A Taste of Home

Everyone knows that Italian food is the best in the world; at least, that’s what any Italian will tell you. It’s true that my taste-buds have never been left unsatisfied here, and that nearly everyone Italian household has a passion for cooking that unfortunately you don’t find so much in the pre-prepared, pre-cooked culture of Britain. However, there are some British foods that just aren’t available here, an atrocity considering they should be high up on the compulsory food list. This list goes as a warning to any future expats or English-food-loving holiday-makers.

  1. Baked beans. The perfect addition to any meal, be it pie, sausage and mash, pizza and chips…even, and most importantly, toast. Simple yet completely satisfying, especially with a bit of grated cheese on top.

  2. Meat pies. Italy has a few variations of pies (or at least pastry based meals) the most popular of which is probably “torta salata”, literally “savoury cake”, normally consisting of cheese with either ham or vegetables such as spinach. Unfortunately, when they hear the word “pie” they think of the American sweet pies, not the deliciously filling meat pie, covered in gravy with either chips or mashed potato on the side. It is possible to home-make a pie here, since the ingredients are relatively simple – but when you don’t have hours to spare, or you just want some winter comfort food, Italy can’t fill the cold, meaty, pastry whole in side of you.

  3. Bacon. This is the one food which even my Italian friends agree they’re missing out on. The literal translation is “pancetta”, but don’t be fooled. Generally, you will only find pancetta as small cubes to be used in carbonara, very thin salami like circles, or thin, largely fatty strips: basically, not anything suitable for that bacon sarnie that sees you through the morning.

  4. Yorkshire puddings. The perfect (and for me, essential) addition to any roast dinner. True, the recipe is relatively simple, and I have attempted it several times when craving a taste of home. Unfortunately, I’m finding it impossible to master the shape to have a perfect sized whole that can be filled with gravy. This is also an extremely difficult food to explain to foreigners: it’s called a pudding, but it’s not a sweet, even though the mixture is the same that you would use for pancakes. Basically, they just need a pack of Aunt Bessie’s best.

  5. Sponge cakes. I’ve found Italian’s taste in sweets and deserts to be extremely different from British taste, so much so that even baking your own Victoria sponge is a challenge, since several of the ingredients are missing. I’ve learn to make substitutions: caster sugar doesn’t exist, so I use normal sugar, and I’ve found an icing sugar (zucchero al velo) that can form a buttercream, even if the taste isn’t the same. But if you want to enjoy butterfly cakes, Victoria sponges, or chocolate muffins to their full deliciousness, I would suggest bringing a few ingredients (especially sugars and cocoa powder) from the homeland. That said, you should make your way to a pasticceria here to sample the Italian’s sweets, generally pastry or tart based, and always satisfying.

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