It was my first trip to the old city of Bologna and it was cold and humid. I didn’t get to see much of the city since we were just passing by and staying at my husband’s friend’s house. However, one thing that I remember very well was an old building with wooden arches. Wedged into the top of one of these arches was an arrow, from around the year 1200!! This absolutely blew my mind! Sadly, that is the only thing I remember about Bologna– the arrow and how I was scolded, once again, at the dinner table (read about how I was scolded at the dinner table the first time):
Everyone in the apartment got up quite late so, we decided to skip breakfast and go straight to lunch. We walked to a restaurant nearby and proceeded to order. I didn’t speak Italian at the time, so I let everyone do the ordering for me.
The food was excellent and I was also happy I got through a meal without getting my hand slapped because of some Italian food rule I violated. As I sat there, listening to everyone speak “babadee boobedee” (cit. Family Guy), I saw the waitress approaching to take another order. What could we possibly eat next? Oh, right, CAFFE’!
COFFEE/ALCOHOL FOR DIGESTION
Every Italian meal is concluded with some kind of espresso or digestive. Why? Because coffee and/or something like Grappa or Montenegro will aid digestion after a big meal.
I will be honest and say that I am not a huge fan of espresso. Maybe if I drank it with sugar it would taste better to me. However, I don’t add sugar for a couple of reasons:
- I despise finding bits of sugar at the bottom of the coffee cup
- I don’t have the patience to wait for the sugar to melt in the coffee.
Sigh. 1st world problems.
I was kind of getting tired of drinking all these espressos without sugar to be polite so I just told the waitress what I really wanted: a cappuccino.
WOW! What a way to get attention!
Everyone at the table stopped talking and looked at me with bewilderment like I just ordered a human foot! My husband’s friend dropped his utensils and shook his head at me saying: “You can’t do that. (Italian clicking noise). You can’t do that.”
“what did I do???”
NO MILK ALLOWED
I ordered milk after a meal, that’s what I did. (A cappuccino has milk). That is a violation of the Italian food rules.
Milk is not consumed after a meal because it is heavy and it disturbs the one thing that Italians know like the back of their hand, THEIR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. Italians know their digestive system so well that they obsess over it and openly talk about it in any situation.
My violation was explained to me like this: “You just ate a big meal. Now, you are going to put milk on top of all of that? You’re not going to digest.”
Questions that were running through my head were “What happens if I don’t digest?, have I ever NOT digested? What is a digestive problem? Diarrhea?”
I didn’t know the first thing about digestion and I continued to be quite ignorant to the world of digestion until about my 2nd year in Italy.
It surprises me how this milk-digestion issue is so obvious to Italians and North Americans like me have no idea. I think back to shows like Fresh Prince or Saved by the Bell and remember lunch scenes where the characters are washing down their food with a carton of milk! That would make any Italian cringe!
ITALIAN FOOD RULE #2: WHEN TO DRINK MILK
The next time you’re in Italy and you want to avoid looking like a typical North American tourist, don’t order any beverages with milk after a big meal. In general, any beverage with milk ordered after 11am is frowned upon. If you really need your lactose fix after 11am, you can order a coffee macchiato (coffee with a dollop of frothed milk).
If you want to impress your Italian friends, order a caffé corretto with grappa: Literally, a “corrected coffee” – coffee and a shot of grappa. Oh, how your Italian friends will applaud your efforts to aid your digestion!
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