“Ye were not form´d to live the life of brutes, but virtue to pursue and know edge high”. With this most famous quote of Ulysses from Dante Alighieri´s Masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, I present myself.
My name is Francesco Junior Volpe. I was born in 1994 in a small village in southern Italy. One year ago I graduated in Communication Sciences at La Sapienza University, in Rome, after which, I discovered my inner Ulysses and decided to move away. I left my Ithaca and sailed out, passing the Pillars of Hercules on the pursuit of high knowledge. And here I am, living it up in Berlin! I believe living abroad is a great experience, but also a scary challenge. If you want to integrate yourself in a new and different culture, you need to expand your way to communicate by improving your language, your accent and seeing life from new points of view in order to accept, at the end of this long journey, different costumes and traditions. Like every Italian, the most immediate change concerns food. In supermarkets I can obviously find Italian brands such as Barilla, Buitoni, Giovanni Rana, Nutella and Ferrero, but it´s still difficult to replicate basic and traditional Italian dishes.
I’ll start with a classical example: Mozzarella. When I moved to Berlin in the cold, snowy winter, I felt lost. To cheer myself up, my thoughts turned to, “Where can I buy Mozzarella di Bufala Campana?”, something I believe everyone should try before they die! In Germany Mozzarella costs around €0,55 and the first time I tried it, I cried like a baby. It was water. Mrs. Mozzarella, who I’m raving so much about, is soft, delicate, cold and fresh like the snow, but perfect in every season of the year, especially in summer, when having a lunch on the beach with friends. If you combine her with prosciutto crudo di Parma and tomatoes, you will feel untouchable. Such a great mix!
Beeing Italian also means, “Where is my coffee?” In Rome, for example, I used to drink on average five espressos every day because it´s fast and cheap (usually only €0,80). When I was preparing to move to Germany, I imagined a hard life without it. Thank God brands like Lavazza and Illy are readily available here. The invigorating aroma of the Lavazza brewing in my new Bialetti coffee maker was the reason I felt at home. In the following months, I also had the opportunity to try out various bio-coffees and cappuccinos, which are not as bad as I’d expected. The espresso is the only thing I don´t miss about Italy, but I still find the idea of “coffee-to-go” weird. If you are on holiday in the south of the Peninsula, don´t be surprised when people drink coffees directly at the counter in front of unknown baristas, who will talk to everyone about their private lives.
If you were to ask me right now, “Francesco, what do you miss of Italy?” I would definitely answer, “Arancine”. These balls of rise, coated with crispy bread crumbs and filled with ragú, mozzarella and peas, are an explosion of amazing, incredible tastes. In other words, you will cry for joy and at the same time cry for gaining weight.
Another favourite dish, filled with eggs, assorted meats and different cheeses, is a typical salty cake called Casatiello, which is so soft inside and would make you never want to leave Italy.
Unknown in Germany is “Frittata di maccheroni”, an absolutely fantastic kind of omelette with mozzarella, parmesan, eggs and spaghetti.
“When in Rome do as the Romans do” Italy is a great place to eat, but Berlin is offering me a lot of surprises. The classic example is the German Wurst.
It was an ordinary grey and cold day in December when I was at the Christmas Market and I decided to eat my first hot wurst. “God Bless Germany”! In that moment, I was in paradise. If you combine this meal with one of the huge selection of locally brewed beers, you will completely fall in love with this land, its culture and traditions. And that´s not all!
German Breads, especially Vollkornbrot and Schwarzbrot, are absolutely fantastic, the best I ever tasted. I still drink coffee of course, but I can´t do it without a slice of german cake such as Apple Strudel and Cream Rolls.
The first time I tried Schnitzel with Bratkartoffeln, I realised how important travelling in life is. If I´d stayed in Italy, I would have never eaten delicious and hot Bretzels, after a long day of work, or a Berliner Pfannkuchen on Sundays whilst watching the new season of Game of Thrones. Most of all, Berlin has given me the chance to test new cuisines: Indian, French, Mexican, Vietnamese, African, Japanese
And there’s still more to try! When you decide to be brave and try something new, you will absolutely improve as person and suddenly you will feel like citizen of the world. Eating different is a risk, but a simple way to face your fears and become a better, open minded person. Accepting diversity amongst meals is the first way to feel comfortable and at home everywhere, anytime and with everyone. In other words, “Be brave, eat different”.
Francesco Junior Volpe