It’s been a while since I did an Italy update, and I want to talk about something I’ve noticed over here.
It started when I was looking up Italian recipes for some American dishes – I wanted to make macaroni and cheese, but I didn’t know what to substitute for cheddar cheese, which is near impossible to find, especially in the amounts I would need for a reasonable price. As I was scrolling through a few websites, I noticed that they took these recipes that didn’t need to be changed and “made them better”.
I also noticed at restaurants or cafes, or just out and about town, I’d say something about an American food and the Italians would be like “we have this similar dish, but it is better”. Now I’m not saying they’re wrong, because they often aren’t, but I started to really look at improvements Italians have made on products.
Milk is one of the most obvious. So in America, you buy milk from the refrigerated section and you have about a week before it spoils. You have that in Italy, too. But here, they also have shelf-stable milk. It comes in cartons, costs about 70 or 80 cents, and stays good in the pantry (unopened) for months or in the fridge (opened) for about a month. I never run out of milk anymore – if I want to make a cake, there’s always a carton in the pantry that’s good.
Ok, it’s not the carts themselves that they improved. You know those red carts at Target – that’s what they have in all major grocery stores. At the checkout, they have this little…contraption. You put the cart on it, and the platform raises the cart to the level of the belt so that you don’t have to bend a lot or lift a heavy cart to unload it. When the cart is empty, the platform just lowers back down! It sounds stupid but you’d be surprised how much you appreciate such a simple thing.
O-Bag has a few stores in America but let’s be real – who has heard of the brand? Basically, it’s a modular purse. You get the outer shell (which is silicone, so easy to clean), an inner lining pouch, a cuff for the top, and handles. Each part can be switched out at will, so you could have a different combination for every outfit. I was utterly fascinated the first time I saw one, and now that I own a few, I’m addicted. Plus, I can buy just the shells and handles (which I can often find cheaper on Ebay.it) and then fabric to make the cuff and inner bag myself (or have M do it!). Seriously, you should absolutely pick a style and start buying the parts. I will also say, they hold up really well. I used my first one constantly for about 6 months and it shows no signs of wear. Now I have more so I mix it up, but they are really well-made.
Who doesn’t love discount cocktails? It’s a pretty great concept. But the Italians take it a step farther and call it apertivo. You go to a cafe (because every cafe is also a bar), order a Spritz or a Negroni, and then dig in to the veritable buffet. They set out or serve a variety of appetizers, from olives and crackers to small sandwiches. You can eat as much as you want, and talk with the locals.
I just love this country and I’m finding all these things that they “fixed” (or didn’t – burgers do not need to have 800 ingredients!) and I love it. There are so many things that the Italians just do better!