I will always, till my last dying breath, be a Carb Consumer. I will eat endless bowls of winding noodles, savor the soft insides and warmth of a fresh baguette, dole ladles and ladles of oatmeal into a seemingly endless bowl. Carbs equal energy, plain and simple, but have also provided me with some of my most favorite memories around the table. The spaghetti dinners with teammates, the pancakes flipped from my grandma’s stove, the radiating warmth of the boulangers’ baguette under my arm. Scientifically, there are reasons and nerve endings and endorphins that fuel my carb-cravings; but sentimentally, I just love eating any and all sorts of carbohydrates.
Growing up, my brothers and I would twirl pasta around our forks while wondering out loud what would happen if someday, somehow, we made it to The Land Of Pasta and Carbs: Italy.
“All of the pasta will be made fresh by little Italian grandmas,” I stated matter-of-factly, scooping up my pasta with a piece of garlic bread.
Half-slurping, half-speaking, my brother Ben would say, “And maybe aliens from Dune.”
“And ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie!’ You have to have ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie’ experience and ride around Italy on a motorcycle!!” John said excitedly, whirling his fork overhead while whirling around the kitchen table.
MattMatt, too little at the time to understand our crazy thoughts, would just sit and slurp his pasta contentedly, watching as our tizzy of pasta-fueled dreams grew more and more imaginative and ever the more elaborate as we grew older and carbs continued to enrapture our thoughts.
About 10 years later, I finally made it to the Land of Pasta and Carbs last year while studying in Paris. And my first night there in Italy, I cried. I, Kathryn Walker, sobbed on the steps of some god-forsaken, Italian government-protected, crumbling, thousand-year old monument. Walking down a dark street, curled lamplights overhead, few people on the street, the occasional taxicab whizzing by, my brain darted sporadically between the sensations of intense fatigue and exhaustion and extreme joy, wonder, and awe. Essentially every “OH MY GOD LOOK IT’S THE ROMAN FORUM” was accompanied by a lionesque yawn and a feeble attempt to snap myself awake. That first night in Italy was basically like darting through, what felt like, a real-life Art History book while breathing in the scent of Italian soul-food.
And the people were wonderful too – the smiles of the nonna sipping her espresso, the wine distributor doling out advice and free glasses of Chianti, the artist directing my friend and I to the nearby gelateria. In mottled English, French, and Italian, we wandered aimlessly through vias, piazzas, parcos. Every five seconds was punctuated by a “Gah!!! Look!” and a snap of the camera. In Rome, we stumbled upon a bar on the edge of a small piazza crammed with at least 200 hundred Romans milling about with cigarettes and beers in hand. In Florence, we ate at the home of an Italian-American woman who had invited us to make jewelry with her and a group of American ex-pats. In Venice, I ended up trying tripe and squid ink pasta thanks to the recommendations of a couple of Venetians (but on two different occasions). At every meal, we looked up and down streets, followed vague maps (and even vaguer directions) for hidden trattorias and secret sandwich shops that would lead us to food bliss.
At the end of the journey, we wound our way back to Paris and finished off our year abroad, headed back to the States, started the Last Year at Goucher. And amidst all of the senior year hullabaloo of trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, while occasionally attempting to finish homework while writing cover letters, crafting resumes, and answering brain-wracking interview questions, I kind of forgot that I had ever gone to Italy at all. It was almost as if it had actually just been a dream.
Then last week while making pasta with friends, I was struck with an intense wave of deja vu: the way the light hit the water in Venice, the precarious Florentine houses stacked one on top of the other, the sight of Bernini’s “Apollo e Dafne” in Rome. And of course, the pasta and carbs – the gnocchi, the noodles, the mozzarella, the cookies, the bread. In one moment, I remembered that I had actually gone to the Land of Pasta and Carbs, fulfilling my childhood dream of eating some of the best carbs in the world. Miam.