanted to see something I hadn't before seen.  That changed when I discovered Italy.  I know many people share this sentiment:  "I feel I belong here" or "I found home."  I hear people say it all too often.  Excuse me.  But there isn't room for all of America and England here.  Italy is my home.  Can we close the borders now and stop allowing into the country the expats that continue to come here since my arrival?  

I was especially impressed with Italy when I returned my second and subsequent trips.  To be chased down in Piazza Navona, Rome, where there are thousands of tourists 365 days a year, or a small village or in the streets of Florence and welcomed back in Italy and remembered where we met, when we met, what city I come from, and even coming close to remembering my name is damn impressive to me.  Even years later, I am still stopped in Florence by people I think I've never before seen that tell me "it's been three years last April" since they last saw me.  How do they remember when there are millions of us flooding their towns and cities every day, year after year?  But that is only a small piece of what impresses me about Italy and why I call it home.

I spent about five weeks living in a cupboard between our lease ending and my moving into my new, amazing home last Wednesday.  The temporary place started out fine but got harder daily at about week three and a half.  Tired of working on a stool, having one burner to cook with, a convection oven that looked brand new but didn't work, and a TV that also didn't work was the framework for a monastic five weeks. Joking that the most spacious part of my monolocale was the shower is barely an exaggeration.

Still finding my way, still asking myself some of those same questions, I know I've come a long way from who I used to be -- that shy, insecure person still pops her head out.  It's built into my DNA -- because I have the courage to act on inspiration (it comes from within, and I get more as I evolve).  I am proud of what I have achieved in such a short time and love the paths I currently travel.  The view is amazing.

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

07 July 2010

The Key to How to Get to Know Your New Neighbors

This would have been a better story if someone didn't intervene and save me, which changes how the story ends.

So today was the big move, but that's another story.

Follow my adventure if you want to get to know your neighbors.  Around 7 p.m. Mabel and I decided to go for a walk.  I decided to leave behind in the house everything I would normally carry with me and left the balcony doors open because we weren't going to be gone long.  In fact, I had plans to meet up with some friends afterwards.  Just as I stepped into the elevator, I had this thought:  What if I dropped the keys down the elevator shaft.  To be careful, I went to put the oversized, old-fashioned Italian keys in my pocket but missed my pocket.  The keys clinked and clanked as they traveled down the elevator shaft, hitting each passing floor. Panic overtook me.

Afraid to close the door to the palazzo (apartment building),  I left it open and sat outside the door trying to figure out how to to get myself out of this pickle. It's only my first day here. Thoughts came to mind:  Where am I going to sleep?  How am I going to get back inside?  How will I pay for help?  I'm going to be the laughingstock of Florence.  The owner is on vacation.  The elevator company is closed since it's after business hours.  I don't have a penny, credit cards, nor ID on me -- nothing.  I have only my cell phone with very little battery charge remaining; so I have to make wise choices about who I will call for help.

Then a man exited the building.  I asked him if he could help. He told me to go to my next door neighbor.  She couldn't help but sent me to lady on the first floor that supposedly has the key to the elevator.  I went and knocked in this octogenarian's door, and she gave me the key to the roof.  It's not like I would know what to do even if I were given the correct key.

I resumed my post outside the palazzo thinking what to do and who to phone.  Made those phone calls.  It was suggested I call the Vigile del Fuoco (fireman, fire department).  While waiting for the number to be sent to me via text message, I started walking back towards my old 'hood where I know many people and started asking for help along the way in my new 'hood.  I called the fire department and returned to my new house to await their arrival.  After a little while, another tenant came home, and I asked him if he lives here and told him my situation.  Turns out Paul is American and is married to an Italian, and he is the hero in today's story.

He retrieved my keys and showed me the trick to opening the elevator and getting below it, though I hope I'll never again have a need for this knowledge.

I phoned the fire department to cancel the call.  The man confirmed who I was, and I had to embarrassingly admit that it was I who phoned.  But I told him if he wants to send the firemen anyhow, I'll be home.  Have you seen Italian firemen? Oh dio mio!

So I've made my presence, and perhaps left some impressions, in my new quartiere (area, zone, quarters) and chose to stay home tonight rather than meet up with my friends.

Tomorrow, chissa'? (who knows, I wonder).

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia