Gelato can change your life

I present part four, long overdue in the creative writing series. The topic, as ever, provided by 642 Things to Write About.

“Your most transcendent ice cream experience.”

I begin by slightly altering the topic to “Your most transcendent gelato experience”. This is two-fold. Firstly, ice cream is something you can buy at any grocer, corner store, or mom-and-pop shop across the way. Gelato however, gelato is a love affair you will chase across the globe. Ice cream is the poor man’s gelato, and anyone telling you otherwise should be put in their place. Secondly, I am in the midst of a 5 year love affair with gelato.

It’s not that I had never tried it prior to arriving in Italy, it’s just that everything that accompanied my double-scoop cone from Gelateria Santa Trinita was what put it at the top of my all time culinary experiences. (This is saying something, coming from someone who dated a chef, and a damn good one at that.) Sure, the atmosphere makes the experience of cool, perfectly flavoured crema and nocciola gelato dribbling down your chin fairly memorable. Let’s be honest, you’re in the middle of a Florentine palace (the Frescobaldi Palace, to be exact), everything by default is going to taste that much sweeter. There is a reason there were repeat purchases made here throughout the remainder of my week long stay in Firenze.

Santa Trinita Gelateria Exterior

Photo credit: Gelateria Santa Trinita online

 

Gelateria Santa Trinita

Photo credit: Almeera Ismail, Firenze, 2009

Most travel books tell you to visit San Crispino in Rome for great gelato. They are lying to you, straight up, bold-faced lies. If you must skip Florence and get gelato in Rome, please do yourself a favour and venture to your local pizzeria, or any restaurant for apertivo instead. You’ll thank me. Nothing will compare to gelato from Santa Trinita, nothing.

Unless you visit Vancouver. In which case, please, please, I beg of you, visit Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver. You will wait in line, likely year round, and absolutely so in good weather. But your taste buds will alight the minute you get your first sampling. I visited this establishment after returning from Italy (with my elitist gelato expectations in tow), and was absolutely blown away. (So too were a lot of Italians when this little company from Vancouver, B.C. won the 2012 Technical Jury Award, at the Florence International Gelato Festival in Italy. (And has continued to win, year after year, since).

Bella GelateriaPhoto Credit: D. Sitar and an iPhone5, 2014 (Eating Salted Caramel and Meyer Lemon Gelato)

Rather obviously, I accompanied a friend of mine for a noon “ice cream” fix ready to critique the heck out of their offerings. Trouble was, I couldn’t find a problem. In fact, in the three years since I had been back, this was the first time through taste alone I seriously wondered if I was back in that piazza, sitting on a church step listening to the sound of rain while I contemplated life over gelato.

It was those first moments in Florence, sitting in the quiet, the rain my only soundtrack, that I realized a few things. One was that this was truly the pace of life in Italy. This is a country that beats to its own drum when it comes to that ever elusive work-life balance. As a culture, they take their time with life, savour it. If there was one thing I brought back with me, it was this outlook on life. To savour the sweetness of doing nothing, and everything at the same time.

The other realizations were more personal. I was preparing to come back to Canada, and start a career that I was unsure of before it had even begun. This decision would be the first of many life lessons I would learn in the following years. And not once do I regret my decisions. Now, more than ever, I unabashedly believe that we are the creators and destroyers of our own opportunities. Your life is going to be what you make of it, so you better make sure you are going to be happy with the decisions you make now.

Lastly, on those very steps is where I came to terms with the fact that the relationship I was in was finally coming to a close. It was one of those that probably went on a little longer than it should, but you didn’t want to be the one to end it. You had gotten to that comfortable place where a part of you says “it’s not terrible, we don’t hate each other, and we care for each other, so why end something you’re sure of?” Life lesson: end it. The difference between being a young-twentysomething in a relationship and an older-twentysomething in a relationship is that you finally figure out that if you’re not 100% happy with something, you can say so.

It was in these quiet moments, savouring the sweet offerings of Florence that I was changed. I did not know it at the time, but slowly, your own self creeps up on you and surprises you when you least expect it. So go ahead, get that double-scoop cone or cup, sit on a park bench, on some church steps, or wander the streets. But whatever you do, allow yourself to enjoy those quiet moments. They speak loudly if you let them.

The Quarterly Report

Seeing as 2012 has whipped by, I felt it was only right to reflect back on the resolutions for this year I set out back in January. Of course, for this to happen, a recap of sorts must occur (if you’d like the full blown version, you can refer back to the original post). For the sake of expediency, I’ll summarize quickly below.

  1. I blog at least once a week, by the end of 2012.
  2. I travel outside Canada once this year, (2012), for at least a week, job or no job.
  3. I am employed by March 1, 2012.
  4. I bake one item for all family celebrations this year, not repeating recipes.
  5. I improve my decorating and frosting skills by taking a class, or practicing a lot.
  6. I am more kind, and patient in all of my relationships (long-term goal).
  7. I dent my 30 x 30 goal*, in the next 3 years in a big, big way.
  8. I reconcile with “being selfish”- doing things for myself, for no other reason.
  9. I read 50 books by December 31, 2012.
  10. I learn a second language (again): French/Italian, from my school days (long-term).
  11. I get healthier, so as to prolong my life. Activities include: cardio, more yoga, hiking three times a week, to start (long-term goal).

Shamefully, I admit I have not blogged once a week. In fact, I’ve been lucky to get around to it once a month. This will, and should change moving forward. Perhaps it was a lack of inspiration, or write-worthy topics. Either way, this will be amended! Next up, I am pumped to admit that travel plans are in the works, this touches on numbers 2 and 7. Fall 2012 appears to be travel season for this Vancouverite, with a jump across the pond. I’m hoping to visit friends both new and old, one of whom I have been promising to visit since he left Canada in the summer of 2005!

On the employment front, this came to fruition at the end of February, technically 3 days prior to my March 1st prediction. Though my employment was only a temp gig, it got me out and about, with a pretty solid reference to boot. Graciously, they offered to extend my stay, but I had to decline, it’s hard enough trying to find out my path in life, let alone work a job that I know I would out grow in a short time frame.

As for my baking outlook, not too much has warranted my annexing of my kitchen this year. I helped my mom bake a few birthday cakes though, so I suppose that almost counts. I was, however, bequeathed with decorating and frosting duties, both of which I think have vastly improved from my starting position of not knowing anything two short years ago!

Since resolutions 6 and 8 are an on-going process, I cannot comment on any movement. I do feel that I have developed a greater sense of empathy and understanding for the relationships in my life that in the past have proven to be very difficult. If this counts as a positive evolution, I’ll take it.

My 50 Book Pledge has taken a slight back seat since about mid-March. The last book I chose to undertake has been pretty dense, laden with heavy themes. As a result, I’ve stalled at only 9 books thus far, when I should be about 12-14 books in. I’ll catch up, I have faith. I just need to keep plugging through Free World, even if I can only get a chapter in a night. The next 5 books are already lined up and waiting to go.

Resolutions 10 and 11; I’ve started re-learning Italian, in doing so, I realized just how much I missed learning, and how fast I picked it up to begin with. The human mind continues to shock me. As for 11, “getting healthy”, this one has been open to interpretation. I have managed to get myself in a gym 2-3 times a week, interspersed with a lot of walking to and fro around the city. In addition, I have made the conscious effort to make better, healthier food decisions. In my specific situation, healthier in this sense has morphed into less of the physical nature of health and more the mental. Throughout this unemployment process, and job hunt, I suppose I wasn’t aware of how much an emotional toll my body is taking. Mentally, it drains and deflates you, resulting in a sense of complacency. This situation truly came to light in the weeks, when I think I hit that proverbial wall: questioning my choices in life to this point, and questioning my predisposed “plan” for the future. Plans change, and that’s ok. That is perhaps the best advice I’ve received, though processing it has been harder than anticipated. I’m positive I am not the only 25 year old facing this juncture in life, but I am definitely the only 25 year old in my immediate family or extended social circle who is, which makes things a bit more difficult. Somehow, down the line, I misplaced a bit of me (that spark, drive, mojo), and I wasn’t really ready to accept and agree to that observation. It took hearing it from an outsider to have it really hit home. Now, it’s up to me to do some major soul-searching to figure out where my mojo went, or where it lies now.

With that soul-baring statement, I leave you, and hope that you wish me luck in my attempts to find whatever it is I am looking for.

TGI…2012

I would not be honest if I said I was sad to see 2011 go. The tail end of it sort of kicked my ass 5 ways from Tuesday. In all, I would categorize it as a “learning year”, one in which you find out things about yourself or others you didn’t know to begin with. A lot of my relationships developed or digressed in various ways, all of which I am safely say I am pleased with, now; ah, hindsight, my sweet mistress. Plenty of milestones took place in 2011: I planned my first bachelorette party; baked a cake that didn’t kill anyone, rather the opposite; helped my eldest sister down the aisle; discovered that I do not, in fact dislike infants; had 4 close friends get married, and another 3 engaged; got laid off for the first time; applied for employment insurance for the first time; and discovered I was emotionally stable enough to deal with all of the above and come out unscathed. Meera 1, potential breakdowns 0.

The beginning of 2012 most definitely brought with it a lot of reflection, and of course goal setting. My brother in law is something of my part-time life coach. Whether he knows it or not, our conversations have definitely helped form the resolutions I’m going to outline here, and, more specifically the phrasing of them. If anything, I’ve learned that a goal is not, in fact, a goal until it is written, or said in a certain way. The reason I am talking about goal setting with resolutions is two-fold. 1) Some of my resolutions are goals; and 2) Goal setting, at least this method, is a new thing to me, and in an effort to  have accountability, publishing this will give me a kick in the pants we all sometimes need. To outline this, I’ll refer to the Lululemon Goal Setting Worksheet. From the offset, you can see that a goal should be written in the present tense, be specific, and with a deadline. Right away, this gives you an anchor to work toward, some of us need that (me!), where as others are more in tune with the vague. (The Lululemon worksheet works in yearly increments, whereas I am focussing on this 1 year, and some longer term goals). With that, I give you my resolutions! Drumroll please….

  1. I blog at least once a week, by the end of 2012.
  2. I travel outside Canada once this year, (2012), for at least a week, job or no job.
  3. I am employed by March 1, 2012.
  4. I bake one item for all family celebrations this year, not repeating recipes.
  5. I improve my decorating and frosting skills by taking a class, or practicing a lot.
  6. I am more kind, and patient in all of my relationships (long-term goal).
  7. I dent my 30 x 30 goal*, in the next 3 years in a big, big way.
  8. I reconcile with “being selfish”- doing things for myself, for no other reason.
  9. I read 50 books by December 31, 2012.
  10. I learn a second language (again): French/Italian, from my school days (long-term).
  11. I get healthier, so as to prolong my life. Activities include: cardio, more yoga, hiking three times a week, to start (long-term goal).

*30 x 30 goal explanation below*

There we have it, my 2012 resolutions. As you can see, my book resolution is well under way, about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. My 30 x 30 goal is probably the one that confuses you most. 30 x 30 is an idea I had when I was backpacking around Europe a few years ago: that I want to have seen 30 countries by the age of 30. Now, you’re thinking “well, just do one of those 21 country, 23 day trips and Bob’s your Uncle!” I travel differently. Those tours are often so rushed, and packed that you don’t remember one country to the next. I do not consider a country officially on my list until it meets certain criteria: I’ve eaten traditional food, drank traditional alcohol, met one person from the country, or can confidently provide directions to a stranded person. I have a three-year-old checklist of countries I want to see, some of which will be rearranged in priority order based on environmental or political concerns. Of that checklist, I have knocked off 9; 10 if you include a trip to Kenya when I was three, but all I can remember is camping in a cave, a pool at some beach-side hotel, and monkeys stealing our lunch during a picnic. Simple math would tell you that I have 20/21 more to go. You can see how this is now a lofty little goal, and without a doubt is probably the one closest to my heart. (But more on that later).

For now, I leave you with just one question: What are your resolutions for 2012?

P.S. I will be live-blogging/tweeting a very very very, VERY important hockey game tomorrow morning between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins at 10 am PST/1 pm EST. (We met them for all the marbles last year, and fell in the last game of the series- this is the first time we’ve met since, *gulp*).