How To Not Sell a Locked Bike in Italian

by Catherine Down in , , ,

Carried my locked bicycle, since it could not roll, to the local bike shop in Colorno and attempted to sell it to the elderly man with one eye who works there. 

What I think I am saying: I didn’t steal the bicycle. The keys do not work because the lock has rusted over. I would like to sell my bicycle.  
What I am actually saying: I stole this my bicycle. The key do not function because of the red. I would like to sell.

Good shopkeeper with one eye: I do not understand you. Gestures to dirt on my knee as if seeking an explanation for my crazy talk. You have fallen and hurt yourself? 
What I think I am saying: No, I’m okay. Thank you. It’s okay. 
What I am actually saying: No, thank you. It goes well. 
What I think I am saying: I want to sell my bicycle. 
What I am actually saying: Sell bicycles.

Good shopkeeper with one eye’s response: I sell bicycles. 
What I think I am saying: I have a friend who I will call so he can help translate. I will return! I will return!
What I am actually saying: I have a boyfriend. I have telephone. I am a male who has returned! I am a male who has returned!

Good shopkeeper with one eye: When? Where do you live? 

What I think I am saying: Via Milano, near the gas station.                                                           What I am actually saying: Via Milano. Gas station. 
Walked home, Google Translated, and wrote everything on a Post-it like I should have the first time. Returned to the store. 
He says “Ahhh! Slice.” One eyed shopkeeper slices off the lock. 

lock slice.jpg

Still wanted to sell him the bike, but at that point could not possibly take any more of the man’s time or energy. 
What I think I am saying: Thank you very much. I apologize for my poor Italian. 
What I am actually saying: A thousand thanks. I am sorry for the Italian poor. 
Walked home cackling. Okay, let’s be honest, outright belly laughing at myself in the freezing rain, thus offering the good citizens of Colorno further proof that I am a crazy person. Sliced my finger open on the rusty gate. Decide to bake brownies for nice bicycle man.

I really am sorry for the Italian poor.

The Delights of Life (and UNISG)

by Catherine Down in , , ,

One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.
— Laurie Colwin
jules and sandro.jpg

For a triple whammy, try talking about eating while eating with friends while your friend’s mother teaches your class how to make Korean BBQ and kimchee.

kimchee and bbq.jpg

UNISG: We Do It With Food

by Catherine Down

One of my goals this year is to not come home morbidly obese.

It’s a loftier goal than you might imagine when you have classmates like mine. For a recent assignment, we were set loose in the ALMA kitchens and told to prepare one dish of our choice on the school’s dime. Some of my classmates even awoke at 5 a.m. to drive an hour and a half each way to La Spezia to purchase fresh seafood. We’re a dedicated lot.

Each person made a dish of personal significance that we then presented outside under the portico in the courtyard. It was an intensely intimate experience seeing what each person chose to make and why, not to mention an intensely tasty one. And let me tell you, there is not one weak culinary link in this class. Each dish was uniformly awesome in every way. I am so lucky that I get to eat like this all the time, that I get to be with these people all the time.

 And now for the food porn:

Pasta with Zucchini Flowers, Saffron and Shrimp

Sausage Rolls

Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and Hummus

Fried Prawns with Sweet and Sour Leeks and Pumpkin Puree

Raw Oysters

Roast Chicken with Arugula and Bread Salad

Meatballs and Tzatziki

Macaroni and Cheese (Thank You Parents for lugging a 2 lb block of extra sharp cheddar over in your luggage)

Korean Ribs Braised with Grappa

Zucchini Blue Cheese Soup

Stuffed Eggplants, Taiwainese Noodles, Tomato Salad with Fried Ricotta, Eggplant Yogurt Dip and Foccaccia

Renegade Sour Cherry Pie

Bread Pudding

Shortbread and Strawberry Basil Sauce

Strawberry Tiramisu (Recipe to Follow-Promise!)

Where I Live Now

by Catherine Down

A zippy 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom (and 3 bidet)  orange townhouse set between rolling fields and a gas station.



The smell of pig poo and the sight of a large yellow Agip sign will forever remind me of my Italian home.

We have 2 balconies, a lovely garden which we intend to fill with these vegetables, and a next door neighbor who is deeply invested in our lives.

I have slept in a twin bed for my entire life. Now that I’m in graduate school, I’m movin’ on up. I’m pretty sure it’s the size of a small country.


And of course, I have a dressing room/study chamber.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my absolute favorite thing about my new home is the dish rack. It’s two tiered and set inside the cabinet above the sink thus freeing up valuable counter space and everyday I think it’s the best invention I’ve ever seen.


I live with two charming roommates Lauren and Diana (from the U.S. and Italy respectively). They are smart, kind, generous and really I could just go on all day listing positive adjectives about them. I suppose they’re my other favorite thing about this house, besides the dish rack of course.

I Go To School In A Castle

by Catherine Down

I go to school in a castle. Well, a ducal palace that then became a favorite home of Napoleon’s wife. Same thing.

There may or may not be a moat. No big deal.

The view outside our classroom window

The building was later used as a mental hospital until recently when it was converted into the University of Gastronomic Sciences and ALMA (an international school of Italian Cuisine). We’ve been warned that sometimes former mental patients wander back to the building and sit in on classes. I can’t even make this stuff up.

The ALMA students cook lunch for us every day, and we can generally tell what they are learning in school by what is offered on our lunch buffet. If they are learning seafood, we will have fish with pesto, cold spaghetti with mussels, fried calamari etc. If it’s eggs, we’ll have three kinds of omelettes, poached eggs with greens and more. We’ve even had frog day.

I like it best when they are learning how to make chocolate cake. Or gelato.

Penne with broccoli sauce, freshly baked bread, marinated veggies, custard baked  fennel, and polenta.

Just so you don’t get too jealous, I’ll have you know they get quite heavy handed with the salt.